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 through this siren he was connected with a name of still
greater note, of whom a great poet has said:

***** Nature formed but one such man,
And broke the die in moulding Sheridan."


Lord Dufferin was educated at Eton and Oxford, and in 1850
was created an English bartfn. He was not long amongst us
when it was found that the proverbial gift of his countrymen
sat upon his tongue. In making speeches he could outdo our
most confirmed orators ; and in this respect his example was
not good. If a governor-general could only, by his example,
help to curtail the platform trade, he might well feel that his
vice-regal mission had not been fruitless, and that he had not
been born in vain. But it is not encouraging in a political
country like this, where the tendency is to an epidemic of

ch, to have a viceroy appear among us with this run-
ning at the mouth* Perhaps, hut lor this never-failing
eloquence on every subject from a hoi-water tankard to tin 1

titution, it might he Baid that Karl Dufferin's administra-
tion was delightful He possessed a warm sympathetic heart,
and took a genuine interest in the welfare and aspirations of
our people ; and in return, there sprang op among US for him, a
deeper and kindlier feeling of regard, than had over before been
entertained for a Canadian governor. Everywhere the viceroy
and t-hearted wit*.-, the countess, went, they stirred the

feelings of all by the genuine and hearty way in which they

pathized with, and entered into the feelings and aspirations
of, those they visited When they departed from our shores a
! in the hearts of OUT people that it would be hard
to till.

The first parliament <>f Canada, having lived out the full
term of its constitutional life, was dissolved on the 15th of July.
tiona came off through the summer and early autumn,
and the government found itself confronted by staunch opposi-
tion. The L, r h<>-t of poor Scott, murdered in the North- West,
rose against it ; the Wadiington treaty " was shaken in the face
of the country ;" the gigantic railway-building, a duty to which
the country had been pledged, was declared by the opposition
to be a mad and impossible scheme ; and the reform party in
Ontario was made sturdy by the strength of Mr. Blake and the


provincial ministry. The government came shattered, though
not defeated, out of the contest. Sir Francis Hincks was
worsted in South Brant, but Vancouver, British Columbia,
offered the worthy kinght her seat, which he accepted. Sir
George Carrier was put to flight in Montreal east, but was wel-
comed to the arms <>f Provencher, Manitoba. Ontario declared
herself hostile chiefly because the government had failed to
punish Scott's murderers ; Quebec refused her usual support
because a full amnesty had not been granted. The dignity of
the archbishop was at stake — though resting upon an absurdity
and a misunderstanding — and that was of more importance
than the cruel and wicked shedding of a fellow creature's blood.
There once was a commandment — but it was under the Jewish
dispensation! — though written upon stone by the finger of God,
which said, " Thou shalt not kill"; but Sir George Cartier, and
his French supporters, and Bishop Tache*, and his priests and the
faithful, blotted out that old edict, and put in its stead, "Thou
shalt Dot dishonour the promise of a bishop." Notwithstanding
the defections, a count of forces after the contest was ended
satisfied Sir John that his government had an ample working
majority. In October, the Ontario legislature passed a resolution
prohibiting dual representation ; so that Messrs. Blake and Mac-
kenzie were compelled to choose between the provincial and
general parliaments. Naturally, their ambition, patriotism, cu-
pidity, and any other quality they may have possessed, found
stronger attraction in the wider sphere and larger flesh-pots.
Their choice necessitated a reconstruction of the provincial
government, and Mr. Blake suggested to the lieutenant-governor
that Mr. Mowat ought to be invited to lead the ministry. The
lure was too strong for the judge, and he left the bench. What-
ever of public immorality there was in this proceeding, Mr. Blake,
at all events, was the seducer. From that day to this, Mr. Mowat
has held the leadership of the Ontario government, and though
his administration has not been brilliant, and is in many impor-
tant respects incapable, it has been honest ; if the adjective can


be applied to a system of rule made subservient to the ends of
] uirty. Towards the close of the year M. Joly, leader of the
opposition in the Quebec legislature, moved for a commission
of inquiry into certain charges made against M. Cauchon, the
local member for Montmorency, and whom we have also met
in the Canadian parliament. The inquiry revealed that this
member had, while occupying a seat in the local house, been a
secret contractor with the provincial government in connexion
with the Beauport lunatic asylum. To avoid expulsion Iff,
Cauchon resigned; bat the same moral sentiment that had so
zealously shielded murder, now condoned corruption; and he
straightway elected again. Early in the following year,
ral important changes took place in the ( anadian ministry,
the most prominent of these being the acceptance of the port-
folio of finance by the Hon. S. L. Tillev in place of Sir Francis
Hiii'ks, who had grown tired of official worry, and longed for

the calm of private life. Dr. Tapper succeeded t<> the office of
Mr. Tilleyaa head <»f the department of Customa The new par-
liament opened on tie- 5th of March, 1873. Prince Edward
Island had got over her little tiff, had reasoned out the ques-
tion <>f union, grown sorry over her stubbornness, and asked to
be admitted into the federation, A measure was promptly pre-
pared t<> give effect to the wish, and was forwarded to the im-
perial parent, who, of course, held the right of giving the daugh-

away. The debt of the little island was placed at $4,701,-
050 ; and interest at 5 per cent, per annum was to be paid from
time to time on the difference between that sum and the ac-
tual amount of the provincial debt. An annual subsidy of

000 was granted, and the eighty cents for each head of the
population which the census of L871 showed to be 94,021.
In the midst of the routine labours of the house, one day, a
member arose, with face pale, and flung a bomb upon the
floor which convulsed the parliament and the country.



IT will be remembered that one of the terms under which
British Columbia consented to enter confederation was
that the oenfcr*] government should construct, within ten years,
a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Two wealthy com-
panies com}' uperior business-men were formed, the one
the / iiter-( keanic, at the head of which was Mr. D. L. Mac-
pherson, the other the Canada Pacific, the president of which
was Sir Hugh Allan. As the session of 1872 drew near, the air
was full of rumours concerning these two organizations, oppo-
nents of the government affirming that Sir Hugh Allan was
to get the contract, that his company was largely composed of
Americans, that the road would be made tributary to American
Commerce, that all this was an outrage upon the country, and
that the motto should be " Canada for the Canadians." Parlia-
ment met and the legislature granted a charter to both compa-
nies, authorizing the government to enter into contract with
either, or with an amalgamation of the two, or, if they should
see fit, to grant a royal charter to a new and distinct company.
We need not repeat that to the construction of the railroad the
country was by honour and by stipulation bound ; and for this
purpose the legislature had agreed to grant 50,000,000 acres of
land and $30,000,000 to any company that would build the
line. The project was not alone one of national importance,
but was the most gigantic undertaking up to that time, or
since, known to Canada. The grant made by parliament
appeared enormous and was, therefore, tempting to the eye of



those who may have had but little conception of the vast
task of building a road across the rugged breast of a con-
tinent ; so that it became the duty of government to give ear
only to persons upon whose wisdom, experience and integrity
they could rely, and whose commercial standing was such that
they would be able to obtain the entree into the money mark-
ets of the world for the prosecution of the work. On the 14th
of June the session closed. Parliament was dissolved on the
8th of July, and from the loth of the same month till the
1 2th of October the country was plunged into an election
contest An engrossing topic with the ministry was the rail-
way, which it was felt should be began is early as possible, as
skilful engineers hinted that every day of the term allowed
would be required to link ocean -with ocean. The cry against
"'Sir Hugh and his Americans' 1 had waxed Louder in the
meantime, but sir John, from the first, expressed himself hos-
tile to outside aid in building the line. Sir George Cart ier,
who frequently examined g reat questions through the eyes of
Somebody else, followed the lead of his chief and confirmed his

opposition to " Yankees* 1 with an oath. It was Sir John's
desire now to get the two companies amalgamated, and to this
end negotiations were opened ; but the ambitions of the two
presidents were irreconcilable, Sir Bugfa claiming that his inter-
were of such magnitude that it was proper he should have
the presidency, Mr. Macpherson holding that the question in
dispute ought to be settled by the shareholders. Union having
been found impossible, Sir John announced that the govern-
ment would avail itself of the legislation of the past session and
endeavour to form a new company. Sir Hugh now dropped his
American associates and leagued himself with a number of
Canadian .rentlemen of high standing, and large means and
rience. On this organization the government looked with
favour in consideration of the high integrity, the financial abi-
lity, and the credit possessed by its members. The leading-
member was Sir Hugh Allan, the owner of the proud fleet of


ocean steamers which bears his name, a gentleman of vast
energy and enterprise, and possessing advantages, by the extent
of his capital and his credit in the European money-market, not
held by any other person that offered to undertake the work.
The duty of the government was to close the contract at the
earliest moment, to treat with those who were best qualified
to do the work ; and so, after some consideration, issued the
charter, appointing Sir Hugh president.

Parliament met in due course. Ministers announced that a
new and powerful company was now ready to commence the
great work, and that all Deeded was the sanction of the legisla-
ture. So gigantic had seemed the task to which the Dominion
had committed itself, that the large bulk of the house, now
learning that there was a body of responsible men actually
ready to go on with the work, regarded the fact as a brilliant
triumph for the government Ministers began to rejoice in the
work of their hands, and some of their opponents admitted
with grudging grace that, under the circumstances, perhaps as
good an agreement had been made as was possible. But then
came out of the political sky a whisper that set the heart of
opposition bounding, that brought light to its eye. This
" small voice " said : " Doom is hanging over the ministry ; soon
the bolt shall fall." The work of the session went on, the
ministers, with buoyant hearts and sunny faces, dreaming of
no evil to come. Their opponents made no unusual sign, save,
perhaps, that of late they had appeared less factious and more
reserved than usual. Sometimes, indeed, one spectator has re-
corded, a prominent reformer would steal an ominous glance
across to the treasury benches, and then resume his work in a
preoccupied way, as if " there was something in the wind." At
last arrived the 2nd day of April. A sort of calm had seemed
to have fallen upon the house. Some members were writing at
their desks, others lounged in their chairs, or read the news-
papers. The treasury benches were full ; the speaker sat in the
chair, and pages flitted across the floor with notes. Sir John


Maedonald was sitting at his own desk, one leg across the other,
and leaning his head against his hand. He gave a " barely
perceptible " start — Mr. Lucius Seth Huntington, with pale
face, was standing at his place, and had begun to read from
a paper the following motion : —

"That he, the said Lucius Seth Huntington, is credibly in-
formed and believes that he can establish by satisfactory evi-
dence, that in anticipation of the legislation of last session, as
to the Pacific Railway, an agreement was made between Sir
Hugh Allan, acting for himself, and certain other Canadian
promoters, and G. W. McMullen, acting for certain United
States capitalists, whereby the latter agreed to furnish all the
funds necessary for the construction of the contemplated rail-
way, aii'l fco give the former a certain percentage of interest, in
adoration of their interest and position, tlie scheme agreed
upon being ostensibly that of a Canadian company with Sir
Hugh Allan at its head, —

■• That the government were aware that these negotiations
pending between the said parties. —

"That, subsequently , an understanding was come to between
government, Sir Hugh Allan and Mr. Abbott, one of the
members of the honourable house of commons of Canada, that
Sir Hugh Allan, and his friends should advancea large sum of
r the purpose of aiding the elections of ministers and
their supporters at the ensuing general election, and that he
and his friends should receive the contract for the construction
of the railway, —

That accordingly Sir Hugh Allan did advancea large sum
of money for the purpose mentioned, and at the solicitation and
under the pressing instances of the ministers, —

That part of the moneys expended by Sir Hugh Allan in
connection with the obtaining of the act of incorporation and
charter were paid to him by the United States capitalists un-
der the agreement with him, —


" That a committee of seven members be appointed to enquire-
into all the circumstances connected with the negotiations for
the construction of the Pacific Railway, with the legislation of
last session on the subject, and with the granting of the charter
to Sir Hugh Allan and others, with power to send for persons,
papers and records, and with instructions to report in full the
evidence taken before, and all proceedings of, said committee."

Sometimes, as he read, he paused and cast his eye about him
to note the effect of his disclosures. Some sat with heads-
thrust forward, eagerly drinking every word ; others with a
stolid air. and a look of stony indifference. Not a few there
were with the light of triumph in their <\ v ; and some felt, or
assumed to feel, the most mil mounded horror. But as the mem-
ber's eye rested upon one figure, he became abashed, and his
voice grew timid. This was the prime minister who sat with a
face as inscrutable as the Sphynx, betraying no sign of fear or
any show of anger. Once Mr. Huntington caught his eye, and
saw there the blaze of scorn ; and contempt was upon his lip.
Having read his motion he sat down, amid a "silence deep a*
deatli : and the boldest held his breath for a time." It would
have given relief to this agony of silence had the accusing
member made any explanation, or spoken any word; or had
any other member of the house asked a question or offered
comment. The accuser was not as one who had performed
some deed of wondrous valour. " He had spoken/' says Mr.
Stewart, " with some feeling, but it was the feeling of fear.
It was as if he had chalked ■ No Popery ' on the wall and had
then fled." There is now no doubt that when Mr. Huntington
made his charges, his authority was vague rumour ; that he had
not in his possession, nor had seen, the telegrams and docu-
ments which afterwards came to light ; and that his motion was
thrown out as a feeler, with the hope of bringing some member
of the government to his feet, and making statements which
might serve as a clue to the supposed wrong-doing, or lend
colour to the allegations. Every eye was now turned upon the-


prime minister, but he sat at his desk as if he had been a figure
one; he uttered no word, and made no sign. The motion
was BSOOnded without comment, was put to the house, and, out
of that sickening stillness, came one hundred and seven " nays,"
and seventy -six "yeas." A long breath of relief was drawn ;
the silence found its tongue, and a continuous buzz-buzz pre-
vailed for many minutes. Then adjournment.

A meeting of the cabinet was hastily called, Sir John in-
forming his OOllflagnfW that the slander must be promptly and
boldly met. Next night, we may be sure, there was little
sleep for the premier. He was aware that certain transactions
between members of the ministry and Sir Hugh Allan were
ptible of being distorted into a form corresponding with
made by Mr. Huntington, and that the government
would have a serious task to put the case in its true light be-
the country; but he was resolved to face the slander
firmly and challenge the aocueers, knowing that he had Lees
to fear from a thorough i khan from the insinuations of

Mr. Enntingtof] basely seasoned with distorted fact. Looking

more wearied and anxious than lie had ever appeared in that
house before, he took his place the following day and, rising;
offered the following resolution, which was carried : — " On mo-
tion of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, that a
•t committee of five members (of which committee the
mover -hall not be one) be appointed by this house to enquire
into and report upon the several matters contained and stated
in a resolution moved on Wednesday, the 2nd of April, in-
stant, by the Hon. Mr. Huntington, member for the county of
ShefFord, relating to the Canadian Pacific Railway, with power
to send for persons, papers and records; to report from time to
time, and to report the evidence from time to time, and, if need
be, to sit after the prorogation of Parliament"

The members named for the committee were Hon. Messrs.
Blake, Blanchet, Dorion, Macdonald (Pictou), and Cameron


To guard against the admission of unreliable testimony, it
was provided that the commission be authorized to examine
witnesses upon oath ; hut as the committee, as such, had no

r to so examine, a measure called the Oaths Bill was
promptly introduced and passed, conferring upon the commis-
sioner! that authority. In this, however, parliament tran-

Led its powers, and the aet was disallowed by her majesty
OH the advice of the law officers of the crown. While the fate
of the bill was unknown the commission met, and on the 5th
of May decided, in view of the absence of Sir George Cartier,
and the H<>n J.J. C. Abbott, and the impossibility of the inves-
tigation bring carried on in a proper manner without oppor-
tunity being afforded these grntlemen of being present and
hearing the testimony adduced, it was advisable that the
committee adjourn until Wednesday, the 2nd of July, if parlia-
ment should be, on such date, in session. According to the
customs of Lynch law. not lung is so absurd as the plea that
the accused should be present at his own trial to offer his de-
fence ; and the opposition grew wroth at the decision to stay

eedinga till the impugned members returned and had an
opportunity of defending themselves. Some time after this,
Sir John waited on the governor-general, and advised adjourn-
ment, with a view to meeting and prorogation, on the 13th of
August. Lord Dufferin saw that the suggestion was good ; the
spring had well advanced, and it was to the interest of mem-
- to be at their homes ; the business of the session had been
ended ; the presence of the legislature could not promote the
work of the commission which might go on taking the evi-
dence ; and he decided to accept the prime minister's advice.
Upon this understanding, Sir John proceeded to the house, and
from his place announced in distinct terms, that parliament
would be prorogued on the 13th of August, " that the re-assem-
1 .ling would be pro forma, that no business would be done beyond
receiving the report of the committee, which could then be
printed with the evidence, and go before the country ; that the


members would not be required to return, and that only the
Speakers of the two houses would need to be in their places."
All this the house seemed to clearly understand, and no op-
position was offered to the arrangement. Mr. Blake expressed
the opinion that the commission might go on taking evidence
from the rising of the house till the meeting of the regular
on in February, forgetting that the powers of a parlia-
mentary commission expire with prorogation. Mr. Holton
said he believed a quotum would be necessary to receive the
report ; and muttered between his teeth that he and a quorum
would be then-. Sir John, in reply, observed that if a quorum
were considen d necessary, a sufficient number of members for
that purpose could be found in the neighbourhood of the cap-
ital. On a distinct understanding of the facts as above related,
the houa Adjourned; after which members returned to

their homes, and the opposition abandoned themselves to false-
I and conspiracy. Instead of a quiet meeting with the two
speakers, only, present, or a quorum, with the lttth of August
appeared the opposition in full strength, intrigue in their
rts, falsehood upon their ton And when asked for

what purpose they had mustered si they answered:

We didn't understand that the meeting was to be pro forma;
we thought a full attendance wa> doirable." The intention
-since the ministry, abiding by the terms of adjournment,
bus disadvantage in having but a few of its sup-
at the capital — to overthrow the government by the
of numbers. And, certainly unlike men of honour, they
chuckled at the trap into which they believed the government
had fallen.

During the period between adjournment and the 18th of
August, the governor-general was making a tour of the mari-
time provinces, and filling public halls and school-houses with
his infinite eloquence. During that summer recess many strange
tidings fell upon the public ear. First came the announcement
that the Oaths Bill had been disallowed, and that the work of


the commission was at a standstill. It is not to be wondered
at that some of the opposition screamed out that this was the
doings of Sir John ; had Cod sent a bolt from heaven and smit-
ten the five commissioners, their inclinations for the moment
would have been to believe that the premier was in some mea-
reBponaible lor the taking off On receiving notice of the
disallowance, the governor put himself in correspondence with
the prime minister. The commission would meet in a few
days, and it Iran desirable that the public mind should be sat-
isfied as to -the truth or falsity of the heinous charges. Sir
John said there was one way that the end sought could be at-
tained, and that was by inning a royal commission to the com-
mittee, which could then go on as had been originally arranged,
placing the I -vid.-nce before parliament which might take
whatever steps it chose upon receiving the same. This is the
only practical way lying open now, wrote the prime minister,
to probe the facts of the case. Lord DufFerin grasped at the
gestion, and acted upon it without delay. "No one can
doubt," he said, ' that for the purpose for which the committee
was originally constituted, its conversion into a commission can
make no practical difference. As a commission it will take
evidence ; and as a committee it will report upon that evidence
to the house." Armed with the governor-general's authority,
Sir John wrote to each of the five members stating that, as
the oaths' bill had been disallowed, it was his intention to
issue to the committee a royal commission. The acceptance

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 32 of 57)