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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year, 1871, it became known that these would be submitted for
settlement to a joint commission appointed by both govern-
ments. The chief subjects fur the adjudication of the commis-
sion were the fisheries question, t<> which we have alluded; the
Alabama claims, the navigation of (he > s t. Lawrence, and of the
Canadian canals, and the boundary line between the United
tea and British < Columbia. Owin_r t<» some of the hazy defi-
nitions in the Oregon treaty, the ownership of the island of
Juan, in the strait of Juan de Fuca, which for the past
twelve years had been occupied jointly by British and United
tee officials, had been open to dispute ; and a settlement of
this question was also referred to the commission. On the
10th of February, the United States government appointed as
representatives, the Hon. Robert C. Schenck, United States
minister to the court of St. James; the Hon. Hamilton Fish,
secretary of state ; the Hon. Samuel Nelson, of the supreme
court ; the Hon. George H. Williams, of Oregon, and the Hon.
aezerR. Hoar, of Massachusetts. On the sixteenth of the


same month, the imperial government appointed as its five
representatives the Earl De Gray and Ripon, Sir Edward
Thornton, Sir Stafford Northcote, Sir John Macdonald and
Montague Bernard, professor of international law in the univer-
sity of Oxford. The appointment of a colonist on a commission
to conserve imperial interests was an unusual course, but the
eminent abilities of Sir John, and the vast Canadian interests
at stake, induced the selection. It is an error, however, to
BupppM that, in any sense, Sir John was a Dominion represen-
tative : lie was merely the interpreter of Canadian interests
On this commission, as events afterwards showed, our premeir
found himself between the devil and the deep sea, between
luty as an imperial representative on the one hand, whose
mission was to >upport any plan that would forward the
interests of the empire as a whole, even though such measure
should bear harshly upon bia own province, and his duty to the
interests of the l)-»minion on the other. The first meeting of
the commission was held at Washington, on the 27th of Feb-
ruary ; and the sittings were continued at irregular intervals
till the 8th of May. On this date the Washington treaty was
signed, and the commissioners set out for their homes. In
brief the treaty — which was ratified by the United States on
the 24tf) of May, and by the imperial parliament on the 17th of
June — provided for the settlement of the Alabama claims by an
arbitration board to meet in Switzerland, and to which refer-
ence has already been made ; the San Juan boundary dispute
was referred for adjudication to the emperor of Germany, who
gave the disputed island to the United States j while, with res-
pect to the fisheries, our waters were thrown open to the Ame-
rican fishermen for a period of ten years, the compensation to
the Canadian government, in lieu of this privilege, to be decided
by a special commission.* It was provided that fish and oil
should be admitted into the United States and Canada, from each

* The commission met in Halifax in 1877, and awarded to Canada $5,500,000,
which was paid, but with not a little groaning.


country, duty free during a like period ; free navigation of the
St. Lawrence and the Canadian canals was guaranteed to Ameri-
can citizens, a similar privilege being accorded to British sub-
jects on Lake Michigan. As an offset to the claim for damages
by the Confederate cruisers sailing from British ports, Sir John
contended that the Dominion was, in a like measure, entitled to
recompense for the ravages of Fenian marauders from American
territory. Against an attitude which so much as refused to
discuss this question, and with the tepid support of his brother
commissioners, to whom imperial questions threw all others in
the shade;' Sir John was powerless) and, as in some other points,
he was obliged to yield. Some of his opponents afterwards
maintained that in the face of this opposition it was his duty to
have resigned, but that would have been for the premier to con-
that he regarded himself as • colonial, and not an imperial
representative; that he hud oonsented to enter the commission
under false pretences; for, Rswehave already stated, it wai by
the accident of his qualifications and the esteem in which he
lield — and in any case only as an interpreter of Canadian
interests — that he was appointed among the representatives;
had he resigned the imperial will would nevertheless have
been carried out, and perhaps without the dampening presence
nother colonist. But that Sir John did do all that was
tistent with honour and duty as a representative of impe-
rial interest, became abundantly clear, and is, if by no other
evidence, amply proven in the fact, that, up to a late period — if
indeed down to this time he had not been forgiven by imperial
smen, for what, between themselves, they had been pleased
to call his "colonialism " on the commission; not a colonialism
implying anything beyond what they regarded as too much
seal in ( 'anadian interests, which clashed with those of the em-
pire. It is n >t going too far to assume that, when we hear the
i ner's Canadian opponents denounce him for having done
little for Canada, and hear imperial earls and knights who
were with him whisper behind the door that he did too much,


he did his onerous and difficult duty, honourably, conscienti-
ously, and well. For a year the treaty was misrepresented
throughout the country, and the premier and the ministry were
loaded with abuse. The assailants were sorely mortified that
they could elicit no official response, a silence maintained at the
request of Sir John, who said that it would be time enough to
explain when the politic period arrived and in the proper place.
We shall drfp a \ «• ir to see the issue. In May, 1872, the storm
bnka, and Sir John was ready. His defence is given us in one
cl the ablest — perhaps the most effectiv. speeches of his life.
We need not here attempt an outline of this address, which we
in full elsewhere,* or of the telling speeches by Sir Francis
Hincks, Hon. Wm. McDougall, Hon. Charles Tupper, Hon. S.
L. Tilley, Sir George Cartier, Hon. J. H. Cameron and others
All the speakers, understand ing the painfully difficult position
Sir John had held, and appreciating the highmindedness and
ability with which he conducted himself, came forward in de-
fence of their chief. Mr. John Hillyard Cameron said that " be-
fore entering into discussion on the various points of the treaty,
he might be allowed to say a few words about one upon whom
the eyes of all Canada were fixed, in whom the country had the
deepest interest, and in whom, he ventured to say, the great
mass of the people had the most implicit reliance. He refer-
red to the gentleman who was entrusted, not only as a nego-
tiator but as a representative of the empire, and of Canada, a&
a part of it ; he whom so many had been accustomed to ad-
mire, and whom he (Mr. Cameron) had been permitted to follow,
as his leader, for so many years. Probably there was no mem-
ber of the house better entitled to speak of that gentleman than
he. They had been friends for more than half the term of life-
allotted to man ; they had been at school together, and had
been in the government of Canada in the freshness of their
youth, more than a quarter of a century ago ; and from that

* For the text of the speech in extenso, see appendix G.


year to this, although their positions had been very different,
he had been always his political follower, and had endeavoured
to be his faithful friend ; and he believed there were veiy few
among those who had been his friends, and followers during
that long period of years who were not his staunch supporters
now. There could hardly be a higher compliment paid to any
man than that he should have continued to hold the position
he had held during the many years past ; and he felt compelled
to say this, because heartiest attacks had been made upon his
character and honour. They all knew, every one of them, and
he Mi. I aim nm recollected well, the time when he first came
to prominently before the public. They might have looked
through their own party, in and out of politics, and could not
hav«- found a single man his superior, and in the opposition
party they could not find ■ man either his superior or his equal.
During all those years he had carried out those measures which
he considered were, for the country's -nod. In many he Mr
Cameron did not concur, but in many had a gree d ; and of all
met! Competent to deal with the affairs of the people, he had
always considered that there was no one so competent as he,
Sir John liacdbnald. He (Mr. Cameron) had seen his skill and
ability at all times and under all circumstances, and there was

no one among them who had not had as opportunity over and
ming a judgment upon them. He would ask

them to recollect how, when circumstances had withdrawn him,
when debates and discussions were going on, they had felt that
the chords were jangled and the instrument out of tune, and
when he returned again how his master hand evoked a harmony
that no other hand was able to produce. They had all known
it. They had seen him in his position there using his talents
and great ability f<>r the benefit of the country. Had he turned
those talents and that ability to his profession, he would have
Won both wealth and fame. Whilst other politicians were mak-
ing their fortunes, no one ever felt otherwise than that that man
was poor, h< -cause he never allowed his political or parliamen-


tarv influence to be used in order that he might in the slightest
degree make pecuniary capital of his position. Did not they all
fee] that one reason why his honourable friends opposite had
raged so furiously against him, had been because of what his
hon. friend from Lambton had said the other Bight that his
(Sir John "^ path was marked by the graves of dead politicians.
He (the member for Lambton) had boasted of the purity of

in principles, and of the Strength and power of reformers ;
and yet he had seen their foremost men, one by one — even the

i Anak himself — become the willing captives of his bow
and spear, and march to their political death under the eye of
r conqueror; while they contended that what their oppo-
nents termed " }>olitieal death" was lvally political regenera-
tion. That was their position; and their support of his hon.
friend had been not merely in reference to his great political
ability, but it had been in regard to what he had been to all
of them. He had always been generous and easy of access,

mingling courtesy with kindness. No man ever had more

ud friends and followers. He had grappled them to his
heart with hoops of steel, and had kept them there. Over and

again he had earned them forward with him to victory,
and he believed that now, as ever, his latest and crowning vic-
tory would be the response which the parliament of Canada
would make to the appeal that they should ratify the treaty.
His party were indignant that the charge of treason and the
name of * Judas " should be used against him. Notwithstand-
ing the taunts and the violence of the opposition — notwith-
standing the accusations they made — they would find that, in
the opinions not only of a large majority of the members of the
house but of an equally large majority of the people of the
country, there w T as no man under whose banner they would
more gladly advance, either to victory or defeat, than that of
the hon. member who led them." At the conclusion the house
showed its loyalty to Sir John, and its confidence in his ability
and integrity by ratifying so much of the treaty as referred to


Canada by a vote of 121 to 55. From Ontario there was a
majority of 10; from Quebec, 29 ; from Nova Scotia, 11 ; from
New Brunswick, 7 ; from Manitoba, 3, and from British Col-
umbia, G.

It is necessary now to retrace our steps a short way, to take
up the thread of our general narrative. Parliament opened on
the 15lh of February, 1871. Sir Francis was in high spirits ;
commerce felt a fuller life in her veins, the outlook was still
more cheering, and the ministers had $200,000 to spare after

ting all current expenditure. Several measures of import-
ance were introduced during the session, chief among these
being roviding for tin- assimilation of the currency, the

ljustment of tie- tariff, for the management <>f sayings
hank^, and tie- establishment of a new banking system It

this s«->M<»n that tie- act was introduced provid-
ing for the admission of our distant relative, British Columbia,
into the united family. The Pacific province was not enthu-

'•forth.- compact, but lik.' the maiden who marries for

money instead of for love, made her union conditional upon the

traction of a railroad ; and as marriages contracted with

! do not always * turn out well,'' it i> not surpris-
ing that before tie- Paeifi a bride, she

in the courts for divorce. Tie' < anadian parliament rose on
\pril: and on the 16th of May, an imperial order-in-

icil was passed authorising the admission of British Colum-
bia into the ( anadian fi deration. The provisions of the British

ii America Act were extended to the new province; an an-
nual subsidy >et apart, and 80 cents granted to
each head of the population, which then was estimated at G0,000.
The most Important stipulation in the terms of union with the
now province was the obligation on the part of the Dominion

cure the commencement simultaneously, "within two years
after the date of the union, of the construction of a railway
from the Pacific towards the Rocky Mountains, and from such
point as should be selected east of the Rocky Mountains towards


the Pacific, to connect the seaboard of British Columbia with
the railway system of Canada ; and further to secure the com-
pletion of such railway within ten years from the date of the
union." This line, we need scarce say, is not built yet, though
it has had a prodigious catastrophe, resulting in the wreck of a
great party, as shall be told further on. The Hon. William
Joseph Trutch was appointed lieutenant-governor of the newly
acquired province. The prosperity of Ontario was now devel-
oping in bounds, and Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald, with the
strange daring that had more than once led him upon the rocks,
appropriated a large sum of the public funds for railway pur-
poses without the consent of the legislature. A st >rm arose,
and the premier could not withstand it. His enemies thundered
their censure, and his friends dropped off. He resigned in
December, and the governor asked Mr. Edward Blake to take
hia place. One of the first acts of the new provincial govern-
ment was tlie offering of 15,000 reward for the apprehension of
the murderers Riel ami L» pine, who, were now living saus /<■
at their homes. Sir George Cartier had made common cause
with MoDMOgnevr Tache* in shielding Riel, who was eventu-
ally, but not till he had sought parliamentary honours, induced
to leave the country.

The last session of the first Dominion parliament opened on
the 11th of April, 1872. The most important question was the
elause of the Washington treaty to which we have reverted,
Mr. Blake excelling himself in clever argument, sarcasm, and
special pleading in his attack upon the measure. A question
of much interest was the New Brunswick " School Bill," which
had passed the legislature of that province, in May, of the pre-
vious year. The New Brunswick Act, in brief, provided for the
establishment of free non-sectarian schools, which were to be
taken out of the hand of the Jacks-of-all- trades, administered
under government supervision, and supported by municipal tax-
ation and a grant from the provincial legislature. A wise
measure, however, was marred by blemishes affixed by a bigo-


try that made a triumph of reason an engine of injustice, gross-
and contemptible. The question, through the local constituen-
cies, became not one between the old and barbarous plan of edu-
cation, and the new system, but between protestant and catho-
lic. The catholic priesthood became alarmed, and saw the hand
of Satan guiding the new movement. The free-school people
affected to see something nearly as bad on the other side, the
Pope resisting the spread of education and thought. The priest
was over fearful, the free-school champion was over zealous.
The most with which the former is to be charged is extrava-
gant dread, and I profusion of evil prophecy that he came for-
ward himaelfj in time, to falsity ; but against the latter there ua
a mn< xeditable count They studded the new law with

provisions] called by souk- one "millinery regulations," deliber-
ately intended to insult and harass the Roman catholics, while

one politician,* who is now. thanks to the Unfortunate system

of party which rul^s everything in this country from the bench
to the buck-saw, a judge in New Brunswick, carried his un-
manly bigotry bo Car ai to declare on the hustings, that he
had no feeling in common with Rinnan catholics, and did not

want their votes. Such a spirit was odious enough in the cam-
paign, but it was carried into the bill, and provided that no

ber should wear crosses, badges or garbs pertaining to any

exclusive order; the object being to exclude religious of the

Roman church from the work of teaching. It was while the
law remained in this intolerable state, that the two prominent
Roman catholics from New Brunswick in the Canadian legis-
lature SOUghl to have the obnoxious measure set aside. In May,
therefore, Mr. ( ostigan moved a set of resolutions praying for
the disallowance of the act, in which he was strongly seconded
by Mr. Timothy Anglin. The following session he moved>
" that the government should advise Ins excellency to disallow
the acts passed by the New Brunswick legislature," which was-

* Hon. (now Judge) John J. Fraaer.


carried ; though the question remained open for several years
afterwards. The next year again he moved for " an address to
her Majesty praying her to cause an act to be passed amending
the British North America Act, 1867, by providing that every
religious denomination in New Brunswick shall continue to
possess and enjoy all such rights with regard to their schools
as they possessed and enjoyed at the time of the passage of the
said Act." This resolution was withdrawn, though Mr. Costi-
gan wafl nnrma/ring in hia exertions from session to session, till
his desin virtually accomplished by the amendments to

the New Brunswick act which expunged the obnoxious regula-
tions In the early stages of the agitation, as we have seen,
Sir John was in office, and daring this time Mr. Costigan had
the heartiest support from Mr. Anglin ; but he stood alone in the
struggle when the reformers came to power, when Mr. Anglin
wafl rl.-vated to the Chair, and agitation on the measure men-
hia salary and perquisites. The New Brunswick legisla-
ture \ - ry prop e r l y resisted the attempts at Ottawa to set aside
Nation which it felt it was competent to enact; and Hon.
(now Judge) William Wedderbum, one of the most powerful
and brilliant speakers in Canada, moved a series of resolutions
in defence of the law, asserting the exclusive authority of the
provincial legislature over the question, and resolving that its
jurisdiction or powers should not be impaired or abridged with-
out an appeal to the electors at the polls ; and that without the
-consent of the local body the imperial parliament or the par-
liament of Canada ought not to interfere. Meanwhile the
priests had refused to permit Catholic children to be taught in
the "godless" institutions, and the parents were burthened
with the double expense of paying the municipal tax to main-
tain the public schools, from which they derived no benefit, and
of supporting the separate schools to which no contribution was
made from the provincial funds. The bishops and their clergy
found themselves obliged by conscience to refuse paying the
public school-tax ; but the officer seized a horse and carriage, or


any chattel that he could lay hands upon, and went his way.
It la related that the cow of a certain priest was seized five
times for the tax, some pious parishioner as often " bidding in "
the animal, and thus satisfying the law and the clerical con-
science. But this state of affairs could not continue. The
catholics began to groan at the double burthen put upon their
shoulders. Then the priests had now and again paid a visit to
government schools, and found no pictures of Satan hang-
ing upon the wall, nor heard any boy say that the name of our
first parent was Protoplasm. The legislature, too, had shown
a disposition to fair play by purging the school statute of in-
sult and intolerance. Still the clergy remained aloof ; but on
their behalf Leading citizens opened negotiations with the free-
school authoriti. g, Through the influence of Mr. (now Sena-
tor) Boyd and other prominent citiiens in St. John, Bishop
capitulated, and in Fredericton, the capital, amalga-
mation was accomplished through the tireless exertions of Ifr.
Patrick licPeake, the leading Roman catholic in the city. Now
while we have denounced the stain that bigotry put upon the

school law as at first established, and admired the manly, able

and uncompromising way in which Mr. ( ostigan battled for

justice to hie ionists, we must not be regarded as hav-

ing the remotest sympathy with those who opposed non-secta-
rian >chools upon principle. Ten years ago he who visited a
parish school, from which God had not been banished, saw an
institution seething with disorder, which was ever pouring a
am of youth upon the country, many of whom were more
vulgar and vicious than if they had never seen the inside of
the school walls. But it is different now; and the system of
education enjoyed by the people of New Brunswick, would be
a boon and a credit to any country. We could wish that of the
in in thia noble province we could say as much; though
this is more than we dare to hope so long as it maintains the
political taint.


Parliament prorogued on the 14th of June, and eight days
after wan Is the governor-general bade good bye to Canada.
During his administration be hid been raised to the peerage
of the united kingdom With the title of Baron Lisgar, of Lisgar
and Beiiieboroagh, in the county of Cavan. While amongst us
he won our good opinion and respect, though he neither flat-
tered the people nor courted popularity, doing his duty with a
•courteous quiet dignity that pleased without effort. " His hospi-
tality,* says Professor Goldwin Smith, " was simply that of an
English noUeman: it had no ulterior object, and as an example
could do nothing but good." His successor was Frederick Tem-
ple Hamilton Blackwood, Earl of Dutferin, eldest son of Captain
Price 1 Hack wood, afterwards fourth Baron Dutferin and Clan-
•deboye, in the peerage of Ireland. The new governor was a
man of some distinction in diplomacy and literature when he
•came amongst us. He had been under-secretary of state for
war, and in the same capacity at the Indian office. He went
to Syria as commissioner of the crown, where he ended the
turmoil between the ChriatnUM and the natives. " He suc-
ceed Mr. Stewart, "in mast Ting the details of this deli-
cate mission; and not only satisfactorily arranged the Turkish
troubles, but also compromised matters between the French
and the warlike Druses. He gave a constitution to Lebanon,
and we have here the first evidence of his ability as a states-
man and diplomatist." If by letters in his own right he was
not famous, he was distinguished through his ancestry. His
mother was the author of " The Irish Emigrant," and other
1 -allads, which, if not showing a deep poetical vein, contained a
wealth of feeling, and many passages of tender, melancholy
pathos. For an aunt, he had that pretty song-bird, the Hon.
II is. Caroline Norton, whose sweet verse and bright eyes, scandal
said, lured Lord Melbourne so often away from the cares of state.

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 31 of 57)