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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point, afterwards addressed the audience, and turned the gov-
ernment and its new minister into contempt. The close of the
poll revealed that the member who, a few months before, had
D returned by 135 votes more than his opponent, was now
beaten by a majority of 75. If, during the summer of 1883, a


similar event should OCOOr, we are sure that a certain newspaper
would affirm that Mr. Richards "lost his seat through the corrupt-
ing inthiences in the hands of Sir John Macdonald," and that
public money * was lavishly an<l unblushin^ly employed." The
defeated solicitor-general resigned his office, but John Sandlield.
who Ignored logic and indication!!, would not take the hint, hut
threw himself upon fate. With an evil star lowering upon the
ministry'.-, fortune, the DOOM met on the 19th of February.
The * governor*! ipeoch," as it la called, by its silence upon any
discussion-provoking policy, revealed the fears of the govern-
ment. The opposition ignored this languid ministerial docu-
ment, but made | violent onslaught upon the wretched ministry.
1 1 was apparent that, if legislation was the business of the house,
it had met in the winter of 18G4 to no purpose: up to the
2 1 st of March no important work had been done. On that day,
listed with the ungenerousness of fate, the premier and his
ministry resigned. The governor was perplexed, and began to
grow apprehensive for the well-being of the constitution. The
peculiar position of parties produced a hopeless dilemma, and,
without faith that any member of the legislature could form an
administration that would endure, Lord Monck entrusted the
formation of a ministry to the ex-provincial-secretary, Mr. Fer-
•n-Blair. That gentleman's exertions failed; and Mr. Cartier
was next called on and made the attempt, but with a similar
result. His excellency then requested Sir Etienne, formerly
known as Colonel, Tachd to address himself to the task ; and that
gentleman, who enjoyed the respect and good-will of his com-
patriots, though anxious to be rid of the turmoil of administra-
tion, in obedience to the duty he owed his country, consented,
and at once put himself in communication with John A. Mac-
donald, who undertook the formation of the Upper Canada sec-
tion of the cabinet. Several days were occupied in making
the arrangements, and, in view of the fact that the late ministry
had resigned while having a small majority in the house, no one
believed that any ingenuity or skill could fashion an adminis-


tration that would survive. The virtue seemed to have gone
out of the theory of responsible government, and the device of
party appeared powerless to produce majority and minority. On
the 30th of the month it was announced, however, that a min-
istry had been formed ; and for the second time a Tachd-Mac-
donald gorernmaat came into existence, and was as follows : —


So*. Bib k. P.Tachi Premier and Reeeiver^Qeneral.

k E. Cartikk - - - Attorney-General.

II. L. L&MOI vin - - - - Solic i tor-General.
A.T. Galt - Mln. of Finav

T. D "AiK v M' ( I - - Min. of I' re

J. C. C'hai'ais - - Cornr of ic Works,

FOIl < ANAhA W i

II<>N Johm a Macdonald - - AUorney-Qeneral,

* -Ioiin Simi'sdx - - ' Provincial Secretary,

* Isaac Br«iiA\ an - - President of the Council.
" Ai.K\A\iu-:ii Camim'.kll - - Com V Crown Lands.
" M. II FOLEY - - - t master-General.
" JAMES COCKBTTRN - - - Solicitor-General.

M. < *au( -h-.n. in French, and John Hillyard Cameron, in Eng-
tish, explained to the house the policy of the administration,
which, in the most important respects was a determination to
pay strict attention to the provincial defences, to organize the
militia on an efficient basis, to endeavour to maintain and ex-
tend the reciprocity treaty and to establish more intimate com-
mercial relations with the maritime provinces. It goes with-
out saying that to " departmental reform " and " retrenchment/'
— but one wonders, with every incoming party effecting depart-
mental reform and retrenching, how anything could remain to
be reformed, or how a dollar could exist to be retrenched —
above all things, the new government pledged itself, while tin-


-tion of representation by population was allowed to remain
open. On the following day the house adjourned to meet again
■ a the 3rd of May. No one who penetrated the situation, and
saw that the same causes which, of late, had overthrown minis-
tries formed from every side, and of every combination, still
remained, believed that the new administration could exist.
There was only one other chance, and that was existence by
the sufferance of the opposition : but John Sandfield Macdonald,
though it were to save the constitution from ruin, was not like-
ly to extend mercy t«» the men who had so rudely thrown him-
self from power. Meanwhile, public sentiment was, unconsci-
ously and by the force of circumstances, being gradually pre-
pared to accomplish an event which was to triumph over turmoil,
to set the wheels of government rolling afresh, and to give a
new and fuller impulse to our political existence, and a lasting
direction to the current of our history. While the greatest
crisis in our Canadian annals was approaching, Herr von Bis-
marck, who had hitherto been regarded by the world as a
u fanatical reactionary, a coarse sort of Metternich, a combina-
tion of bully and buffoon," suddenly revealed a genius as daring,
as crafty, and as competent as Cavour, with a wider field and
greater powers for action than the Italian statesman ; at this
time, too, came Garibaldi in state to London, whose workshops
and stately West-End dwellings sent out their throngs of en-
thusiastic artizans, and peers and countesses, to do homage to
the soldier of fortune ; at this time it was that England's grand
old statesman, in his eightieth year, in the growing morning, re-
viewed, as one glances his eye along some panorama, the his-
tory of his political administration, made his last great speech
before stepping out of the commons and entering the portal
which guards the entrance to that realm from which no travel-
ler comes back.




" fjCYLLA is passed; Charybdis appears." The Trent van*

ishes; tin* Alabama is in sight On the morning that
the Siom Jacinto brought bet prisoners into port, the citiaens
of the nortb set ups load hurrah, and cried lustily for the
daring commander, whom they would have boms <>»» a chair
through their cities. Some of the cooler heads, however, be-
gan to consider the. situation, and derived little comfort from
their reflections. This valiant deed of the * s '"// Jacinto'* oom-
mander, they oow law, was a repetition of the outrage com-
mittal 1>\ England against the [Jnited States in 1M)7. During
the year oamed, while several Hritisli incn-uf-war wnv lying at
anchor in I Ihesapeake Bay, a Dumber of blue-jackets deserted,
and enlisted on board tin- United States frigate, Chesapeake.
- after the occunvno , some British officers were
bore in Norfolk, Virginia, and saw the. deserters parade
the streets, protected by the American nag, and under the es-
cort of a recruiting officer. They at once asked for the sur-
render of the men, and their demand was seconded by the
British consul ; but the officer refused to render them up. No-
thing more was said at the time, and there was some chuckling
on board the American ships of war over the occurrence. The
following day, however, a long-boat from the British flag-ship,
admiral Berkley, visited each English war-ship in port, leaving a
sealed despatch. Each captain was instructed by the admiral to
keep a sharp look-out for the American frigate GJiesapeake, when
at sea, out of the limits of the United States, and to search tin?
Q 257


said vessel for the deserted seamen ; and enjoined that, should
any American war-ship insist on Marching a British vessel
for a similar purpose, no resistance should be offered. On the
morning of the 22nd of June, His Majesty's ship Leopard,
captain Humphreys, put out to sea, and about fourteen miles
from land met the (7. i , commodore Barren. He hailed.

and said he had despatches for the commodore from the com-
mander-in-ehief. The Ch>*'ipeake hove to, and was boarded
by an officer from the Leopard, who bore Berkley's orders,
and a letter from captain Humphreys expressing the wish
that he might be able to carry out the admiral's order in an
amicable manner. Tie- commodore was surprised, hut firm.
He said he could not think of agreeing to the request, that his
orders from government forbidding any foreigner to muster his
ship's company were most peremptory ; that he had no desert i is
on lx>ard, and, finally, that he must refuse, once for all, to allow
his ship to be searched. On receiving this answer, the Leopard
edged down towards the Chesapeake, captain Humphreys again
hailing, and stating that " Commodore Barren must be aware
that the orders of the British commander-in-chief must be
obe} T ed." To this the answer given from the American ship
was, * I do not understand you ;" whereupon there was a quiet
movement, with the regularity of clock-work, on board the
frigate, who promptly fired a shot across the bows of the Ches-
apeake. After a minute another shot was fired ; then there
was a pause of two minutes ; and, the American ship giving no
answer, a broadside was poured into her. The Chesapeake
stood, like a stripling of fifteen, with folded arms, before a burly
bully who has already delivered his insignificant adversary a
stunning blow, and did not return the fire. But after a few
moments' pause, and in that awful silence when the only sound
to be heard was the beating of the seamen's hearts, commodore
Barren hailed, and said he wished to send a boat on board ; but
the Leopard believing that the Chesapeake was preparing to
return the fire, regarded the request as only a ruse, and poured


in two more murderous broadsides. Barren (hen struck bis
colours, and two lieutenants with several midshipmen entered
bis ship to make Bearch for the deserters. They captured, after
a three hoars' search, four of the delinquents ; two others were

identified anion - the Blain, and one jumped overboard, and

perished. Six of the Chesapeake's crew were killed, twenty-
four were wounded, and commodore Barren, who acted through-
out with tlif utmost coolness, was wounded from a Hying
splinter. The search having been accomplished, Barren wrote
a note to Bumphreys, saying thai he considered the Chesap<<>l<
was dow the Englishman's prize, and that he was ready to de-
liver her up; hut the latter replied that he had executed the
orders of the commander-in-chief, that he was merely to obtain
the deserters, was now to rejoin his squadron, and lamented
sincerely the necessity which had compelled him to resort to
rioleni measures. When the tfc reached port, battered

and l-l I stained, a cry of Indignation was raised throughout

tie anion ; the attack by the Leopard was felt to be an out-
rage upon the honour of the nation, and an insult that could

only he wiped out by war. Promptly President Jefferson is-
Bued a proclamation requiring all armed vessels bearing com-
missions under the government of Great Britain, then within
the harbours or waters of the United States, immediately to
depart therefrom, and interdicting the entrance of any British
ship armed or mercantile to American ports or waters. The
act of the Leopard was disowned by the British government;
on Humphreys was recalled, and admiral Berkley super-
seded; but all this could not atone for the outrage, and five
years later the dreary wrangle culminated in a declaration of
war by the United States against Great Britain.

If then, American statesmen reasoned, the outrage perpetra-
ted by the Leopard was held to be a casus belli by this coun-
try, why should not the act of the San Jacinto be similarly
regarded by the British government now ? President Lincoln
promptly made up his mind that the act of captain Wilkes


could not be -sustained, and tliat the southern commissioners

should be given op. ■ This," said be, " is the very thing the Bri-
tish captains used to do. They claimed the right of searching
American ships, and carrying men out of them. That was the
caused the war of 1812. Now, we cannot abandon our prin-
ciples. We shall hav. t > -ive these men Up and apologize for
what we have d«>ne." In answer, therefore, to one of Lord
D Russell's usually Long and sonorous dispatches, demanding
the surrender of the commissioners taken from the Tn rtf, Mr.
Seward, who also deli- 1 1 ted in writing lengthy and pompous
state-documents went on to declare that his government could
not find ;i justification for the proceeding of captain Wilkes,
and that the only excuse at all that could be offered for his
act was that he was strictly following British precedents. " It
will be seen," he added, "that this government cannot deny
the justice of the claim presented to us, in this respect, upon
its merits. We are asked to do to the British nation what we
have alwav> insisted all nations ought to do unto us." There-
fore, as we have already seen, the prisoners were on the 1st day
of January, 18G2, "cheerfully liberated." Thus ended the
affair of the Trent ; and now began the dispute about the

On the outbreak of the war between the South and the
North, Mr. Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the Southern
ports. English authorities point out that this was a breach of
constitutional usage. The law, it is true, on the subject of
blockades is plain. A government may proclaim a blockade
of the ports of an enemy, but it can only, for the general pur-
poses of war, order a closure of its own ports. The declaration
of President Lincoln was therefore regarded by foreign govern-
ments as a recognition, by the North, of the Southern confed-
eracy as a belligerent power ; and upon this ground Lord Pal-
merston's ministry sought to defend its imprudent and hasty
proclamation. The Northern government might have ordered
the closure of its ports, but such a decree would be binding only


under municipal law. and every port would beat the mercy of
adventurous blockade-runners, who need only escape the har-
bour defences, as they could not be dealt with by United states
war-vessels beyond American waters. The American govern-
ment chose the blockade as the most expedient course, regard*
of the technical standing it would give to the rebellious
states : and it is difficult to understand how the adoption of a
new form of war etiquette could change the character of a body
-if citizens in revolt against the supreme authority of the state,

The truth of the matter is that whoever drew up the interna-
tional clause relating to blockades, like the framers of many
other laws, tailed to foresee all the cases that might arise to be

affected by the ordinance. Tin- < Hit to be met were

war is declared between separate nations, no in-

spiration-gleam being shed from the future to show that a day
might come when thirty-one millions of j pie, scattered over

half the N«w World, would separate into two mighty bodies
and rise in a fratricidal war.

But the attitude of the imperial ministry in issuing its pro-
clamation, commanding all British subjects to maintain a neu-
trality during the "war "between the Tinted States and her
rebellious citisens, was not the only affront at which the repub-
licans took offence. Open sympathy was manifested for the
South throughout ( Jreat Britain, and when news of the defeat
of the raw levies by the discipline of the rebel soldiers at Bull
Run reached England, there was much jubilation; and Lord
Palmerstoa so far forgot his dignity and his duty as to make
ring allusions, during a public speech, to the" unfortunate
rapid movements" of northern soldiers during that battle. This
contemptuous phrase, coming from the head of the British min-
istry, embittered public feeling in the republic, towards Eng-
land and all that belonged to her. Not many months elapsed
before there arose a cause to intensify that feeling, and lead
t Britain and the United States to the verse of war.


One June morning, in 1861, the Savannah, a swift-sailing and
audacious little vessel, escaped from Charleston, and began to
scour the seas in search of northern merchant-vessels. Many
a ship deep-laden with merchandise, pursuing her way from
port to port, wis net by this tittfe scourge, plundered, and
D to destruction. Fired by She example and the succe^ -

of the Savannah, other daring spirits in the South rigged out
fleet-sailinir rends, armed them with guns, and took up the
privateering trad.'. Among these were the Swmter, commanded
by Captain Bemmes, whose exploits at a later tine- mad.' him

famou> : tie- Na&hvilU and the Petr< 1 , tie- latter skimming,
like the bird whence she took her name, over the sea, and
• ping down upon her victim But these were small vessels
of light armament, and took flight the moment a ship of war
was sighted by the sailor in the cross-trees. The first of the
privateers that became really formidable was the Oreto, after-
ward^ known as the Florida. She had not been longupon tie-
seas when a shudder went through the northern merchant
marine at the mention of her name. She was a swift sailer,
and swooped down like an eagle upon her prey. Before she
had been three months cruising, she captured fifteen vessels,
thirteen of which she burned ; and many a vessel sailing in
northern waters or crossing the Atlantic, shuddered as she saw
at night a tower of flame rising from the sea.

The Florida was a sturdy ship, heavilj 7 armed, and was not
so fleet a sailer as some of her smaller sisters. She was built
at Birkenhead, England, nominally for the Italian government ;
but the American minister resident at London, learned her
destiny, and requested the British government to prevent her
putting to sea. While the cabinet was giving * due considera-
tion " to the request, the Florida passed out the Mersey upon
her career. From the time this vessel departed, England was
declared by American writers to be the " naval base of the


But the most noted of all the privateers, the vessel which
became the occasion ui' a iu'\v code of laws between nations,
and brought the States and Great Britain to the verge of war,
the reader need not be told, was the Alabcuma. This craft was
built in Birkenhead by the ftiessrs. Laird, one of the most pro-
minent building firms in the country. When on the stocks
the vessel was called the " 290," and crowds thronged to the

dock-yard to see the ship destined for some strange mission.
Long before she was built, the mystery was dissipated.: the
spapers declared that she was intended as a southern
cruiser, that ike would sweep northern commerce from the seas,
and be so armed as to i" % able to bold her own against even the

heaviest Bhipe of war. Mr. Adams, a descendant of a brilliant

family, distinguished for their superior statesmanship and high
honour, was then the American representative in Lon-
don. Promptly he ami down, on hearing of the character of
thi> new ship, and wrote to Lord John Russell, m-ging him to

institute enquiries into the allegations concerning the proposed
mission Of th< and maintaining that it was the duty of

tmi.'iit. on being satisfied that the craft waste
mployedas I southern cruiser, to prevent her departure
from England. Lord John Russell, in whom more than any
r modern Knglish statesman of note, much littleness WSJ
mingled with uot a little greatness, sought to parry Adams 1
contentions by asking for proof of the allegations offered in
one breath, and in tie- oerl expressing a doubt whether the
eminent could fly in the face of a domestic law. Mr. Adams
again pressed his request. He only desired that the govern-
ment should satisfy itself as to the mission for which " !'!>()"

was intended. If the mission were ascertained to he that
which he had alleged, then he contended, under the * Foreign
Enlistment Act," the vessel ought to be detained. Lengthy cor-
respondence passed between the two ministers, in which M i\
Adams always maintained a calm dignity and an overwhelming
logic, while Lord John Russell more than once gave way to


petulance, ami sought to defend liis position by feeble and tri-
fling analogies which he affected to find in American diplomacy.
Meanwhile Mr. Laird went on building the ship, ami as the

time of her departure approached, Mr. Adams pressed Lord

Russell with mueli ea rnestne ss to interpose his authority. At
last Lord John was prevailed upon toask the Queen's advocate*

for advice; but when the request was made that official was

>ick, and could n«»t return an answer. At last the answer came,
expressing the opinion that the vessel ought to be detained.
But while the ministers were waiting for the advocate's reply,
( ) " though unfinished, was mad- ready for sea, and, under
pretence of a trial trip, sailed down tl y t<> Moelfra Bay

where the work remaining was hastily completed. On the 31st
of July, orders came from the British ministry to seize the ves-
sel, but on the same day the prospective privateer, amid the
ringing cheers of her crew, sailed away from the coast of Eng-
land. Thence she proceeded to Terceira, one of the Western
Islands, where she tarried till the arrival of the Agrippvna
from London, with her guns and stores, and the Baluima with
captain Semmes, late commander of the Sumtzr, his officers
and crew. On the 24th of August, the privateer was equipped
and ready for her career of destruction. She was a screw steam
sloop of 1,040 tons, built of wood, and for speed rather than
strength. She was barque-rigged, had a crew of eighty men,
and carried eight 32-pounders. When ready for sea, captain
Semmes appeared on deck in Confederate uniform, and read his
commission to the men. Henceforth he told them they would
know their ship by the name of the Alabama ; after which he
delivered a speech predicting that their good fortune in escaping
from England was an omen of their success among the shipping
of the north. Then under pressure of steam and canvas, the
saucy privateer steered for the scene of her future labours. On
the 5th of September, when four days at sea, she sighted a

* Sir John Harding.


brigantine under full canvas, bowling along, bound for a north-
em p<»rt. w ( live him the British bunting,* 1 said captain Semmes,
and the Union-Jack was thing out from the main-top. The
brigantine tarried till the pompous stranger came up, and was
making ready to hail, when a deluge of grape-shot came whist-
ling across his bowst and looking, he saw the stranger flaunt-
ing the Southern flag. An hour later, the stately brig was a
mass of flame through the twilight of die autumn sea. For the
next eleven days ibama lingered about where she met

her first victim, and in that time captured and burnt property
the value of which exceeded her own cost. Several last-sailing
cruisers, heavily armed, pot out from Northern ports searching
for " the pirate Semmes," but when ■ specs appeared upon the
horizon that the look-out declared t<> be formidable, the priva*

altered hercourse,and skimmed fleetly over the sea, leav-
ing her pnrsnen Ear behind A few months later, she hovered
along the track of commerce between AspinwaU and New fork
and after patient watching, one morning, captured the Ariel
mail steamer, with 1 kO marines, i number of United States
and about -"''Hi passengers These the captain of the

ateer decided to put on shore at Kingston, Jamaica, but the

city was a pent-house of yellow fever. On board his own ship

was not room for their accommodation; so with much re*

he Let the steamer L, r <>, taking a bond for a large sum, pay-

able when the war was ended Some days later the look-out saw

an American gun-boat, which afterwards proved to bethoHat-

kring down. Bemmes smiled grimly as he ordered the

decks to be cleared for action, and saw the war-ship approach-

sager Eur the fray. It was a short conflict. After a few
broadsides the HatU ros went down, and the privateer, Issuing

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 21 of 57)