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 hh) career returned, negations. And, struck like Saul with
sudden conviction, he was from that hour a changed man.
Henceforth he resolved UOi al<»ne to pursue a new way, but to-
avour to make amends for the past. He removed to Buf-
falo, and there for four years issued the C>f(. no longer a fiery
dragon, but the bearer of messages of peace and good- will. The
fame of the editor ipread over the continent, snd he made

to ( 'anada lecturim: IB the chief towns. At length,

in L857, at the earnest request of a large number of Eriah

Catholics, lu; removed to Montreal, where he established
New Era, in which, with masterly eloquence, and strong a ml
searching argument. In- advocated a federation of the British
North American colonies. He had now, once admitted into-
political fellowship with British colonists, grown an ardent
Klpporterof imperial institutions; — and bloodshot eyes in the
lodges of the Fenian Brotherhood began to lower ominously
upon him. We have already introduced him to the reader on
fads entry into parliament for Montreal, and pass onto the perkx I
pf the election after the union. Time and residence arnong-
British colonists had surely wrought strange changes in thia
man. Be was now an impassioned devotee of the Queen, and


bided the invasion of tins country by the Fenians with no
feeling short of horror. The Irish in Montreal, in proportion as
the man expressed regret for the past, began to fall off from
him, and he narrowly escaped defeat at the general election
after the union. He was then stricken down by sickness from
which he rallied slowly, but eventually took his place in the
commons again. He had received many letters making threats
upon his life from members of the same bloody brotherhood
who are now busy with dynamite ; and the shadow of impend-
ing d<»om fell across his path, He who had been once so jovial
at the festive board, so lightsome and brilliant in speech, had
grown thoughtful and melancholy, and seldom was seen to
smile. On the evening of the 6th of April, he delivered one of
his most masterly and statesman-like speeches in the commons,
•counselling the adoption of pacific measures towards Nova
Scotia. The house adjourned about two o'clock in the morn-
ing, and the members departed for their homes. McGee accom-
panied by several others, who parted with him at the corner of
Sparks and Metcalfe streets, proceeded towards his own lodg-
ing-house on Sparks street. As he was engaged inserting his
in the latch, a tigure which had been crouched by the door
awaiting his coming rose and fired a pistol. The ball crashed
through McGee's brain, and he fell dead across the threshold.
In a few moments a crowd was about the spot, but no trace of
the assassin could be found. When the wires flashed-the news
abroad, the country was paralyzed with horror. On the follow-
ing day, in a voice inarticulate with emotion and sorrow, Sir
John Macdonald rose and moved the adjournment of the house,
paying tribute in well chosen words to the eminent qualities
•of the deceased, the loss the country had sustained, and ex-
pressing his sympathy with the bereaved family of the illus-
trious dead. A pension of £300 per annum was spontaneously
voted to the widow, and provision was made for the education
•of the children. Large rewards were offered for the apprehen-
sion of the murderer, and before long a Fenian named Whelan


was arrested, tried and found guilty. He was hanged in Ottawa
on the 11th of February, 1869.

Parliament re-assembled on the 14th of April, 1868, con-
tinuing the sitting till the 22nd of May. The most important
work of the session was the passage of the new customs and
militia acts, and a measure to secure the independence of par-
liament This latter art provided that any person holding an
office of profit or emolument under government is ineligible for
a seat in parliament, and any person sitting or voting under
such circumstances wis made liable to a fine of 82,000 per day,
The aet has been the means, to a great extent, of keeping the

parliament pure, though a few years later it was ascertained
that Mr. Timothy Anglin, while actually sitting as speaker of

the house of commons, was the recipient of a large printing con*
• from government. This, however, is the only disgraceful
breach of the aet on record.

In duly two lieutenant-governors were appointed. Hon. \Y
1' I lowland for Ontario, and Hon. A. L. Wilmot, who both in

politics and jurisprudence had been brilliant, but in neither
and, for New Brunswick Meanwhile the feeling of

hostility to union in v tia hid DOt decreased, but rather

owing to the clever writing and address of those irrepressible
antis, the Annands and others of equal note, had become so
isif icd that Sir .John Macdonald suggested to his colleagues
propriety of some members of the cabinet attending the
conference to be held in Halifax, in August. Accordingly,
thither pi I Sir John and several other members of the

government. They reasoned , expostulated, offered to investi-
any grievance, and as far as possible to remedy the same .
but the antis were not to be comforted, and the Canadian
delegates returned home, the premier not without the hope
that the seed had not fallen entirely on stony ground.
Still he did not rest content with hope which he knew very
well tells too many flattering tales, but offered to revise the con-
dition- of N onnexion with the confederation, and


invited Joseph Howe to a seat in the ministry. Mr. Howe
-carefully reviewed the situation, and seeing that his refusal
of Sir John's terms would only be the prolongation of a
hopeless struggle thai could only bring bitter fruit, gave way,
and. in January of the new year, 18G9, entered the government
M president of the council. At a cabinet meeting the de-
tails of the "Better Terms " sought for Nova Scotia were
determined: Canada undertook to assume $9,186,756 of the
provincial debt instead of $8,000,000 as originally fixed, and
grant an annual subsidy of 182,698 for ten years.

Lord Monck having taken such an able and zealous part in
forwarding confederation, his term of office had been extended
two year*, that the new government might be inaugurated un-
der his auspices. The extended period had expired on the
14th of November, and the governor, with some emotion, bade
farewell to the country in which he had taken so deep an in-
>t. For his services in Canada he was created a peer of
the United Kingdom with the title of Baron Monck, of Bally-
trammon, in the County of Wexford. His successor was Sir
John Young, better known to us as Lord Lisgar, the eldest son
of an Irish baronet, a conservative in politics and the repre-
sentative of Cavan in the imperial parliament. He had been
governor of the Ionian Islands and of New South Wales, and
when he reached Canada was in his sixty-second year.

The second session of the first parliament of New Canada
met on the 15th of April. Mr. Howe introduced a series of
resolutions embodying the stipulations of the order-in-council ;
but Mr. Blake contended that the measure was ultra vires, in-
asmuch as the imperial parliament having settled the basis
of union the Canadian government could not change it. Mr.
Mackenzie in a speech less eloquent and powerful than Mr.
Blake's, but one charged with facts and dissolving argument,
supported the contentions of the latter; but Mr. John Hillyard
Cameron, Dr. Tupper and others, supported the resolutions
with much power and an array of possible and improbable


cases that altered, to the view of the house, the complexion
which had been given to the case by the speeches of Messrs.
Blake and Mackenzie. There is nothing in the sphere of poli-
tics stronger than eloquence, except numbers ; and Howe's
resolutions were carried by a large majority.

In August, Prince Arthur, one of the Queen's sons, visited
Canada, and was received with profuse hospitality. A month
or tw<> later in the season Mr. Rose resigned his portfolio and
went to London, England, as t member of the well-known
banking firm there. Mr. Francis Hincks having returned to
ela, though not as Mr. Francis, but as Sir Francis, from
the government of LarLadoes and the Windward Islands, was
offered by Sir John, and accepted, the vacant portfolio of fin-
ance. Tin- country had the fullest confidence in his iinancial

skill, remembering his ip&endid record as inspector-general,
and he was retained to the house of commons for North Ren-

fn-w S ral other change* were aUo made in the cabinet,
Mr. J. C. Aiken* becoming secretary of state and registrar-
general; Mr. Dnnkin, minister of agriculture; Mr. Alexander
Morris, minister of inland revenue, and Mr. Howe, secretary

for the provinces. Mr. Mel )ougall, whom we are to

!i. was appointed governor of the North-West terri-
es, and resigning his seat in the ministry, proceeded with
hi> family to that distant wilderness, where, blind to the
hitter disappointment the future held in store, a reasonable
ambition whispered in hie ear, a vast range of opportunity
would l>e opened to his energy and talents, and he would add
renown to his name



riVHE Hudson I greed

ler their rights

1 in the North-Wesi territory for £300,000, to be paid by
the Dominion government \ but all the existing rights of the
company, with certain reservations, Bhould first revert to the
imperial government. The reservations included some 500,000
acres of land adjacent to the trading posts of the company, one
twentieth of the land in the fertile tract lying to the south of

the north branch uf the Saskatchewan, with the stipulation
that the rights of the Indians and half-breeds should be re-
sted Within a month after the reversion, the territory was
e ceded t<» the Dominion; and the Canadian government
asure providing for the government of the newly
acquired territory. By this act provision was made for the
appointment of a lieutenant-governor, and a council to carry
on the adminstratiuii, an 1 the lights of the Indians and half-
breeds, it was expressly declared, were to be respected ; while
all laws in force in the territories not clashing with the British
North- America act or the terms of admission were to be held
as valid until repealed. For many years Hon. Win. McDougall,
on the platform and in the press, had advocated the acquisition
of this territory, and at a time when most men regarded the
distant wilderness as a dreary region of muskeg and eternal
frosts, affording harbourage only to w T ild beasts, he declared
that it would prove a source of untold wealth, and could
support millions upon millions of people. It was felt now,
when the territory was to be added to Canada, that none



other there was so worthy the honour of first governing this
fnita as Mr. McDongall, and so on the
announcement being made that the company had surrendered
the territory to the British government, this gentleman was
appointed to the governorship, though the proclamation was
not to take effect till the region had passed into the hands of
tlir Dominion. Early in September, therefore, and without
waiting till the month had elapsed, Mr. McDougall, with his
family, set out from I Htawa on the long and tiresome journey
to Fort Garry, the seal ol bia future government.

Meanwhile a party of surveyors, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Dennis, a gentleman swayed largely by the warlike instinct,
bad been ai Fort Garry and the districts Bnrrounding, laying
off lots and townships. The ignorant half-breeds, naturally,
'looked upon the Dew-comers, with their tapes and chains, with

ftOme alarm ; and they MOO became tailed with the fear that
the land which they and their ancestors had held at the hands

of the company, for generations, was now to be wrested from
them by the government, and that for this vary purpose the
itrai re here measuring off the territory, The Inhabit-

ante >untry consisted of Krench-Canadian half-breeds,

endants of tl swr$ and oownurs des bois who had

vers.] generations trapped, and traded for furs, throughout
these wild regions They were all members of the catholic
church, servile in their obedience to the priests, but steeped
in ignorance and ready to follow any clever demagogue who
could work upon their fear or prejudice. They had been in-
formed thai Dennis and his surveyors were to visit their terri-
tory to seize their ancestral lands, and they promptly and
without any show of grace demanded of the strangers, busy
with their chains and levels, to know if what they had been
told was true. For, if it is, they said, we shall resist the aggres-
sion, and prevent anybody else from settling upon the territory
of which you are about to rob us. One might have supposed
that Dennis' staff would explain to these deluded people that


their rights would be respected, and what the object of the
survey was ; but they took a different course : they told the
poor half-breed that the less he had to say about opposing
>. tilers, and thwarting government the better; that there was
plenty of soldiers in ( 'anada to enforce obedience. To make
the matter worse the English inhabitants scattered through
the territory, who owed DO love to their half barbarous neigh-
bours, indulged in much injudicious exultation over the pro-
poeed change, All these causes combined produced pernicious
fruit". The half-breeds became mad with excitement, and only
waited for some one to lead them to mischief. Not long were
the leaden wanted. In hoi baste rose John Bruce, Louis Riel,
and Ambrose Lepine; and with their appearance the country
burst into rebellion. Colonel Dennis, who had been on the
spot and at first treated the idea of conciliation and explanation
with due military contempt, now began to grow alarmed, and
wrote to Mr. McDougall that things had taken on an ugly face.
Meanwhile the rebels had formed a provisional government
with John Bruce at its head; but the ruling spirit was Louis
Riel, a daring, young French-Canadian, wily as a savage, bril-
liant and energetic. He appealed to the prejudices and the
fear of the half-breeds, and in a few days had four hundred
men at his back.

The new governor, in the meantime, unconscious of what was
going on, had been travelling with all possible speed to the
seat of government. While on the way from St. Paul, he heard
that the half-breeds were in arms ; but undaunted by the intel-
ligence he pushed on. At Pembina, however, he was served
by a half-breed with a notice from the " National Committee "
forbidding him to enter the territory; but still heedless of
warnings he proceeded with his councillors to the Hudson
Bay Company's post, about two miles beyond the frontier.
Here he was apprised by Colonel Dennis of the true state
of affairs, and learned that large parties of armed men had
been despatched by Riel to various points between Fort Garry


and Pembina, to oppose his progress. Not having a suffi-
cient force to tight his way to Fort Garry, Mr. McDougaM
had no alternative but to call a halt. He wrote a despatch to
Ottawa setting forth the state of matters, and also despatched
a messenger to Governor llcTavish, at the Fort ; but his mes-
senger was captured by a party of armed men, and sent back
under escort, with the warning not to attempt a similar enter-
prise again. Some time after this occurrence a party of four-
teen armed horsemen drew up before Mr. IfcDougalTs halting-
place and demanded an interview. They notified the gover-
nor that he must leave the territory before nine o'clock on the
following day ; but after boom expostulatioD they rode away
" considering the matter/' retaining, however, on the follow-
ing morning, showing • desire t«> use violence, Mr. ICcDougall
and bis party retired promptly across the border, and took up
Lodgings at the honseofs friendly Irishman, in Pembina, where
remained till the return t<> Ontario.
Since we have lastseen the conspirators, amazing success has

waited on their fortunes. ( >nly the few Canadian settlers

og them had shown hostility t«» the rising. The officers of

Hudson Bay Company sal with folded arms when a

would have stamped the rebellion out; for they

ik; more than the half-l.r U relished tie- prospect of a new

regime, having come, from their long possession in these wilds,
as til - rightful lords and masters of the
bory. But tie- bighesi authority in the country was the
•catholic ehurch, one of whose priests, in the field, would have
been a- powerful as Colonel Dennis and fifty cannon. Un-
fortunately tie- resident bishop, the Right Reverend Alexandra
Antoine Tache. was at tie.' time in Koine, and the pious priest
in charge of the diocese, during the bishop's absence, was too
itious to interfere in the Interests of peace, and to pre-
vent bloodshed, though bis eatechism had told him, — and he
D Tight have read it in the scriptures — that "he that resisteth
the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist


shall purchase to themselves damnation." The good priest mid
liis ignorant Hock, however, were not so much awed by the
threat of " damnation " M dazzled by the successes of the im-
pulsive and shortsighted Riel. On the 24th of November
the insurgents, under Riel, took possession of Fort Garry, set
tlie authority of Governor McTavish, who was now stricken
down with mortal illness, at defiance; and fell to feasting on
the stores of the company. The Canadian settlers having taken
the alarm, gathered together to tin- number of about fifty and
took refoge in the house of Dr. Shultz, but the dwelling was
besieged ; the inmates were captured, and inarched off to Fort
Garry where they were put in confinement.

The proclamation appointing M r. Mel >ougall to the governor-
ship of the territory, and annexing the latter to the dominion
was not to go into effect till the 1st of December, but for weeks
previous to that date the intended governor had been perform-
ing the functions of a regular ruler. In this he was guilty of
a grave error, and when tidings of his course reached Ottawa
the government felt the gravest alarm. But Mr. McDougall
was not a solitary blunderer upon the scene. When the first
day of December arrived he issued a proclamation command-
ing the insurgents peacaUy to disperse to their homes under
pain of the rigours of the law. He likewise authorized Colonel
Dennis to raise a force to put down the insurrection ; and a
few days later that worthy soldier was found among the lodges
of the Sioux Indians trying to array the chiefs into hostility
ust the insurgents. Whatever some writers, who, when
passing judgment, were in a quiet room, in the midst of a
peaceful city, may affirm to the contrary, we are unable to see
any great lack of judgment in the governor of a territory in re-
volt against the supreme authority raising a force to establish
order. But it appears that the Canadian government, unwil-
ling to accept a province seething with tumult, did not bind
itself to the time fixed in its own proclamation, so that the
ordinances of Mr. McDougall, who was ignorant of what had


been done, were invalid; and he was held responsible for the
blunders of the ministry. Meanwhile Colonel Dennis set him-
self to work to raise a force, but Riel and his followers only
laughed at the chief of the surveyors, who, disgusted and cha-
grined, left the territory; while Mr. McDougall, finding he had
made a false step, for which he was only in part to blame, that
public opinion was against him, and that the government had,
without understanding his difficulties, and dealing with deci-
sion themselves, censured his proceeding*, returned disheart-
ened and delisted to Ontario, where he published a scries
of letters affirming, and with such proof as lent but too much
probability to his story, that the Hudson Bay Company and
the K<>man Catholic clergy of Red River had to some ex-
tent fomented the rebellion, and that his own late colleague,
Hon. Joseph Hour, secretary of state, who had visited the re-
gion a short time before was, not to a small extent, responsible

b»r tie' uprising. On Mr. tfcDougall'a way home, he met upon
tie- plains three emissaries, Vicar-general Thibault, < olonel De

berry and Donald A. Smith, each hearing, from the Cana-
dian government, to the Lnsn a copy of a proclamation

ed by Lord Lisgar, containing, in conclusion, the following
paragraph: — "And I do lastly inform you that in case of your
immediate and peaceable obedience and dispersion, I shall order
that no legal proc* -dings be taken against any parties implica-
te 1 in these unfortunate breaches of the law." Mr. McDoujrall
pursued his way home, and he was not much to be blamed if
he offered no prayer for the success of Commissioner Salabei 1 v.
Tie <'missaries proceeded on their way, but had no sooner
•1 Fort Garry than they were pounced upon, and de-
prived of their papers without being given an opportunity to
offer a word of «\planation. Riel'fl head had failed him in the
trying moment of prosperity, and he was now fairly delirious
with success. He came to believe himself lord and master of
tie- territory ; he confiscated property, overthrew every ban in
to his will, and banishe 1 from the country such as had aroused


his fear or ire. It is difficult to tell what punishment he had
in store for Dr. Shultz and the band of Canadians now locked
in the fort ; but one night, three weeks after the incarceration,
the doctor made his escape, and rallying a number of settlers
around him demanded the surrender of the prisoners. The
sturdy front of Shultz and his followers, and the entreaties of
ral prominent residents induced Riel to yield to the re-
quest, but he openly stated that he would recapture Shultz,
who might depend upon a sore reckoning. The threatened
man silently left the territory, and remained in Ontario till
better days, rpon one other person, too, had the insurgent
cast a murderous eye. ( >n the night of the loth of February,
there was a rising at the Portage, and about a hundred sturdy
settlers, who were loyal to the* Canadian government, placed
themselves at the disposal of Major Boulton, a Canadian officer
of militia. This force marched to Kildonan, where they were
joined by three hundred and fifty others, the most of whom
were English half-breeds, wretchedly armed, undisciplined, and
without food enough for a single meal. The result of such a
rising can be readily predicted. Major Boulton, a brave offi-
cer, though leading for want of better such a helpless assem-
blage, was, with forty others captured, thrown into prison, and
sentenced by court martial to be shot. Through the earnest
entreaties, however, of Mr. Smith, the Bishop of Rupert's Land,
Archdeacon McLean, the Catholic clergy and other influential
citizens, he was released ; though it went sorely against the
will of Riel to deliver him up. The latter was now dictator
and " president " of the " provisional government " formed by
the insurgents ; and each day that he enjoyed this power he
grew more overbearing and dangerous to those who resented
his will.

But Riel's worst offence so far was rebellion, and a high-
handed use of his unlawful powers ; he was yet to enact the
foulest crime that stains the page of Canadian history. It ap-
pears that among the besieged at Dr. Shultz's house was one


Thomas Scott, a sturdy and spirited young fellow, who had
moved to the territory from Ontario. He did not surrender
with the main body of Canadian settlers, but was arrested the
same evening anil confined in the Fort. Scott was a fiery
y<»uth, loyal to the government, but indiscreet enough to make
speeches which brought upon his head the wrath of the dicta-
tor. There is now no doubt that for Scott Riel had conceived
a personal hatred. Twice had he risen in arms against t lie
insurgents, and even under the lock and key of the president
made no effort to s up p r ess his turbulent spirit. One morning
the story was told that the prisoners had heaped gross insult
upon their half-breed guards, that the example had been set
by Scott, ami that the latter's conduct was no longer tolerable.
Whether the story was true or not it served the bloodthirsty
purpose of Kiel, who, with murder in his eye, on the evening of

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 29 of 57)