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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the 3rd of March, within the walls of the fort, improvised a
• unit martial, consisting of the u council of seven," to try Scott.
Tin- crimea for which lie was to be tried were resistance to the

provisional government* and assault upon one Of his keepers.

Riel appeared in the character of prosecutor, witness and judge,
and refused to allow Scott to be present at the (rial, or to make
any defence. Afters brief consultation, the seven sentenced
the victim to be shot on the following morning at ten o'clock.
When new- of the unheard-of proceedings, and the barbarous
Sentence got abroad, there was even in that rebellious fort
< nient, and much sympathy was expressed for the
condemned man. Kev. Mr. Young. B Methodist minister, Pere
Mr. Smith and others, besought with tearful earnest-
that the sentence might be commuted, but the president
was thirsting for Scott's blood, and, with his barbarous ally
ine, peremptorily refused to listen to any plea for mercy.
Poor Scott, as may be supposed, could scarcely realize his posi-
tion ; and did not at first believe that the bloody sentence
would be carried out. But a few minutes past noon on the
following day, the executioners, a band of half-breeds, partially


intoxicated, came into his cell, and led him out blind-fold
through the chief entrance to the fort to a spot a few yards
distant from the wall. "My God, my God," he could only say,
in a tremulous voice, " this is cold-blooded murder." Hiscotlin,
Covered with white cotton, was carried before him, and laid
down at the spot planned for execution, where the firing party
of ail half-breeds under ■ Adjotant-genera] " Ambrose Lepine,
now dn-w up. Scott tlien, his arms pinioned, knelt on the
ground, said farewell, and fell hack pierced by three bullets.
Til.- victim it was observed was not dead, and one of the firing
party stepping over to whrie he lay bleeding upon the snow,
drew a revolver which he discharged into his head. The body
was then thrust into the coffin, and there are those that wit-
nessed the bloody deed who assert that the cry of the dying
man could be heard after the lid had been fastened down.
What was aft r wards the fate of the corpse, no one save those
engaged in its disposal knows. It was reported that the body
had been burned in the fort, but the box, which was alleged
to have contained the remain- was found to contain naught
hut stones. The genera] opinion is that the corpse was thrust
below the ice in Red River.

At the first tidings of the outbreak it occurred to Sir John
lonald that Bishop Tachd's presence would do more to
quel] the disturbances than any other means at the disposal
of the government. His lordship, however, as we have seen,
was at the time in Rome, attending a session of the famous
(Ecumenical council, but the ministers considered the case ur-
gent enough to invite the bishop to return and use his endea-
vours towards restoring peace. The prelate, at no little sacri-
fice, tore himself away from Rome and proceeded to Canada.
On arriving at Ottawa, he received special instructions for the
guidance of his mission. But unfortunately for the ends of
justice, the bishop set out with the mistake of regarding him-
self a plenipotentiary with formal powers, whereas his mission
was exactly in the character of that of Colonel de Salabery,


Donald A. Smith, and the vicar-general. Dr. Tache* was
sen because it was but too apparent that some of the priests
in his diocese sympathized largely with the rebels, and that the
insurgents, almost to a man, were members of his flock. So,
in the dispatching of the three emissaries named, his lord-
ship was given a copy of the proclamation, and also some pri-
vate Utters for his guidance. For example, among other
things, Sir John Maedonald wote : "Should the question
as to the consumption of the stores or goods belonging to
the Hudson Bay company by the insurgents, you are author-
ized to inform the leaders that if the company's government is
I'd, not only will there be I general amnesty granted, but
in case the company should claim payment for such stores, that
Canadian government will stand between the insurgents
and all harm." Bis lordship had also private conversations

with Sir John and Hmi. Joseph Bowe, and a letter from the

governor-general. Bui no member of the government Looked

i the bishop's position SS other than that of a peacemaker.

ing assurances from the gover n ment on specific points

Had he been a plenipotentiary he would have been given a

; d commission With authority to deal, in the name of the
with all past and possible offences. As a mere
informal emissary and peacemaker, the bounds of his author-
ity extended DO further than the specifications in the letters of
the ministers ; and it might even be argued that the private
letter of Sir John Maedonald, or of Mr. Howe, or even of Sir
John Young, was n it a valid authority, and was not so in-
tended, and that ministers only wished to have the insurgents
made aware of the disposition of the government. That the

eminent did blunder to assuming that the mere uprising of
the French Metis and the consumption of the Hudson Bay
company's stores were the limit of Riel's offences, no one can
deny ; but this was not a justification, though it was the occa-

i of the bishop's view of the question. It is not necessary


to say that when his lordship set out from Ottawa, the minis-
try was ignorant of the murder of Scott.

On the 9th of March, five days after the death of Scott, the
bishop hearing his credentials arrived at Red River. He pre-
sented his papers, remonstrated with the rebels, and in the
name of the government of Canada made certain promises if
they w<»uld lay down their anus. Among these, was that of a
general ampe aly U) Ml implicated in the insurrection ; as like-
wise to those concerned in the shooting of Scott. It is almost
incredulous that the worthy M>hop should have so far nii^-
fcaken his powers as to include in the amnesty, upon his own
responsibility, the perpetrators of this foul murder; yet such
was Ids view, an opinion which he maintained stoutly to the
end. lb- wrote, stating what he had done, to the secretary of
-tat.-. Mr. Howe, hut that gentleman promptly informed him
that the government was not in a position to interfere with the
action of her majesty in the exercise of the royal clemency,
though he requested his lordship to persevere in his endeavours
t> hring the population to peace and order, acknowledging, as
was proper and due to the prelate, the value of his services so
far to the cause of peace. For years afterwards the question of
amnesty was a subject of discussion, the government affirming
that they had never committed themselves to a pledge of par-
don beyond what appeared in their published letters. The-
news of the murder of Scott filled the" great bulk of the Cana-
dian public with horror and indignation, and in a few days it
was learnt with much satisfaction that General Sir Garnet
Wolseley, who has since distinguished himself in Ashantee,
Egypt and elsew T here, was to be sent to Red River with an
ample military force. The news reached Fort Garry, and the
murderer Riel and his colleague Lepine lost their bravado and
shivered for fear. With the same secrecy of movement that
the commander of the troops observed in his sortie upon the
forces of Arabi Pasha, he was within rifle shot of Fort Garry
ere anyone in the murderer's lair knew of the approach. Riel


and Lepine took instant flight out of harm's way, and with
lusty British cheers, and amid the thunder of a royal salute,,
the Union-Jack was hoisted above the fort.

Hon. Adams George Archibald had been, in the meantime,,
appointed to the governorship of the Territory, and on the 2nd
of November assumed his official functions. In the following
May — 1871 — he heard with alarm that a body of Fenians un-
der the leadership of one O'Donoghue, who had been an ally of
Kiel, threatened an irruption. The governor was alone, sur-
round* .1 by difficulties and unprovided with a defensive force;,
and being cut off by distance from communication with the
central authorities, was thrown upon his own resources. It was-
an hour of grave peril, and to save the new province from the
consequences of a conquest by inch a filibuster as O'Donoghue
and the band of ruffians in his following, Mr. Archibald Leagued
himself with the two murderers Ettd and Lepine, who were-
still at large, though warrants were out for their apprehension,
to resi>t the invaders. Promptly these two persons rallied, once
again, tin- subsided Metis, whom they placed at the disposal of
Mr. Archibald. The governor, it appears, had little misgivings-
in entering into this foul and revolting eompact. He reviewed
the murderers' troops, accepted their services, promised Lepine
and Riel at least temporary immunity from molestation for their
crime, shook hands with them, received a letter signed by them,
and through his secretary addressed a written reply after the
retreat of the brigand O'Donoghue, complimenting them en the
loyalty they had shown and the assistance they had rendered.
Indeed, the governor was of the impression that Riel and his
followers offered their services in a spirit of genuine loyalty,
"though," says Lord Dufferin, in a despatch to the secretary
of state, sir .John Macdonald appears to have had misgivings-
on this head." The strongest point by the lieutenant-gover-
nor, in justification of this sickening alliance, is made when he
: "If I had driven the French half-breeds into the hands
of the enemy O'Donoghue, they would have been joined by all


the population between the Assiniboine and the frontier; Fort
Garry would have passe d into the hands of an armed mob,
and the English settlers to the north of the Assiniboine would
have goffered horrors that it makes me shudder to contemplate.
At this period tn all-pervading sense of etiquette had taken
possession of archbishop* Tache, who maintained with a zeal
Worthy of a noble erase, that, bj virtue of his commission
fr« »m the Canadian government, and his declaration of an am-
nesty, Kiel and Lepine had been placed beyond the molestation
of the law. It is not necessary to detail incidents of this un-

ilv squabble between the bishop and the ministers. The

-tion was submitted to the imperial government, and after

much correspondence between Lord Dufferin and the colonial

tarv, the latter left the subject in the hands of the gover-
nor-general. Lepine had been captured, and la} 7 in the Winni-

^aol under sentence of death, but this Lord Dufferin com-
muted to two years' imprisonment and a permanent forfeiture
of civil rights. This was surely a triumph for murder and the
archbishop. Riel, whose punishment would have been the
same as Lepine's, escaped the law — because the law shut its
oyes — and is now at large among his fellows bearing the stain
of his revolting crime.

* His lordship about this time was created an archbishop.




T is necessary now to take a few paces backward. On the

2nd of May, and while the territory was at the feet of the
insurgents, Sir John Macdonald introduced an act to establish
and provide for the government of the province of Manitoba,.
as this tumultuous region was to be henceforth called. Local
aflaira were placed under the control of a lieutenant-gover-
nor, who was aided by an executive council, the legislative
machinery to comprise i house of assembly, and an upper
chamber. Even in this wilderness province, so remote from
tlif influences of the aristocracy, it was considered necessary to
season the constitution with a pinch of feudalism, by creating
a house of prairie-lords. The province having no public debt
of which the Dominion should have borne a part, interest at
cent per annum on 1472,090 was guaranteed; a yearly
subsidy of $80,000, and the usual general allowance of 80 ceni a
per head, the population being estimated at 17,000. Ungranted
territory was vested in the crown for purposes of the federal
and to effect an extinction of the Indian title,
1,400,000 acres of land were set apart for the benefit of resident
half-breed families. It was provided that the new province
should become a partner in the federation on such date as the
Queen in council should fix for the admission of Rupert's Land
and the North-west territory into the union. Another impor-
tant measure of this session was the banking act of Sir Francis
Hincks, which found instant and settled favour with banking
institutions and the commercial public. Not so successful was



tlu' honourable knight's tariff act, which bore on its face the
semblance of protection, but in reality was a declaration of
commercial war against the United States, with which recipro-
city was desirable bat impossible. From the first the ministry
seemed to have little heart in launching this measure. Sir
John called it "forcing public opinion," which was not at that
e ready for a system of protection, much less a measure
that promised the burthens, without the benefits, of such a
policy. Nevertheless, something was needed, and Sir Francis
came forward with his measure with the timid-courage of a
boy, pole in hand, venturing out on the first ice of the season.
Unfortunately for the ministry, long pressure of public busi-
had told severely on the health of Sir John. He was
frequently unable to attend parliament or cabinet meetings ;
and as the session drew to a close lie became completely pros-
trated. Sir Francis and his colleagues battled bravely against
the opposition and the defection in their own ranks, but the
nerve had gone for the time from the hand that could alone
make the rough smooth, and bring harmony out of disorder;
and the measure passed after a severe battering, with a feeble
majority. Among the able oppositionists might be counted
Messrs. McDougall an 1 Gait, for though they were labelled
" Independent," on trying occasions they were found voting
with the government. Mr. McDougall regarded himself, as he
certainly was, a victim of the government's unenviable North-
west policy, and was not in opposition in the public interest,
but for the sake of revenge ; while Mr. A. T. Gait also turned
a personal grievance into a ground of public policy.

The Fenians had their hearts set on capturing a piece of
British territory, and when the rebellion broke out in the North-
west, O'Neil, whose acquaintance we have already made, nim-
bly reassembled his ragged brigade, and on the 25th of May,
made a dash across the Missisquoi frontier ; but was driven
back, helter-skelter, by a handful of Canadian volunteers. Two
days later, another band, made heroic with whiskey, swaggered


across the border in Huntington county, but on being confront-
ed by a few of our militiamen took wild flight again into shel-
tering territory. Kven here they were not beyond harm, as
their leaders were arrested by United States officials, and their
arms, whiskey and other possessions confiscated. In the early
autumn the announcement that the imperial government was
about to withdraw the troops, called forth an earnest, if a not
manly, protest from several quarters. In reply, we were
informed from the colonial office, that Great Britain felt that

now ought to be relieved of the burthen of our defence ;
that we had entered upon an era of peace, and that while the
mother considered herself bound t<> defend as from foreum aa-

don, that she expected as, henceforth, to provide protec-
tion in oar domestic affairs. We somewhat pitiably retorted
that we had alway> tarnished force to do our police duty, and
did not need assistance now for that purpose: but the colonial

e was inexorable, and said that what had been ordered

conld not be revoked. The force- were consequently called

home from all the stations save Halifax, whose -ociety, tavern-

and immorality are at least the gainers, if no boon

inferred apon the country. Tin- only anomaly in the

seeding was the withdrawal of the troops tVom Newfound-
land, which was then, and is to-day, not in the union. The
imperial view was surely not lees than rational and politic;
though some of those who had talked after the union with so
much sound about our magnitude and our future, were among
the first to cry out, " O don't take away the soldiers." To boast
of nationality in one breath, and to cry for protection in ano-
ther, is at once impertinent and unmanly ; and resembles no-
thing so much as a hale young man of twenty-one under the
guardianship of a dry nurse. Our duty is to rely upon our-

es in the day of trouble, and we have spirit, and brain, and
patriotism enough in this country, were the attenuated leading
string of British connexion cut to-morrow, to resist all-comers
as effectually as we could under our present system — which


dampens national ardour, and undermines self-confidence —
aided by imperial soldiers. The duty to home and kin is
a strong incentive, if the duty can always be made to assume
that personal farm, bat patriotism can be only predicated of
those who pom MM a country, not of those who inhabit an in-
Btalmentol territory belonging to somebody else, and who bav-
ins fought the battle and overwhelmed the foe, are reminded
© © '

that they are serfs by ] infuse thanks for the loyalty and cour-
age they showed not to themselves, not to the country whose
fields they till, and whose seas they sail, but to a foreign ruler
whom they haw never seen, and who lives beyond a dissever-
ing ocean. This opinion is not for those enlightened, loyal
Canadians, who think that the sovereign can cure their babies
of king's evil ; but for the manly, intelligent young fellow with
the light of the age in his eyes, who loves his country, and
takes wisdom for his guide; who believes that all men came
into this world equal, IS they must leave it equal, that gold,
and place, and spurs belong alone to those who in honest strife
can win them, that the custom which fixes perpetual authority
10 any family among the race of men, and declares that all
others shall be subject and inferior, is one of the few relics of
a barbarous age, a butt for the future historian, and an institu-
tion that he will take to represent the darkness of the century.
During the summer an important acquisition to the Do-
minion cabinet appears in the appointment of Hon. Charles
Tupper, whose robust ability and unfaltering purpose, had all
along favourably impressed Sir John, to the presidency of the
council, in the room of the Hon. Edward Kenny, who had been
appointed to the governorship of Nova Scotia. We have met
Dr. Tupper already measuring his strength with Joseph Howe,
and seen him return from England twice with the laurels; but
this was no test of his prowess, since Howe was pitted not alone
against his brother Nova Scotian, but against the imperial cabi-
net, which was zealous for union. Where the field was fair and
there was no favour, it fared better with the giant, and we


found Dr. Tupper, like Randolph Murray, returning to Ottawa,
out of the fight, alone. But of Sir Charles' abilities, we might
say of his genius, there can be no question. He began life, we
believe, as ■ medical practitioner; and while enjoying an ex-
cellent prospect of eminent success in that profession, entered
politics, in which sphere, by the sheer force of his abilities and
the possession of a power that literally battered down every
obstacle, bad led in forcing his way, as we have seen, to

one of the most prominent places in his country. But the Dr.
Tapper of that day, was not the Sir Charles of our present ac-
quaintance. Never could anybody deny that great energy of
character, and almost superhuman force; but for many years
after his entry into public life, Dr. Tupper was almost insuf-
ferably verbose, and often bombasticaL Language literally
poured from the man; but his speeches were not remark-
able for the ad more incisive reasoning which runs

through bis public Utterances now. Time lias chastened and

disciplined that ardent spirit, reduced the blase to a sober

., whil<- nut robbing the lire of its heat; yet without being

disposed to unkind criticism, bin speeches still —speeches that

may always D6 called Verbal tornadoes — on OOOasiOD may DC

rage, thongfe in no instance we can remember
of has the prow d ample. Of the question of

dignity, and what is due to his position as a leading minister
of the crown, Sir Charles Tupper is the best judge; though he
must bear the writer to challenge the propriety of a member of
the Canadian government d. scendingto a personal attack, ho w-
merited, on one who had degraded the press by making
a newspaper the vehicle of vulgar spleen. Mr. Nicholas Flood
Davin in his pap :ies" in the Canadian Month-

ly, from which w have already ex sraoted, has this telling de-
scription of Sir Charles as an orator. " Sir Charles Tripper's
• distinguishing characteristic .... is force. Though he
has not the scholarship nor finish of Mr. Gladstone, it is with
Mr. Gladstone —were I searching for a comparison — I should


compare him. Yet they are dissimilar in so many ways that
the choice does not seem happy. They are alike however in
this: extraordinary capacity for work, power of going from
place to place, and malrjlffl great speeches with little or no time
for rest or study. Different in kind, his command of expres-
sion ly and effective as Mr. Gladstone's. He has the
faculty of growth; the sure mark of a superior mind when
found in a man over forty." The same writer goes on to say,
and had he omitted Baying it, we should not have thought so
much of his paper : "I am sure that both he and Mr. Blake
tk too long. If they could take off about thirty per cent,
in time withflnt impairing the texture of thought; if they could
pack closer; how much more effective both would be. Sir
Charles Tappet is not content while | single wall of the ene-
- remains standing." Some of Sir Charles Tupper's
it important work is too fre-li in the mind of the reader to
detail it here ; and as the news has gone abroad, while these
- are passing through the press, that this very able states-
man, still in the prime of his manhood, though with health, what shattered, by a too-long overwrought brain, is about
to retire from his present office to fill a place of importance in
t he mother-country, we may be permitted to refuse paying a
" long farewell," chemhing the hope that many days may yet
remain to him, after hia mission in the new sphere is ended,
and his health restored, in the performance of public duty in

The Reciprocity Treaty having expired, as we have seen, and
the overture s of the Canadian government for renewal having
proven fruitless, a state of affairs had arisen which provoked a
strong feeling of hostility among our people towards the United
States. With the expiry of the treaty, of course, all rights
and privileges to both parties lapsed, yet American fishermen
continued to fish in our coast- waters within prohibited limits.
The Canadian government remonstrated with the Washington
authorities, and the president of the United States issued a


proclamation forbidding American citizens to further infringe
upon the law. American schooners still appeared within the
three-mile limit around our coast, putting out nets and spilliard
trains ; and even became so brazen in their disregard for author-
it}', as to engage in taking fish during Sunday ; — for which, in
one instance, they paid the penalty by the inhabitants of a cove
in Fortune Bay. Newfoundland, taking the law in their own
hands, destroying the fishing gear of the intruders, and driving
the violaters of the sabbath and the civil laws from the shore.
The imperial and Canadian governments sent armed vessels
along the coasts to prevent this international poaching, and
ral crafts caught in their unlawful work were seized and con-
ted. Whereupon OUr American friends grew wrathful, and
their high-pent feeling rented itself in an unstatesmanlike and
intemperate message from Pre s id ent Grant during the autumn.
A number <>f irritating questions had now accumulated be-
en the United States and Great Britain, and early in the

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 30 of 57)