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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and the foremost newspapers took up a similar tone. But the
plan approved by the Nova Scotia legislature was not for a
federation of all the provinces, but a maritime union, compre-
hending under one government, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick
and Prince Edward Island. In 1864, the legislatures of these
provinces passed resolutions authorizing the appointment of
delegates to meet during the autumn, to discuss the project of
maritime union. At once it occurred to Mr. Macdonald that
the meeting could be turned to account by the government of
Canada in promoting the general confederation scheme. The
maritime-province delegates were to meet, in September, at
Charlottetown, and thither repaired eight members of the
Canadian administration. The delegates at this conference
were as follows : —

From Nova Scotia — The Hon. Charles Tupper, M.P.P., pro-
vincial secretary ; the Hon. Wm. A. Henry, M.P.P., attorney-


general ; the Hon. Robert Barry Dickie, M.L.C. ; the Hon.
Jonathan McCully, M.L.C. ; the Hon. Adams G. Archibald,

From New Brunswick— The Hon. S. L. Tilley, M.P.P., pro-
vincial secretary; the Hon. John M. Johnston, M.P.P., attor-
_, r eneral ; the Hon. John Hamilton Gray, M.P.P. ; the Hon.
Edward B. Chandler, M.L.C. ; the Hon. W. H. Steeves, M.L.C.

Prom Canada — The Bon. John A. Macdonald, M.P.P., at-
torney-general, UppeH Sanada ; the Hon. George Brown, M.P.P.,
president of executive council ; the Hon. Alexander T. Gait,
MP. P., minister of finance; the Hon. George E, Cartier, M.P.P.,
attorney-general, Lower Canada; the Bon. Hector L Lange-
viu, M.P.P., solicitor-general of Lower Canada ; the Hon.
William licDougall, provincial secretary; the Hon. Thomas
1 > 'Aroy McGee, M.P.P., minister of agriculture.

Prince Edward [aland was represented by the Bon. Col.
ILPP., president of the executive council; tin- Hon. Ed-
ward Palmer, If. L.C., attorney-general j the Bon. W. 11. Pope,
M.1\P., colonial secretary ; the Hon. George Coles, M.P.P. ; the
Hon. A. A. Macdonald, M.L.C.

The Canadian ministers not having been appointed to con-
fer respecting legislative union, had no official standing at the
Island conference, but they were invited to join in the discus-
sion, of which courtesy they vigorously availed themselves.
"The Canadians descended upon as," said one of the Islanders
afterwards ; " and before they were three days among us we
forgot our own scheme and thought only about theirs." No
longer did any one speak of maritime union ; all were absorbed
by the greater project of a general federation, guaranteeing
local and joint control. " This scheme of ours," the attorney-
general for Canada West observed to some of his colleagues
as they walked home to their hotel after the discussion had
been a short time in progress, "like Aaron's serpent, has swal-
lowed all the rest." The objections that still exist to maritime
union, existed then ; the impossibility of fixing the capital in


one province without provoking the animosity of the others.
There was a way Jjy which this fatal bar might have been set
aside, and thai the adoption of the itinerant plan. When
th«' free achool Bystcin was introduced through the provinces,
one of the most formidable obstacles to its operation often
proved to be the problem, Where ia the teacher to board?

and many a district, rather than see one family monopolize
the honours of the u master's " board and lodging would con-
damn itself t-> the privation of having no school at all. But as
a way was found out of this dilemma by the teacher "hoard-
ing around the deestrict," a possibility of legislative union
for our maritime brethren i^ Mi^gested by the idea that the
government might board arounl the union, spending say, four
years at Fredericton, as many sessions at Halifax, and a like
term in Charlottetown. But, putting levity aside, we believe
that the day is coming when the three provinces named, and
Quebec with them, must unite in a maritime union, if the}',,
one and all, would not be overshadowed, in the coming years,
by the provinces developing with such rapid strides in the

So completely did the general confederation scheme absorb
the maritime idea that the convention closed only to reassem-
ble at Quebec again, on a date to be fixed by the governor-
general of Canada. On a bright September morning, full of
high hopes of a future great Canadian nation, in which, doubt-
less, each member of the convention on board the steamer
Victoria as she ploughed along Northumberland Strait, was
fashioning out for himself a high place, the party sailed away
for Halifax. Here they were received with enthusiastic wel-
come, the city being literally en fete during their stay. A
sumptuous banquet was prepared in the dining-room of the
Halifax hotel, at which Dr. Tupper, provincial secretary for
Nova Scotia, and the second ablest public man in the province,
presided. Making due allowance for after-dinner exagger-
ation, which is as the bubble on the champagne which gives it


birth, these speeches showed a careful mastery of the situation ;
many of the predictions made have already been fulfilled, while
the consummation of others is assured to us by fair promise.
If. Cartier, who was the only member that dipped into Virgil
for allusion and jewels, glanced into the inexorable future and
there saw a great British -American nation with the fair pro-
vinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick m the arms of the
national body to embrace the wealth which the Atlantic's
commerce would bring, with Prince Edward Island as the
regal head, and for a body the provinces of Canada stretching

fn.m the sea in the east to the shadow of the Rocky Moun-
tains in the west. It was reserved to later years to complete
this national giant, when, to extend M. Cartier's Bgure, British
Columbia became the national legs, legs that a cynic might say,

-hall take the pains here to forestall him, may
day, as they have lately threatened, walk away from the
trunk to a destiny of their own. Mr. John A. liaodonald
made a telling Speech. 4 While he took a hopeful view of what
the confederation would bring, he nowhere allowed his imagin-
ation to take flight with his judgment He calmly, though
hopefully, examined the prospect, and declared that the con-
summation of the union had been for many years his fondest
lr. am. From Halifax the delegates passed over to New
Brunswick, visiting the pretty little capital Fredericton, where
a conference was held with Lieutenant-Governor Gordon. St.
John extended its hospitalities to the " confederates," as the
visitors were called, and the delegates departed for their homes,
the Canadians above all jubilant over the success that had
attended their visitation. Mr. John A. Macdonald, curiously
enough, is reported to have said, after the Halifax banquet, to
one of his colleagues, " I admire this Tupper ver}' much ; it
us to me if you get him interested in any movement, he is
not likely to falter, or to be hindered by small obstacles." Of

* See Appendix " F."


the New Brunswick d< Mr. Maedonald and his col-

leagues talked much, and he and they seemed taken with Mr.
B, LTilley, the provincial secretary, for the clear decisiveness
of his vi«w. and the sincerity of hifl manners. There is no
reason to suppose that, daring the many yean since that
political good fortune has thr< vvn Mr. Macdonald in such close
contact with those two distinguished maritime-province men,
he has changed his mind.

( m the 10th of October, the day named by the governor-
general for the meeting of the conference in Quebec, the dele-
gates had assembled in that quaint city, looking so antique
that it might be regarded as having come to birth at a day
as far in the past as saw the origin of those grand old cliffs
that sentinel the hi surely flood of the St. Lawrence, which,
apparently, is here at pause on its way to the great sea. The
number of delegates had been increased by the presence of
Hon. (now Sir) Frederick B. T. Carter, speaker of the New-
foundland house of assembly, Hon. Ambrose Shea, leader of the
opposition in the same chamber, and Sir Etienne P. Tache*, A.
Campbell, Oliver Mowat, James Cockburn, and J. C. Chapais,
from the Canadian cabinet. The conference was organized
by the election of Sir E. P. Tache* to the chair. The provincial
secretaries of the several provinces were appointed honorary
secretaries to the conference, and Major Hewitt Bernard was
chosen executive secretary. Then the doors of the conference-
chamber were closed, and the momentous discussion went on,
without any one raising his voice to say nay. When the con-
clave was ended, though no word had gone abroad to the public
of what had been done, it was . surmised that a plan of federal
union had been adopted, and would in due time be submitted
to the imperial government. A round of hospitalities was in-
augurated, and at a sumptuous dinner, given by the Quebec
Board of Trade, some members, under the influence of enthu-
siasm 4 and champagne, were sore pressed to retain their porten-
tous secrets. Dr. Tupper spoke there, dilating, in his own


robustious and impassioned way, on the advantages the pro-
posed confederation must derive from union with his little
peninsular province. Hon. S. L. Tilley followed in a speech
orcible, though equally as convincing. He did not come
there, he assured his hearers, M a suppliant praying for
Ignition of a pauper province, but as the representative
of what would prove one of the richest and most desirable
possessions of the confederation Hon. Mr. Carter, of New-
foundland, spoke in his usual terse and telling style some good
words for his little colony — the most ancient of#them all —
standing like a solitary virgin out in those cold Atlantic waters,
fringed in the rammer time with fogs, and buffeted by the
rude storms of winter. Mr. Carter was an able exponent of
his country's Importance, but he was mistaken when he stated
that his brother Newfoundlanders would account it ■ "loss to
be left out of the union." Perhaps the very ablest speech was
that made at the public banquet in Quebec some days later by
the brilliant and level-headed island politician, Hon. Ambrose
Shea. He assured his hearers that in the event of his colony
entering the union compact, the islanders would not be the
only gainers. He dwelt at some Length on the riches of tho
seas around his island province, and spoke with just pride of
the hardy character of the thirty thousand seamen who reaped
the harvest from the waters, and of those brave fellows who
ranged the ice-fields for the seal treasures. It was a time when
military aspeets influenced statesmen. The mightiest civil
war the world had ever known had convulsed the continent,
and while the delegates were yet in Quebec, rumours of threat-
ened invasion were on everybody's lips. Mr. Shea brought
forward a telling military consideration, in recommending hiq
colony to the union, which elicited ringing cheers from tho
auditors. " In considering a union of the provinces," he said,
" it becomes necessary to take into account the position of
the proposed confederation with regard to the safety and
defence. In this view, the position of Newfoundland becomes


one of marked significance, ( tar island, as you know, stretches
across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, commanding l>oth passages
by which the vasi bade of the Gulf region and the St. Law-
rence river finds its way to the ocean. Now, were this colony
in the hands «>f a hostile power in war time, the trade of
Canada would be hermetically scaled as if perpetual winter
reigned here." Mr. Shea, whose Bowing and impressive style
of oratory at once captivated his hearers, and caused at least
one shrew. 1 delegate to say, " He will be an acquisition to the
Canadian parliament, " was not so sanguine <>f the reception
the anion scheme would meet with the colonists; and frankly
stated that the question had not yet been discussed in the
[aland press, and that himself and Mr. Carter had spoken only
for themselves. And it so happened that while the two
talented Islanders were in Quebec, a colonial " poet," always
hurthened with the weight of the people's woes, sat at home
brooding much over the union scheme, and finally broke forth
into verses, some of the more brilliant of which, as presented
some months later on the bastings, were injunctions to the
colonists to —

" Remimber the day
That Carter and Shea
Crossed the say-
To barter away
The rights of Tirra Nova."

When the two delegates reached the island they found that
many of the inhabitants had taken the alarm. Several ora-
tors whose speech revealed their relationship to that land
whence a certain saint expelled the frogs and snakes, went
noising around the coast, denouncing the " shkeemers " who
had been in ■ Canady tryin' to sell their counthry." The in-
habitants of Irish birth or extraction showed the greatest hos-
tility to the scheme, because the demagogues had led them to
believe that it would involve all the hardships and wrongs of
the union between England and Ireland. It is not strange
that the more rampant u antis " were the thousands who could


neither read nor write, and who lived huddled away in the
little nooks around the coast, fishing for cod in summer, shoot-
ing game, and hauling firewood with dogs, in the winter. How-
ever, we are somewhat anticipating, and must tell in the proper
place how this cold virgin resented the proposal for political

Before the delegates dispersed, they paid a visit to the capi-
tal of this New Dominion, of which, it might be said, they were
now wildly dreaming. They set out on their journey by train,
accompanied by lady members of their family; but, lured by
the beauty which lights and transfigures our scenery in the
autumn, they took steamer and journeyed by the Ottawa river.
Some of the fair passengers declared they had seen grander
scenery, but never anything more lovely. They had; walling
their <»wn provinces in, mighty otitis, at whose feet they heard
the ocean thunder in storm, and sing songs unspeakably sad

and BWeet in the calm. They had bold, airy mountains of their

own, sombre forests and rushing ri rars, but never, they said, had

they seen anything SO lovely as those groups of mellow islands,
robed in the autumn's glory, which at every bend of the river
were revealed to view. The sun set before the passage of the
river was made, and as the soft twilight came stealing over
wood and dale, mingling its gloom with the darkling hues of
the hills, the scene became enrapturing. The party sat upon
the deck till the shadows deepened into night, and the moon
climbed over the hills, listening to the murmur of the river
shallows, and the hoarse, warning roar of the rapids, one fair
lady looking with rapt glance upon the dim hills and shining
river flooded in silvery glory, the while gently murmuring, as
only a sweet- voiced woman can, who loves nature and sweet
verse for its sake,

" Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near, and the daylight's past."

The party was met at the little wilderness-city by a torch-
light procession, and escorted to Russell's hotel, around which


an enthusiastic Mflnmhlsffo had gathered Tlio pet of the mul-
titude was Mr. John A. Macdonald, wlio was called for lustily
by hundreds of voices. After Borne time he appeared at one of

the windows of the hotel, thanking the assemblage, in a few
happy sentences, for their welcome, and expressing the hope
that at a day not far distant, Ottawa might be the capital city
of a great British-American confederation. The citizens were
politic enough not to let their visitors depart without seeing the
natural beauties which abounded in their neighbourhood-
Through the bright, cold November morning, one of Mr. Dick-
inson's trim little steamers took the party three miles down the
river, and then turning, ran up, further than ever boat had gone
before, into the boiling cauldron at the foot of Chaudiere Falls.
Leaving Ottawa, which had extended her fullest courtesies,
the party proceeded westward through the province, receiving
cordial welcome and lavish hospitality at Kingston, Toronto,
Hamilton and other cities on the route. The delegates then
returned to their respective homes, eager to get before the
legislatures, and propose the scheme which had filled them with
such high hope. We bid good-bye to our visitors at Quebec,
and turn to watch the fate of the union in Canada.

Before parliament met, Mr. Mowat had grown weary of politi-
cal life, and accepted a vice-chancellorship on the judicial bench
of Upper Canada. It is needless, almost, to tell the reader,
that in time the chancellor grew weary of the bench, and en-
tered public life again. We must take the liberty of stating
that we regard the exchange of the judicial seat for party place
a decensus averni, and an act bearing a close analogy to a
bishop leaving the episcopal chair, and turning railway direc-
tor. Mr. Mowat's case is not an exception in Ontario, but a
plurality of examples only makes the matter worse. The man
who is taken from among his fellows, and elevated to the chair
of justice, bears, in the public eye, a solemn stamp and seal,
which removes him from the influences and interests which
sway other men. He is as one who renounces the world's ways.


and. entering the sanctuary, devotes himself to the exclusive
work of religion. He consecrates himself to justice, is regarded
in a different li^ht from other men ; is assumed to have no
party prejudices, and to be an unmoved spectator of the strag-
gle between individuals and parties, and all things whatsoever
that are begotten of difference of opinion. But when this man,
so consecrate to justice, stands up before the. public, lays by
his sacred robes, and, stepping down Prom the judgment seal
enters the world, and plunges Into the mire of politics, a shock
la given to our honest faith in the sanctity of the bench ; tin
solemn judge, in ermine and judicial insignia, expounding and
pronouncing, does not awe us any longer: for \\ e dream of a
day yet to cone- when we may find him figuring at some de-
grading political intrigue in a city ward, or endeavourin
bribe an archbishop. Mr. \V. l\ Howland, who was a gentle-
man of ability and integrity, became postmaster- general in Mr.
Mowat's place.

Parliament met on the 19th of February, and, in the minis-
opening speech, which the governor read, the confedera-
tion scheme was warmly recommended to the house. The
union question absorbed the almost exclusive attention of par-
liament. Some of the ablest speeches ever delivered in a
Canadian legislature were heard during the session. On the
ministerial side, Messrs. (John A.) Macdonald, Brown, Cartier
and McGee, supported the question with marked ability, while
with scarcely less skill and power Messrs. (John Sandfield)
Macdonald, 1 luntington, Dorion, Holton and Dunkin opposed
it. All that careful research and skilful manipulation of fact
and figures could urge against the scheme, was put forward
with impassioned force by these gentlemen. An eastern writer
tells a story of a dervish who had the power in form, face and
voice, of personating whomsoever he willed. The wizard had
a taste for political intrigue, and one day, as grand vizier,
learnt momentous .secrets from the pasha, and again in the form
of some favoured sheik discovered intrigues, which, in lea


with a dating an. I ambitious accomplice, he turned to his own
advantage. He conk), indeed, the story goes, take the shape of

the loveliest occupant of the harem, and once, in the guise of

a beautiful houri, with eyes like eight, and heart-entangling

hair, made the amorous prince lay hare every wile and secret of
his heart. The story, we believe, to be an allegory representing
dramatic power. The dramatic quality in the possession of a
polititian is not less dangerous than tie- metamorphosing power
of the dervish, fof in • stupid, if not in a vicious, cause, the
public may become a victim to horror, virtue and awful in-
dignation counterfeited. It appears that Mr. Dunkin, at the
hand of blind, indiscriminate nature, was the possessor in some
measure of the dramatic instinct. It is hardly worth while to
talk so much about his powers, or what he did, or to go to East-
ern lore for illustration, but nevertheless it may be said that he
counterfeited, in a very clever fashion, a vast amount of horror
and dread of the confederation scheme. " All that a well-read
public man," says Hon. John H. Gray, in his work on " Con-
federation," " all that a thorough sophist, a dexterous logician,
a timid patriot, or a prophet of evil coidd array against the
project, was brought up and pressed against the scheme." It
almost appears from reading Mr. Dunkin's utterances, that he
was opposed to the union, for at times he breaks away from his
art and becomes as impassioned as Cassandra, who sees the
swallow's nest fall from the wall of Troy, while the wooden
horse of the Greeks seeks admission at the gates. On Fri-
day the 10th of March the discussion had ended, and attorney-
general Macdonald, rising, offered the following motion, " That
an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that
she may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be sub-
mitted to the imperial parliament for the purpose of uniting
the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince
Edward Island and Newfoundland in one government, with
provisions based on certain resolutions, which were adopted at
a conference of delegates from the said colonies, held at the city


of Quebec, on the 10th of October, 1865." This resolution,
after some discussion, was carried by a vote of 91 to 33. Of
the minority, four were from the up p^r proyin^, and^f t,hp L
majority fJ ft y-four T The question might not have fared so well
in the lower province, but that M. Cartier was an enthusiastic
champion of union, and was supported by the priests almost to
a man. A motion similar to that carried in the house of com-
mons had been introduced in the legislative council by tin-
premier, girJSL P. TacJie, and carried by a y_ote of three .tojanc.
Parliament] 1 on the 18 th of March, and during the

month following Messrs. (J. A.) Macdonald, Gait, Brown and
Cartier, proceeded to England, to confer with the imperial
government, and promote tie* scheme of confederation. The
most active member in forwarding the measure was Mr. ftiac-

donald, who assured his colleagues that it would he impossible
to go back again to the old and troublous order. Up to this
point, and for some years later, it may be stated, the attorney-
• differed from his colleagues as to the details of
the confederation plan. He believed that the true system was
one parliament having supreme control, and a system of muni-
cipal institutions in each province with enlarged functions. To
this view his colleagues were determinedly hostile, expressing
their preference for provincial legislatures, and a controlling
joint authority. " I prefer that system too," argued Mr. Mac-
donald, " but what I fear is that it may be found impracticable.
I fear there will arise a collision of authority between the pro-
vineial legislatures and the general parliament, which would
be an evil worse than that which we seek now to remedy."
His colleagues were of the opinion that this danger could be
averted by assigning to each parliament, at the outset, its spe-
cial functions, giving it as M. Cartier expressed it, its "chart
of jurisdiction," whence no difficulty could arise. History has
vindicated the correctness of Mr. Macdonald's surmises, and
weighty opinion does now assert that we ought to have had the
system he advocated then, and that we are too much governed.


• At present we have," Bays the greatest living English writer/

"for a population of four millions, eight kings, one central and

n provincial, as many parliaments, and sixty-five ministers

<>f the crown; while England is content with a single king, a
single parliament— the members of which are not paid — and a
!e cabinet, seldom containing so many members as the
cabinet at Ottawa. We have also judges and chief-justices as

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 24 of 57)