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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that Newfoundland has attempted to emulate the gair-fowl,
preferring that " the poor stone " should be " left all alone," to
•casting in her Lot with a young nationality in the spring-bloom
of its strength. For the colonists — we are anticipating by a
few years — showed their hostility to union, by some unmis-
takable signs. When Hon. Ambrose Shea, who had been
the island delegate to Quebec, paid a visit to Placentia, the
•chief place in his constituency, he was met at the landing by a
number of the inhabitants, some bearing pots of hot pitch, and
others bags of feathers with which to bedeck "de shkeemer M
who tried to "sell his counthry." The writer just remembers tie-


-erne, and never will it Leave his memory. In addition to the
zealous" amis " with the tar an. 1 feathers, were about fifty indi-
viduals win) s.mnded melancholy insult to the candidate through
these large conchs which the fishermen get upon their "hull-
tow" trains in summer, and another hand of about thirty, win
blew reproaches and derisioii through cow-horns. They heaped
y possible insult upon the visitor, raved up and down the
landings threatening his life should he attempt to come on
shore, till, a% last, pained and disgusted, this man who had been
so oftentheir benefactor when famine darkened their homes, who
was a statesman of whom any country might have been proud ,
turned away and never visited the ungrateful spot again. Mr.
Shea, however, we may add here, did not drop out of public
life, but still, with his brother, the colonial secretary, maintains
a leading place in the counsels of his colony, whose interests in
him have an able and zealous advocate.

In November, 1866, the Canadian delegation, consisting of
Messrs. John A. Macdonald, George E. Cartier, A. T. Gait, W.
P. Howland, Wm. McDougall and H. L. Langevin, proceeded
to England, where they were to meet the Nova Scotia and
New Brunswick delegates, to discuss the confederation plan.
The Nova Scotia delegates were Messrs. Tupper, Archibald,.
Henry, McCully and Ritchie ; those of New Brunswick were
Messrs, Tilley, Mitchell, Fisher, Johnson and Robert Duncan
AVilmot, the last named gentleman being the present lieu-
tenant-governor of the province. The delegates assembled
at Westminster palace on the 4th of December, and, by pre-
eminence, the chair was given to Hon. John A. Macdonald
during the conference. Lord Monck, who had left Canada on
a holiday tour, and who was a zealous advocate of union, ren-
dered what assistance he could to the delegates and to the im-
perial government. The conference sat till the 24th of Decem-
ber, after which the assemblage were in a position to proceed
with the structure of a constitution. Though some of the ablest
men our colonies have ever produced were instrumental in>


framing the new constitutional charter, Mr. Macdonald, it was
readily admitted, was the master-head Many a time during
the progress of the negotiations, conflicting interests arose,
which, but for careful handling, might have wrecked the
scheme ; and here the matchless tact of the attorney-general
of Canada West pre-eminently asserted itself. During the
conference several modifications were made in the Quebec
draft. Several concessions were made to the maritime pro-
vinces, and a more uniform and equitable feature given to
the whole. The Nova Scotia delegateewere confronted by the
colossal tiir ure of Joseph Howe, who poured out a stream of
fiery eloquence against the confederation ; but those who were
ent say that Dr. Tupper turned the great orator's argu-
ments back with BUCh force and clearness that the mind of the

imperial government never for a moment wavered in concluding

what its duty to Nova Scotia was. Aft< ir the conclusion of
the discussion on the general scheme, the conference, in con-
junction with the imperial law officers, prepared certain draff
bills, which were afterwards fused tato a harmonious whole,
and Bubmitted to the imperial parliament on the 5th of Feb-
ruary following, On the 2!)th of March the amalgamated bilL

ived the royal assent; and on the 12th of April another
imperial act was passed authorizing the commissioners of the
treasury to guarantee interest on a loan not to exceed £3,0()n -
000 sterling, which sum was to be appropriated to the construc-

of an Intercolonial railway between Halifax and the St.
Lawrence. The union was not considered perfected by the consti-
tutional ceremony ; and needed a firmer linking by the bonds of
iron. On the 22nd of May a royal proclamation was issued from
Windsor Castle, giving effect to " The British North America
Act," and appointing the first day of July following as the dato
on which it should come in force. Briefly, the act provided
that the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Sco-
tia should be one Dominion, under the name of Canada. This
Dominion was divided into four provinces, named Ontario


Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; the boundaries of
the former two to be the same as those of the old provinces of
Upper and Lower Canada ; the boundaries of the two maritime
province* Ipmiinillg unchanged. The executive authority, and
tlie command of tin- naval and military forces, wnv vested in
the imperial sovereign, if] 'resented by a governor-general or
executive officer for tin- time being. The city of Ottawa
was declared the seat of government during the sovereign's
pleasure. Ti ti\e machinery was to consist of a viceroy

• 'i his deputy, and a ministerial council, to he styled the Queen's
privy council for Canada, the members of which body were to
be chosen by the governor-general, and to hold office during
his pleasure. The legislative power was vested in a parliament,
to consist of the Queen, the senate and the house of commons.
It was provided that a parliament should be held at least once
in each year, so that not more than a twelvemonth might elaj »•■
between session and session. The ridiculous system of election
to the political dead-house was abolished, — though the gigantic
thing itself was maintained — and it was provided instead that
the senate should consist of seventy-two life members, twenty-
four for Ontario, twenty-four for Quebec — an apportionment
which, in view of the disparity of population and the outlook
of increased inequality, would have been a rank injustice, but
that the members so distributed are but the shadows in an in-
stitution which in practice is a myth — and twelve for each of
the maritime provinces, the members to possess certain pro-
perty qualifications, to be appointed by the Crown, and to re-
tain their seats for life, unless guilty of gross misbehaviour.
Becoming swinishly intoxicated, and while in that state vom-
iting over Turkey carpets at vice-regal banquets were not fore-
seen in framing the constitution, so that senators offending in
that way may retain their seats. Provision was made for in-
creasing the membership of the body, but the number (as finally
arranged) was not to exceed eighty-two, or to reach that limit
unless upon the entry of Newfoundland into the confederation.


The principle of representation by population was established
for the house of commons, the basis adopted for the original
adjustment being the census of 1861. It was declared, how-
ever, that an adjustment should take place eveiy ten years,
upon a census of population being obtained The representa-
tion of Queb c was permanently fixed at sixty-five members,
while that of each of the other provinces was to bear the Bame
relation to the population thereof that sixty-five should from
time to time bear to the population of Quebec. The repre-
sentation for the whole union was fixed at 181 members:
eighty-two for Ontario, sixty-five for Quebec, nineteen for
>tia, and fifteen for New Brunswick.
The duration of the house of commons was not to exceed
fire years, ( Sonstitutions were likewise given to the tour pro-
vinces embraced in the onion Each comprised a lieutenant^
ernor who was to be appointed l»v the governor-general,
paid out of the general t reasury, and to hold office for five years ;
an executive council which was to be appointed by the lieu-
tenantrgovernor, who had the power of dismissal; a legislative
council to be nominated by the lieutenant-governor and to hold
their seats for life* ; and the house of assembly. Such legisla-
ture was to have control over local affairs, all questions of a cha-
racter affecting the dominion at large falling within the juris-
diction of the general government. It is hardly necessary to
say that the jurisdiction of the federal and the provincial par-
liaments in inan\ mind one of those colours on the can-
vas which meet and to the eye seem to soften and blend, SO
that it passes the keenest skill to say where the one begins or
the other ends; and that, therefore, it was impossible by the
terms of any constitution to so define respective jurisdiction as
to avoid collision of authority in the future. One notable case,
ur readers will readily remember, has of late years arisen,
namely, the question whether the power to pass certain laws

* Ontario had the good sense to dispense with an upper chamber, and her 1<
ti'.n lias never been the worue in consequence.


regulating the liquor traffic rendu in the general or the

provincial parliaments, the learned and clear-headed chief
justice of New Brunswick affirming that the jurisdiction lies
in the province, not in the dominion; the distinguished chief
justice of Canada maintaining, on the other hand, that the
authority ifl not in the province, but in the dominion ; while

other eminent jurist* contend thai the power resides not

according to the terms of the act bearing upon such c;
either in the one Legislature or the other. Provision was made,
likewise, in the British North America Act, for the admisa ion

into the confederation, of any colony that had so far refused to
be a party to the compact. The royal proclamation announced
tlic names of seventy -two senators, thirty-six of whom were
conservatives and thirt\->i\ reformers; so that when the date
which was to witness the birth of the Dominion came round;
the machinery was in readiness to set in motion. When the
delegates returned from England, Lord Monck, who had been
a zealous worker in promoting union, turned his thought to
the choice of an administration to be called to the government
of the federated provinces. As to who the leader should be,
he doubted not a moment. Many warm and able advocates
had had the scheme of union among those who sat at the
Westminster Conference, as well as among numbers of others
in the parliament and the press ; but above all these towered the
figure of Hon. John A. Macdonald. We have seen that he dif-
fered at the outset from his colleagues as to the form some
details of the scheme ought to take ; but that a union of the
scattered colonies was the only solution to the troubles dis-
tracting the provinces, he never doubted. From the moment
the coalition was formed, his was the head that planned, the
hand that shaped, the negotiations. It is not going too far
to say, in glancing at his exertions, and the obstacles which
were presented at every stage of the proceedings, that had
it not been for Mr. John A. Macdonald we might not at
this day have a confederation. George Brown sought rep-


ration by population, and entertained the proposal of con-
fed* ration only as a means to that end; Lower Canada was
apathetic, and rather interested in resisting Brown's move-
ment than anxious to enter a combination which would not
increase her prestige. Mr. Macdonald, appearing upon the
at this critical time, thus on the one hand appealed
to Mr. Brown: You will through federation get represen-
tation by population, and, taming to the French party: The
time has now come when you must recede from the ground on
which I have so Long sustained you ; you must now cli.
between a subserviency to a majority in all things, or a mea-

tliat will make yon supreme in your domestic concerns,

and giVe yon the authority to which your number entitles you
on «| btional importance. Mr. Mackenzie naturally

enough, perhaps, considering our poor fallen nature, is jealous of
position Mr. Ifacdonald takes after the accomplishment of
the union. u Having/' says this graceless biographer, "nogreal
iwn to boasl about, he bravely plucks the laurel
from the brows of the actual combatants, and real victors, and

08 it OH his own head." Who, pray, Mr. Mackenzie, were
the "actual combatants?" Who wen- "the real victors?"
We know not and we write from the record, seeking not to
put laurels on brows that have not won them. Surely the
question is a question of fact, not one of malice.

Lord Monck, as we have said, who had watched the course
of Mr. Macdonald, who remembered how that statesman had
turned the Prince Edward Island conference to account, the
attitude he had assumed after the conference, and his position at
the Westminster meeting, had no difficulty in concluding that
far beyond all others was his place in accomplishing the great
it, and that for this reason, and by virtue of his first-class
abilities as a statesman, to him belonged the honour of leading
the first Canadian administration. He wrote a note askin" if


Mr. Macdonald would come and see him, and then told the at-
torney-general-west what his intentions were. Mr. Macdonald I


expressed his obligations, and his willingness to take any duty
that his excellency igsigned to him. Upon the recommendation
of the primeminister, almost entirely,it was that the members of
the ministry were chosen. Like the " heretic " who, on receiving
baptism and mforing the fold of the Roman church, finds all his
past blotted out as if it had newr been — though his sins had been
red as >carlet - and begins lit'. <>, so was the past of party

in Canada obliterated. Mr. Macdonald and Lord Monck argued
— though of course not precisely in our figure — and the new
mini-try, drawn from every province, and all parties, would
begin its career without a political stain. With confederation
arose new problems, new interests, new aspirations ; old ques-
t i<>ns were brushed off the stage, and nought remained but
hollow names. Lord Monck indeed believed that in the ap-
pointment of a compound ministry, a death-blow would be
struck at party ; but Mr. Macdonald assured him that party
would survive the discarded institutions, and resist all the ex-
pedients that ever entered the brain of man. But while regard-
ing this evil of responsible government irrepressible he advised,
as we shall see, the formation of a ministry from among all
parties in the colonies. " The confederation," he said, later on,
" is the work of the people of these provinces, irrespective of
old-time party opinion. I do not want it to be felt by any
section of the country, that they have no representation in the
cabinet, and no influence in the government. And as there are
now no issues to divide parties, and as all that is required is to
have in the government the men who are best adapted to put
the new machinery in motion, I desire to ask those to join me
who have the confidence of, and represent the majorities in, the
various sections, of those who were in favour of the adoption
of this system of government and who wish to see it satisfac-
torily carried out." In due time the members of the new cabinet
were announced, as follows :

Hon. John A. Macdonald Premier and Min. of Justice.
" A. T. Galt - Minister of Finance.


Hon. Alexander Campbell - - Postmaster-General.

" A. J. Fergusson-Blair President of the Council.

" W. P. Howl and - - Min, Inland Revenue.

" George E. Cartier - M in. Militia and Defence.

" Wm. McDougall - - Minister Public Works.

" S. L. Tilley - - - * Min. of Customs.

" Peter Mitchell - Min, Marine and Fisheri

" H. L. LANG I v tN - - Sec. of State for Canada.

" J. C. Chapais - - - Min* of Agriculture,

" A. G. Archibald - - Sec. of State fbrProvw

" BDWABD Kknny - Receiver- General.

lord Monck was sworn into office as governor -general of
the New Dominion by Chief Justice Draper, after which b<
announced that Her Majesty had instructed him, through the
Colonial Secretary, to confer the order of knighthood upon
Hon. John A. Macdonald, and the distinction of Companion-
ship of the Bath on Messrs. Tilley, Tupper, Cartier, Gait, Mc-
Dougall and I lowland. Messrs. Cartier and Gait refused the
favour, and it soon became known that the former gentleman
was wounded to tlm quick that, in granting the higher honour
of knighthood, lie had been ignored. But what he felt worse
than all, with that impulse that rushes sometimes into the
rashest consequences with its eyes shut, was that the man with
whom he had borne the brunt of so many hardly fought battles
should be faithless to the friendship that had so long bound the
two together as " with hoops of steel." He believed, in short,
that the slight was due to Mr. Macdonald's selfish ambition
which coveted the crowning honour for itself alone. The truth
all the time was, that never lived a loyaler friend than Hon.
John A. Macdonald ; that the knighthood was not obtained at
his solicitation or even with his knowledge, but the work of
Lord Monck, who conceived the honour to be a fitting one to
the first statesman called to lead the government of the new
nation. That M. Cartier had borne a noble part in the move-
ment for the federation was undoubted, but so had many others


who were visited with no higher token of imperial regard than
the worthy Leader of the French Canadians. With the un-
bounded chivalry ol hie nature the premier set to work to
redeem what, in view of M. Cartier's feelings, was a diplomatic
hhmder; and a year later it was announced that the French
leader had been erected a baronet of the United Kingdom, a
higher dignity than had been conferred upon the prime minis-
ter himself M. Cartier was somewhat mollified, but the oriffi-
nal hurt rankled in tlif very marrow, and t<> use tin- phrase of
one of our writers, the golden bowl once shivered could not be
red again. Bach, then, is the history of the confederation
movement — from the beginning to the triumphant ending —
which, like the river that takes its rise in obscure ground begins
its journey with feeble motion, winding on with seeming hesi-
tation, through various bends and turns, sometimes entering
the dark forest that the thoughtless spectator believes will hide
the stream forever, but emerging again with greater speed and
sturdier purpose, sweeping on, halting never, and flowing round
the mountain that rises to bar its way, till, " at last the longed-
for dash of waves is heard," and it joins the broad, bright sea.
Though glancing backward, we find that the years have begun
to invest events once standing out in such distinctness, with
vague outline and shadows, still so long as endures the story
of the creation of the Dominion of Canada, one clear form
will appear above all the rest, and that the figure of the Right
Hon. Sir John Alexander Macdonald.



GEORGE ETIENNE ( 'ART I EB was born at St. Antoine, in
the County of Vercheres, on the Gtli of September, 1814.
Tradition, perhaps hazarding a guess, connects him with the
t Jacques of the same name, bo prominent a figure in
the early history of Canada. After finishing his education in
the College of St. Sulpice, Montreal, If. I Sartier Btudied law in
the office of M. Edouard Etodier ; and, io 1835, began practice
at Montreal Two years later the province was in a flame of
rebellion, and like most of hii spirited compatriots at the time,

the young barrister shouted his virus for I'apineau and Lu Li-
■'. He fought with much bravery under Dr. Nelson at St.
Denis, and when the bloody drama was ended tied to the United
States, where he remained till the clouds of revolt at home had
rolled away. While still under the ban of the law he returned
by stealth to Montreal, and shut himself Up in his rooms during
the day. In the evening he quietly left his confinement, seek-
ing the suburbs for exercise and fresh air, and as he glided
along the lonely roads in the gloaming; he often related after-
wards, he fancied that mysterious footsteps dogged him, and
that every bush concealed an officer. At last, semi-official in-
formation reached him that if he conducted himself with dis-
cretion, the law would wink at the past. M. Cartier, we may
be sure was as patriotic as most of his countrymen, but the
phantom of a hangman dangling a halter had haunted his pil-
low so long that the patriotism which had once put on the wings
of revolution, was ever afterwards, in his breast, frozen at the
u 321


source. For ten years the young lawyer diligently applied
himself to his profession, shrinking from notoriety, but never
losing interest in political questions ; and all the while yearning
for the political sphere. In 1848, he saw his ambition gratified
In being elected for Vercheres, which constituency he repre-
sented till 1861, when he overthrew the rouge Goliath, A. A.
Dorion, in Montreal, dealing a blow to Lower Canada grit ism
from which, it may be said without exaggeration, it has never
since recovered. We have seen that, early in 185G, he was
chosen provincial-secretary in the MacNab-Tache" administra-
tion, and that four months later he beeame attorney-general in
the TacheVMacdonald ministry, in the room of Mr. Drummond,
who had gone out of the cabinet in dudgeon, because Mr. Mac-
donald, instead of himself, was chosen to the leadership in the
assembly. The following year the Macdonald-Cartier govern-
ment came into existence, but after a few months the wheel
went round, and the Cartier-Macdonald ministry appeared
upon the scene. Weighed against even many of his contem-
poraries, M. Cartier would be light in the scale, unless we con-
found his success with his merit. He had a keen perception of
every question, but his view was narrow ; and while he prized
the interests of his country, party was to him before patriotism,
and self before party. A dark picture you draw us surely, says-
some one at our elbow, who has seen the French leader upon
the wall so long enveloped in a blaze of glory. Yes ; it is a
black picture, but we, to whom the tasks falls, however unwor-
thy we be, to sum up the work and paint the portrait, must not
falter in our duty, though our naked sketch reveal an imper-
fect man. M. Cartier had many faults. For some of these he
was not responsible, as they were inheritances of his birth. It
would be unfair to blame him that his understanding was not
broad, and that his judgment frequently was unsound ; or
that when he spoke to an audience his voice was harsh and un-
sympathetic, and seldom captivated hearts. It is just that we
blame him for being selfish, for giving bridle to his temper un-


der small provocation, and for holding, not unfrequently, in con-
tempt men the latchet of whose shoes he was not worthy to
loose. Yet we have seen that he was successful. He had an
unbounded ambition, a profusion of nervous force, an unflagging
perseverance, an activity as restless as the winds of heaven ;
and, to crown these invincible tools in the hands of a man who
sets excelsior for his motto, he had an aggressiveness that
pushed aside obstacles and all opposing pretensions, and a ca-
pacity for organization that always astonished and sometimes
bewildered those who are not given to analysis, but who are
charmed by flash. Xo political leader could ignore M. Cartier,
for he would prefer being matched against half a dozen strong
men, to feeling that they had arrayed against them a tireless
sy that never slept, never paused, that drilled on, and would
work its way through iron walls till it reached its ends.

Alexander Tilloch Gait, the chief of finance in the new min-
istry, the son of John Gait, a writer of some note, and the
friend and biographer of Lord Byron; was born at Chelsea
London, on the 6th of September, 1817. Fired by the suc-
cesses of his father, he showed an early taste for literature, and
when in his fourteenth year contributed to Fraser'8 Magazine.
A writer in the Illustrated London News refers, with much

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 26 of 57)