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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of the legislature, and, as has been recorded already, though he
-was never unfaithful to his principles, he had true patriotism
enough sometimes to shut his ears to the narrow dictates of
party, and lend himself heart and hand to his country. That
we do not ov e res t imate the patriotism of Mr. Howland, is
proven, it' in nothing else, with abundant force by the assaults
to which he was from time to time subjected by the Globe. But
M r. Howland's sense of duty was always stronger than his
dread of newspapers, and he never hesitated to face the thun-
der at the call of his country's interests, At i meeting held in
Toronto after the formation of the first dominion ministry, Mr.
Howland and Hon. Win. McDougall, both of whom made an
able defence of their course in entering the coalition, were
I out of the reform DArty. At this meeting the grit tyrant
was the swaying spirit. A perusal of the ipeeehes shows that
both Messrs. Howland and McDougall ably defended them-
es; bat they had to reckon not alone with a question of
right or wrong, or of duty to party, but with an all-powerful
chief burning with revenge towards the two men who had re-
fused to follow him f i < >m the coalition cabinet, and an ambition^
that, like a high-blooded horse, which becomes the more un-
manageable the longer it is kept confined, had now passed res-
traint, and could not be appeased by anything short of office,
and the destruction of all that had crossed its path. Mr. How-
land received the dicta of excommunication with somewhat of
indifference, boi when the time arrived that set him free to
thow his party preferences, he hesitated not in returning to his
fir&J love. In July, 18G8, he was appointed lieutenant-governor
of Ontario ; and in later years received the dignity of knight-
hood, an honour, which, if a badge of recognition to merit, he
had undoubtedly won.

Already have we had occasional glimpses of the postmastcr-
tal. We first met him as a student in the law office of Mr.
John A. Macdonald, and afterwards, in 1858, as a representa-
tive for Kingston in the legislative council. Four years after


this date gout created a place for the talented young lawyer,
by carrying off Sir Allan MacNab, speaker of the upper
chamber. He became a member of the executive council and
•commissioner of crown lands in 18G4, which position he re-
tained till the union, when he became postmaster general Mr.
Campbell entered public life as a liberal-conservative, and has
always remained true to hia faith. He led the government in
the legislative council of old Canada from 1858 until 18G7, and
in the senate from the latter period till bs7;j. But in the last-
named year the Lr<>vernment of the country fell into the hands
of Mr. Mackenzie and his party, and Mr. Campbell thereafter,
till the return of Sir John A. Macdonald to power, led the op-
pceition in the upper house. Under the restored Macdonald
ministry he has held different portfolios, and is at present min-
ister of justice and leader of the government in the senate.
He was created a knight C. M. G. by her Majesty on the 24th
•of May, 1879. It is perhaps rather unfortunate for those who
are striving for the abolition of the senate, that such men as Sir
Alexander Campbell should be found among the membership
of that body ; for it defeats the argument that the institution
is entirely useless, since its supporters will readily point to some
of its able men, and to the legislation which they have accom-
plished. Yet there is a way of looking at the question which
proves that this contention is hollow. A certain firm erects
a huge bakery in which it employs the best skill and labour
that can be obtained, having abundance of fuel and unlimited
tiers of ovens ; but not content with the unbounded capacity
for work in this establishment, it builds another equally as im-
posing and costly, and employs a large staff of heavily-paid
workmen. A traveller passing the way stands bewildered
before the new pile and asks, Why this grand structure ? and
the firm answers him, O they now and again bake a loaf in
that building. But, still queries the nigh dumbfounded stran-
ger, could you not do all your baking in the other establishment?
Yes. Then why did you build, and why do you maintain


this second bakery ? That stranger has stood since by the im-
posing pile, and received no answer, save that which echo, ever
ringing, gives. There are, it is true, other and weightier rea-
BOns offered for maintaining the "old feudal estate,"* but a
very rude attempt at illustrating the same by figure shows
that they are as untenable as the fallacy just pointed out. In
such an institution a man with the wide understanding and
the calm judicial character of sir Alexander Campbell is as
much out of place as would be admiral Drake at sea <>u n
jjed barge, without sail or oar.

• This is " Bystander' V term far the Upper House.



BIT now the storm was over Mid tlu- ship of state which had
been tossed by so many tempests, rode safely at her moor-
ings. The country looked hopefbUy into the future for politi-
cal peace, and believed thai such would be the fruit of this
wider brotherhood, knitted together by the bonds of political
and commercial interest. But Mr. George Brown and his sore-
heads were not happy, and the untamable chief set himself to
work, once more, to foment party discord. A few days before
Mr. John A. Macdonald's new ministry was announced, a con-
vention of reformers was held at Toronto, at which the proposed
coalition was denounced in no charitable language. Messrs.
MeDougall and Howland happened to be in Toronto at the time
of the meeting, and were considerately invited to attend, on the
principle of the magistrate who, though quite clear as to the
punishment he is about to inflict, generously resolves to hear
what the culprit before the bar " has to say for himself." The
two reform sinners appeared without much trepidation before
the grit tyrant and his satraps. Mr. Howland said a new era
was to be inaugurated ; that the past had been wiped out as if it
had never existed ; that it was not the duty now of one party,
but of all, to lend its support to the governing body under the
new regime. Mr. McDougall's defence was still more telling
than that of his fellow culprit, and those who watched the ef-
fect of the address upon " the meeting," saw that the underlings
had begun to look at the coalition in a different light. But as

we have elsewhere said the question was not one between these



two reformers and public duty, or party duty, but between
themselves and a thwarted ambition. They could not hope for
mercy, though the satraps had shown unmistakable signs of
softening; and they got none. The ireful and disappointed t}^-
rant sought not the aid of ruses or obscure phrase to* cloak his
feelings. Be simply read the two contaminated ones out of the
party. It may be said that since that day Mr. McDougall,
though deserving a better fate, has been a sort of political
Eshmael wandering over the land ; though Mr. Howland, in due
tiin. — when tlir period arrived thai Ins secession was not a
violation of the original compact — returned to his first love.

The genera] election for the house of commons was held dur-
ing the summer and early autumn. Quebec and Ontario em-
phasized their approval of union and coalition by returning
overwhelming majorities of ministerialists ; and George Brown

defeated in South Ontario. Coereioo is a wholesome policy
when dealing with the dagger and dynamite, but it is not a
happy expedient in Canadian polities; as George Brown ascer-
tained, but, as we might have rapposed, without reaping any
profit from the lesson. Though the dark-age organs, and the
" anti " politicians of NTew Brunswick had waged bitter war
11 who had favoured onion, the ministry there carried

ve of the fifteen Xova Scotia had been caught by

unter breeze and driven back from her late position. Dr.
Tupper had worsted Joseph Howe before the imperial minis-
hut tie- Latter had the post mortem victory before the
province. For one.- the sturdy doctor found that neither his
lungs oor bifl eourage were sufficient against the stream of
burning eloquence that flowed from the " Great Anti." The

le for the confederates was another Flodden, one man
only, and he, Dr. Tupper, reaching Ottawa with a tattered flag.
: sturdy anti- were -ent up from the distant peninsula
to the first dominion parliament. Probably Messrs. Howe and
Annand had led the people to think that a majority of anti-
cranio men al Ottawa might be able to unseal the fate of the


province: but, confiding people, they were soon to see that
they might as well have supposed them capable of effect ing

the quartering of the moon. Yet it was a triumph for Joseph
Howe, a Bort of local treatment for a very sore wound. No
one doubts that the great Nova Scotia orator was a sincere
patriot, but, like some other clever men he possessed in no

little degree i sense of self-importance which sometimes
dimmed or distorted bis vision. The question of confedera-
tion to him may have, in the beginning, presented itself as

a political prohlem to he worked out in its hearings on the
public weak hut there can be little doubt that when Dr. Tupper
Lined the lead and the great orator found himself in the
place of secnd.the question became an n r>j" mentum adhomi-
It hecaine, it is hardly unfair to the man's illustrious
memory to say, a question not between the good and the bad
side of union, but between the champions of confederation and
ph Howe: like some of those persons who take the field
in the interests of a moral question such as temperance, from
the dictates of philanthropy and duty, but who, as the work
goes on and they meet rebuffs, gradually become embittered,
hating those whom they oppose and from whom they differ,
breathing uncharitableness instead of good-will, losing sight of
the original motives and making personal what w r as at the out-
set only a question of love for their fellowmen.

Meanwhile it was necessary to provide each province with
a little government of its own. Hon. P. J. O. Chauveau became
premier of Quebec, and, through the friendship of Sir John,
Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald secured the leadership in On-
tario, and formed a coalition which had a useful career for the
four years succeeding. The two premiers were also elected to
the federal parliament, as were many other prominent politi-
cians from the same parliaments ; but following the example
of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which had passed acts
making dual representation impossible, the anomaly was after a
time abolished. During the lull between the election and the


meeting of parliament, the chief morsel supplied to gossip was
the resignation, by Mr, A. T. Gait, of the portfolio of finance.
true cause of the step was the inharmonious relations
which existed between the retiring minister and some of his
colleagues, and the diversity between his opinions and theirs on
certain public questions. While these relations wore their
worst feature, the policy of the finance minister was condemn-
ed in unmeasured terms by the opposition press, which declared
that Mr. Gait, by his Currency Act, had deliberately favoured
the bank of Montreal at the expense of other financial institu-
tions, that the unfavourable turn which commerce had taken,

and the failure of the Commercial Tank was due to his dis-
hone8t and unwi-e eour^e. Finding little sympathy and

support among his colleagues, and a storm of censure bom the

iv, Mr. (Jalt resigned. The necess ity of attending to his

private affairs, be stated, induced him to take the step. We

supp<>>c lie had the right to make whatever explanation he
pleased. Th -w»me things winch are just as well kept

from the coarse gaze of the people. The appointment of Hon.

J, K. Cauchon to the speakership of the senate was a subject

helped to keep the put. lie from going to sleep. M. Cau-
chon was a Frenchman with a hitter tongue, who had said
many stinging things, and wounded a battalion of public men
in hifl time; but he had ak<> written a pamphlet IS union des

Britanique du Nord, which proved
an important factor in moulding opinion favourably to the
union, lending the force of his unruly tongue also to the same
end : and Sir John and his French colleagues believed that he
Waa entitled, for these and other reasons, to the promotion
mentioned. M. Cauchon proved himself an admirable speaker.
bringing ability of a high order, and a becoming dignity, to the

The new parliament met at Ottawa on the 7th of November.
To the Canadian spectator a large number of the faces in the
commons were new, the entire thirty-four representatives from


the maritime provinces being strangers. Among the latter
were Joseph Howe, one of the greatest orators of his day, a
man who could cany his audience by his passionate eloquence
as the sweeping wind sways the trees of the forest, and who,
besides I distinguished public career, had made some creditable
contributions to the literature of his province, and written some
rlorid poetry, which however will nut add many cubits to his
stature ; 1 hr, Tapper, hit opponent, and of whom we shall have
something to say in another place; Hon. Albert J. Smith, a
competent lawyer with a strong tendency, under provocation,
to lose his temper, talk rubbish, tad forget his dignity, yet being
capable of making a dashing speech at times, and administer-
ing a good deal of judicious annoyance to an opponent ; Charles
Fisher, who was an awkward l>ut able lawyer, a comparatively
mediocre politician when in otfice, but a very battering-ram,
torpedo-boat, and many other things compounded when assail-
ing a ministry ; Timothy Warren Anglin, who was to the
politics of his time what the stage-coach is in a railway age,
and the carrier-) >igeon in the days of electricity — a man with a
strong and stubborn intellect, capable of a vast grasp, and en-
dowed with an extr aordinary memory — a forcible but diffuse
speaker, who made long excursions in the by-ways of his argu-
ment, seldom delivering a speech within bounds suitable to the
time of those whose temporal span is fixed at three score and ten,
and whose patience is only good. The most important " new
face " from Ontario was that of Mr. Edward Blake, of whom,
in another place, we shall have just a word or two to say.

Hon. James Cockburn was elected to the speakership of the
commons. The ministerial speech contained the usual con-
gratulations and foreshadowed the sessional programme. On
the address there was some hot discussion, and when the Demos-
thenes from down by the sea rose to state why his province
was dissatisfied with the compact, every whisper was stilled,
every member sat with head thrust forward. Whether it was
that expectation had looked for too much, or that the speaker


failed to attain his usual height, there was no little disappoint-
ment, ami Dr. Tupper following, fairly riddled the argument of
the great orator by pointing out several inconsistencies in his
speech, and proving that the union issue had not been fairly

ented to the people of Nova Scotia. The address was car-
ried Without a division, and Howe sitting at his desk, the em-
bodiment of grim dissatisfaction, reminded the on-looker of a
volcano at rest, after a violent eruption. The chief business
of the oew parliament was an act reducing the rates of postage
and organizing the post office savings hank system; and a

rare providing tor the construction of the Intercolonial

Railway, the route to he determined hy the imperial govern-
ment in accordance with the terms when obtaining the imperial

An attempt wa> made to place the telegraph system under
government control a^ had been don.' in Great Britain, but
some of the grits said, Why not at ones put the newspapers,

and the Writing of private letters, and our ledgers, and our

man-servants, and our maid-servants, and our oxen, and our
and everything that la ours under the control of the gov-
erns d for one.', the grits took, probably, a very whole-

i correct view of the matte]-. It is not the duty of

government to take charge of railways, and telegraph lines,
and steamers, in order that these may be run and managed
properly ; bat it is their duty to use the powers in their hands
ave them BO conducted. If two mail-coach drivers get
into th' habit of running into each other as they pass on dark
nights, breaking the bones of passengers and destroying pro-
perty, it is not the doty of government to mount the box and
drive the coaches; but it is then duty to see that one and
both carry lights; that each takes his own side of the road ; that
in certain places he must not drive at greater speed than may
be prescribed ; and that, failing to observe these conditions, he
pay a fine or Buffer other punishment at the hands of the law.
It is not the function of government, let us repeat, to manage


railways — unless under some rxceptional condition — but it is
it> duty to protect the ]>ul»lie against railway monopolies by so
framing its Legislation as to maintain competition and make
'ion and monopoly impossible. The tendency in this
of gigantic public enterprise, like in England under the
heptarchy, is for the inciter to absorb or swallow the lesser,
and half a glance dlOWfl 08 that this centralization is going on
in monsl rate affaire, the weaker day by day vanishing

from the scene, falling a victim to the coercion or the bribe of
the stronger. Watching the Grand Trunk and the Canada Pa-
eitie railway > in this country reminds one of nothing so much
a^ a pair of whales devouring all the smaller fish that come in
their way. and halting on occasion, trying to bolt one another.
( kw -poratinn is rapidly becoming king in Canada as in the re-
public, and the duty of our government is to thwart him.*

Hon. John Rase assumed charge of the department of finance,
vacated by Mr. Gait, and applied himself with diligent zeal to
the duties of his office. The reform press said he was only
a baby in finance," but censure being the platform of oppo-
sition, the statement did not overwhelm the new official, who
made a very efficient and clear-sighted administrator. On the
4th of December, Hon. Win. McDougall moved a series of reso-
lutions based on the 146th section of the British North Ame-
rica Act providing for the incorporation of Rupert's Land and
the North-West territory into the Dominion of Canada. After
a week's discussion the resolutions were adopted, and an
address embodying the same was forwarded to the Queen's
government, On the 21st of December, parliament adjourned
till the £0th of March, the object of the long interim being to
give the local legislatures an opportunity to complete their ses-
sions. The close of the year was marked by the death of Mr.
Fergusson-Blair, president of the legislative council, a man of

* The writer must not be considered as having any feeling tut detestation for
the doctrine of the Socialists, one of whose expounders unfortunately is the fine
ability of Mr. Ilenry George looking sadly awry.


moderate views — with preferences for the liberal party — and
genuinely devoted to his country's interests.

During the recess, Howe again led the forlorn hope in Nova
Scotia, and in full harness thundered around his little province,
declaring that the " tie must be broken." The local legislature
met on the 30th of January, 18G8, and an address was passed
pr&ying for the repeal of so much of "the act for the union of
Canada and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as related to
N<.va Scotia.' 1 Four provincial delegates, with Howe at their
bead, were deputed to lay the address at the foot of the throne,
but the ambassadors of disintegration were confronted at the
In »me office by Dr. Tupper, who once again carried away the
laurels. When the Dominion parliament met, the opposition
ired the government for having sent Dr. Tupper to London,
bni in a little ihamed of this contention, and said no more

it it. And now, while the commons was in the midst of its
duties, an event happened which sent i thrill of horror through
the country and brought legialat ion to a stand-still ( me of the
t members in the house, and perhaps its most brilliant
orator, was Thomas D'Ar. v IfcQee. A short sketch of his

■t must 1"' interesting to all SO familiar with his nam.' and

the circumstances of bis untimely end. Be was born of humble

nts in the County of Louth, Inland, in 1825. The advan-
3 of higher education, which were open only to the rich
man's son, were denied to young McGee; yet, young eagle that
he was, h,. aimed to soar, and no circumstance could trammel
the yearning spirit within his br e as t. He had the flashing
eloquence of his nation, that gift which no Irishman ever
acquires by putting pebbles in h is mouth or going down by the
shore to declaim above the thunders of the surf; for the kind
fairy who still Lingers about the green springs in the wild
valleys, or visits the cabin at night, when the peasant sleeps,
- liim this grace for naught ; and he appears upon his first
platform an orator, though untaught, as the duckling swims
who has had no lesson. When young McGee reached his


seventeenth year, he turned his face to the new world, where
his ardent fancy painted him a name and high position ; and
on reaching New York, plunged like a red-hot cannon-shot
into journalism. McGee has been described by those who
enjoyed nothing in common with him save the Caucasian
relationship as being an impulsive liberator of the loud-
mouth description, only somewhat brilliant, and ambitious
to help the cause of Ireland Some of this is true as far as-
it goes, but it does not penetrate beyond the husk of that splen-
did bat rudderless ability. Mr. Mc( lee was an ardent patriot
but his patriotism was not a cause but a consequence, the out-
come indeed of a wild poetic sentiment, which delighted in no-
thing so much as weaving impossible schemes in impracticable
spheres. He was more poet than patriot or politician, yet is
hi> verse third-rate and disorderly as his early career, giving
proof that their owner mistook the merchandise of the muse
for a sentiment that it was the duty of its possessor to stifle,
but which here and there, and manifestly against the author's
will, displayed true notes which indicated the "soul of song/'
like the jets which, bursting up, tell of the subterranean waters.
This young man, on the New York press, pouring out brilliant
and reckless writing to a class that devoured as they wondered,
was like a blood colt, unbroken and full of fire, that some ad-
mirer deliberately harnesses into regulation work. It is not
necessary to chronicle casualties, for they will be predicated
of such a procedure. But young McGee became famous, and
after his name had grown familiar through Ireland, he re-
turned to his native country, in 1845, and became editor of
the Dublin Freeman's Journal, But to this young eagle the
Journal was an old coach, too slow for the time and his ambi*
tion; and he cast in his lot with Charles Gavan Duffy and
several other firebrands, w r ho could see everything and every-
where under the sun except before them, and became one of
the writers on the Nation. Setting off mere harmless fire-
works soon lost its charm for him ; eventually he was lured


into the Smith O'Brien chimera — and tied from Ireland dis-
guised as a priest. He had gone up like a rocket and come-
down like a burnt stick. He then established the New York
a weekly journal containing, issue after issue, im-
prudence and fire ; and with this minister of his mad spirits he
succeeded in convulsing the Irish population of New York till
Bishop Hughes interfered, and quietly put his foot on the pub-
lication. Out of the ashes of this dead brand arose The At

Celt, which was established in Boston. About this time.
through what means no one can tell. McGee suddenly paused
and asked himself : Have I been on the right road ? Have I
Jit I possess in the proper way I Have I any hope
of achieving that for which 1 aim, by following out the course
I have so long punned To all these queries his mind returned,

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 28 of 57)