Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

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of the commission, he pointed out, would accomplish the object
originally in view, and hasten the work. But Messrs. Blake
and Dorion, the two reform members, refused to act, on the
ground that they would be under the control of the accused
parties. This view, in a constitutional sense, was undoubtedly
correct, though it was subsequently affirmed in the house that
the crown, not the ministry, had issued the commission, and
had control of the enquiry. But this ground at once becomes
untenable when we reflect that the viceroy is bound to take


the advice of his council, and that during the sitting of the
commission some of the impeached ministers were the trusty
advisers of the crown, which refused to consider them guilty.
or unworthy of confidence, till their guilt had been proven.
This objection then might well have been regarded as fatal,
8 the commission possessed of judicial and final powers ;
but its functions were only inquisitorial; it was merely to
collect evidence and report to the house, which might accept,
reject, or ignore the same, as it saw fit. There was, unfortu-
nately, no other way, owing to the imbecile tying up of our
powers by the act of the foreign state, by which the matter
could be probed ; and under such circumstances the duty of
Mr. Make was to haveconie OHl of the clouds and surrendered

real and the practicable.

On the 4th of July, certain information contained in the

Montreal Herald fell upon the public ear like a clap of thun-

ler. Thia information comprised a number of letters and tele-

nt to one C. M. Smith, of Chicago, a banker, and one

Geo. McMullen, of Pieton, who seemed at first t I be a speculator

or the representative of American capitalists, but who tubse-
quently appeared as an adventurer, In this correspondence the
hist 3ii Bngh Allan's exertions towards obtaining the

railway charter is set forth, the he had incurred in

poshing his seh. iit.'. —expenses which he declared exceeded
8300,000 in gold— and certain relations with Sir John Mac-
donaid and Sir George Cart ier. A\ once the hostile and the
hasty swallowed the statements, and concluded that the enor-
mous sum which Sir Bngfa alleged he had paid away had gone
into the hands of tie- ministers for corrupt tog the constituencies
at the late elections. On the following day, an affidavit deal"
ing with these charges, made by Sir Hugh, appeared in the
Montreal (l<i;<lt<. Itwasawet blanket flung upon the pre-
vious .lay's story, and d. pressed, sadly enough, the spirits of the
opposition. We need not here go into thedetails of this state-
ment. The deponent admitted that there were many inaccu-


racies in his hastily-written husine^sdetters ; but the statement
with whieli we are eoneerneil, and which at once vindicated the
innocence of ministers of the crimes inferred from the allega-
tions in the Letters, was as follows. "... In these and similar
ways I expended sums of money approaching in amount those
mentioned in the letters, as 1 conceive I had a perfect right to
do; I fc| U the fact, that any

portions of I na of mow >/ un n pedd to the members of

I by them or em their behalf,
' n " n ;/ forms for amy

•/'/A tit,' Poci/ic railway con-
'." So far then, the aceusations against the ministry had
fallen to the ground, and Mr. Huntington's allegations were re-
garded by a large hulk of the people as reeklett slanders. And
BO the opinion would have Stood had not the blaekmailer, Mc-
Mullen, come forward with what purported to be a concise and
circumstantial statement of the corrupt relations of the gov-
ernment with Sir Hugh Allan, in which he put forward in-
nces as facts, and assumptions as transactions happening
under his own eye-, bringing his disclosures to an end with a
number of stolen telegrams, containing requests from Sir John
Macdonald and Sir George Cartier, to Sir Hugh, for certain
sums of money. There was no indication as to the objects for
which the money was intended, or upon what conditions it had
been received; but once more the hostile and the rash were
assured that it had been obtained from Sir Hugh in considera-
tion of the sale of the Pacific mil way charter to him and his
American friends ; and that Mr. Huntington had alleged the
whole truth and nothing but the truth. And we must leave
one and both to nurse their charitable opinion till we reach the
stage in our narrative for another explanation.

The governor-general had reached Prince Edward Island
when newspapers containing the McMullen narrative came to
hand. He was considerably startled, Mr. Stewart tells us, at
reading the correspondence, and at once sent for Messrs. Tilley


and Tupper who were at the time on the Island on official
business ; but both these gentlemen assured him that satisfac-
tory explanations would be made in due course ; and his lord-
ship accepted the declaration as a confirmation of his hopes.
He had before setting out upon his tour provided for pro-
rogation on the 13th of August, by commission, but now felt
that the case had assumed such a shape as to demand other
arrangements. On the morning of the 13th, his excellency
was in the capital, and within a few hours after his arrival was
waited upon by the premier, who, on behalf of the ministry,
tendered the advice that parliament should be prorogued as ori-
ginally agreed upon. His lordship went over the grounds put
forth by Sir .John, and found they were good; and since he still
had confidence in the prime minister and hi* colleagues, nothing
remained for him but to be guided by their counsel, as he cheer-
fully was. He consented to the arrangement, but upon the

litioD that parliament ahould meet again as soon as was
consistent with tin* reasonable aOPTenienoe of members, after

six or eight make; to which proposal Sir John gave his
hearty consent. In the meantime the opposition, or the "party
of punishment," as they were not unwilling to be styled, had

. ved Qfj a course of their OWH« While his excellency was in
the maritime provinces they had adopted the manly and hon-
ourable course of endeavouring, by stealth, to prejudice and
poison his mind against his ministers. Mr. Huntington who
apparently was n«>t in the habit of allowing dignity or a sense
of manly pride to stand in the way of his inclinations, collected
a number of nev. , containing the charges against the

ministry, which he enclosed and directed to his excellency; but
they were returned bo him unopened. On the morning of pro-
rogation, the governor learnt that a large body of members of
parliament was awaiting an audience; and he was at no little
loss to guess what could be their mission. His speculation was
soon put at an end by Mr. (now Sir) Richard J. Cartwright,
who introduced the delegation, and then presented a memorial


signed by ninety-two members praying that his excellency
might not prorogue parliament until the house of commons had
bad an opportunity " of taking such steps as it may deem ne-
cessary with reference to this important matter." Of course
this request was an assumption that the governor either did
not know, or was unwilling to perform, his duty ; but gross
though as the impertinence was, his excellency answered the
delegation with his usual courtesy, refusing promptly and firm-
ly, h o w e v er, to grant their request. This was an utter collapse
for the opposition hope. They had nursed their plot through
the hot summer, and now that the hour had come when it was
to be put to account, the figure of the governor must rise
and thwart them. Only thirty-five ministerialists were at the
<japital, but the reformers, as we have seen, were there in force,
" an eager, expectant and exultant throng. Their faces showed
determination, hut no mercy; their actions convinced the min-
istry that they would give no quarter. For weeks they had
waited fur this moment ; and now the hour had arrived." *

They set up a cry of disappointment and rage ; and their
newspapers loaded the governor-general and the prime minister
with libel. Among those flying with the storm, regardless of
their dignity, was seen the figure of Mr. Edward Blake. He had
.sat apart for many weeks feeding his mind on solitary medita-
tion, and when he met his brethren at Ottawa assured them
that he had discovered at least two courses by which parlia-
ment could confer the power, upon a committee of its own
members, to administer oaths. One of these ways the Earl of
Kimberly afterwards stated, " would be beyond the powers of
the parliament of the Dominion ; " the other, also, was proved
to ba unconstitutional, Sir John pointing out that Mr. Blake
had misread the case occurring during the administration of
William Pitt, which he had taken as an analogy. Meanwhile,
the opposition party, through the ministrations of its orators

* George Stewart, Jr, in Canada under the Administration of the Earl of Dufferin.


and press, continued to sound the charges against the ministry
up and down the land.

Reformers having refused to sit as royal commissioners, Sir
John suggested to the governor the expediency of issuing a
commission to three or more judges of the land, whose posi-
tion would lvmove them from the suspicion of partiality in
conducting the enquiry ; and acting on the advice, which he
believed to !>e good, his excellency chose the honourable judges
Day, Polette, and Gowan, who promptly Ik gan the work as-
signed them. It would be too much to expect that any inin-

: ial arrangement could satisfy the opposition; and it is
hardly to be wondered at that before the new commission

at all it was loaded with slander by the reform \
and its members, and characterized as the creature of the
prime minister. An atmosphere, more poisonous than that
wind which "breathed in the face" of Sennacherib's army,
floated over the province: the aroma from a corrupt min-
istry, and from tainted ermine. Mr. Mackenzie, who some-
times himself, does not hesitate at exaggeration, at least when
writing political biographies, did not believe that either party
would knowingly otter falsehood upon examination, and, th<
fore, regard ed tie- terrors of the oath unnecessary ; but even
Mr. Blake shuddered, inwardly, as he thought of such men
a- McMulleii coming into the box and testifying upon their
"honour." Y.-t he, no more than any of his brethren, was
satisfied with the judges upon the new commission, though it
le lor him to condescend to the allegation that

e gentlemen would falter in their duty. But his choice
lay between smirching the honour of the commissioners, and
accepting their appointment as good, unless, indeed, he was
more anxious that formality should be observed, than that the
charges against the government should be thoroughly investi-
answers Mr. Blake, that is very well, but what if
the ministry tied up the hands of the judges, and thwarted en-
quiry in fatal directions ? And our answer is this : The com-


mission was held in the light of day; seats were provided for
the reporters; Mr. Huntington was requested to furnish a list
of his witnesses, and invited to come forward and question
these as he would; advertisement^ were put in the paper-
calling upon any persons who knew aught of the case to come
forward ; a large array of witnessed for and against the ministry
was present; they were submitted to the most searching eross-
i xamination by members of both political parties, and ques-
tions were asked by the reform side, and answers given., which
would not have been tolerated in any court of law, without
challenge. In what way, then, pi ay, Mr. Blake, were the hands of
the judges tied | \\ "henee. pra\ '. reformers of lesser dignity, cam- ■
the taint on the ermine | BcU had the judges been base as
Jeffreys himself, the terms of the commission were fatal to par-
tiality. Lord Dufferin distinctly, at the beginning, traced out
the chart by which the judges were to be guided. " Your duty is
not judicial, but inquisitorial," were his instructions ; they were
not to pronounce, to condemn, or to exculpate, but to collect
evidence and report the same to the commons without comment :
to the commons that might accept or reject that testimony
it chose. And as instructed, so they did. They furnished the
evidence without comment, though they stated, as they had
the right to do, that anybody who cared to learn their private
opinion, might have it. Many sought that opinion ; it was that
there was nothing in the evidence to corroborate tlte charges
preferred by Mr. Huntington. Now it might have been sup-
posed that in the interests of pure government, the gentleman
who made the odious charges against the administration in his
place in the house, would have been found among the host of
witnesses called ; but he came not — though he furnished the
the names of witnesses to the commission. And it might have
been supposed that McMullen, who had levied blackmail on Sir
Hugh Allan, rifled cabinets, stolen telegrams, and steeped him-
self to the lips in dishonour for the sake, also, of pure govern-
ment would have come to judgment, but he appeared not ;


neither came the Chicago banker, C. M. Smith, whom it had
been alleged Sir Hugh Allan had " fleeced " to buy up the
ministry, and seduce the constituencies. These gentlemen re-
mained away, and listened from behind the doors to the evi-
dence, tossing their caps in glee when any testimony was ad-
duced that they believed lent colour to their allegation. But
it Is sickening work to wade through this record of dishonour,
and we pass on.

The commission finished its work, and as the 23rd of Octo-
ber <licw near, the political combatants girded on their swords.
Sir Hugh Allan returned from England ; but before the meet-
ing of the session had resumed the charter. On the 27th of
October the memorable debate began. Mr. Mackenzie made,
as he always does, a speech that one who hears is likely to re-
member. Mr. Ifaokemie is • huge dealer in facts, which some

may call "dry," but which we designate as "hard;" and to
these he has the faculty of giving a bias which it is frequently
impossible to detect. His speech against Sir John and the
ministry was perhaps the ablest, in its way, that he has ever
delivered. The argument was strong and was poured out like
j-, dissolving acid En amendment to the second
paragraph of the ministerial Speech, he moved : — " And we have
to acquaint his excellency that, by their course in reference to
the investigation of the charges pr e f erred by Mr. Huntington,
in his place in this house, and under the facts disclosed in the
evidence laid before us, his excellency's advisers have merited
• censure of this house."
Mr. (now Judge) James Macdonald, of Pictou, followed in a
eh of great power, moving as a second amendment : — " And
we desire to assure his excellency, that, after consideration of
the statements made in the evidence before us, and while we
regret the outlay of money by all political parties at parlia-
mentary elections, and desire the most stringent measures to
put an end to the practice, we at the same time beg leave to


express our continued confidence in his excellency's advisers,
and in their administration of public affairs."

A- the debate progressed, the premier sat indifferently at his
desk, sometimes smiting, now with the light of scorn in his
the days wore on, and lie knew the tempter had
kn among his followers, and that some had fallen, a shade
of anxiety was seen in his face ; never fear. It was not that
lie regretted the loss of power, but it wrong him to the heart's
that any of his own bunds should doubt his honour
Yet like a brave man, who in the hour of such sore trial, turns
to his conscieiuv. the premies bote with calm fortitude a con-
demnation which he knew came not from conviction but from
interest, and soothed himself with the assurance that time
heals all sores, and that the day would come when his coun-
try would commute its sent* nee, and acknowledge the injustice
it had done him now. It was now necessary that he should
be sacrificed, his honour assoiled, his name smirched, that his
opponents might triumph. Woe to the man whose honour is
in the scale against the interest of a political party, raven-
ous for power \ On the sixth day of the debate, and after
the commons had expended most of its oratorical strength,
Sir John arose, amidst the deafening cheers of those who hav-
ing known him honourable, honest, manly and true, through
the dark day, and in the sunshine, believed in him still. The
anxiety upon his cheek was replaced for the moment by some-
thing like a gleam of hope, as the house rang with the plaudits
of his followers ; but the old expression soon returned, though
the language seemed trustful, and he seemed as one who ad-
dressed a court while standing upon his own funeral pyre.
Vet as the reader will see, who peruses the speech,* there was
a manifest hopefulness of tone as point after point in the alle-
gations was met and overthrown. We need not refer to the
speech in detail, contenting ourselves with a word as to the

* See appendix I.


charge that the government had sold the Pacific railway charter
to Sir Hugh Allan, in consideration of certain sums of money
to be used in the elections. On this point let us hear Sir John
himself. " The government never gave Sir Hugh Allan any
■contract that I am aware of. We never gave him a contract in
which he had a controlling influence. We formed a committee
of thirteen men, chosen carefully and painfully for the pur-
pose of promoting Sir Hugh Allan from having any undue in-
fluence. We provided that no one on the board should hold
move than one hundred thousand dollars of the stock. . . .
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have only one more thing to say on this
point: I put it to your own minds. There were thirteen gen-
tlemen, Sir Hugh Allan and others, incorporated by that char-
ter. That charter — study it, take it home with you. Is there
any single power, privilege or advantage given to Sir Hugh
Allan with that contract that has not been given equally to the
: twelve ' It La not pretended that any of the other twelve
paid money for their positions. You cannot name a man of

thirteen that has got any advantage over the other, »\-

that Sir Hugh Allan has his name down first on the paper.

my one believe that the government is guilty of the

made against them." This needs no amplification at

our hands. But let us recall the charge — that Sir Hugh Allan

had disbursed over S300,000 in gold in buying his way to the

charter. That Sir Hugh spent enormous sums at the early

s of the proceeding we have no doubt; that he paid
ich lawyers and orators to go through the country, subsi-
dized newspapers, and scattered money broadcast where influ-
ence was to be secured is almost certain ; but that the govern-
ment eared not for this, and was in no wise concerned, is proven
by the fact that after all this lavish expenditure Sir John tele-
graphed to Sir George Cartier, that Sir Hugh Allan's terms,
the terms to which Jie had been buying his way, could not be
it i anted. The whole scheme came to an end ; Sir Hugh's " pow-
der and shot " had been wasted on the air ; and the govern-


ment formed a new and distinct company of its own. And how
far from serving the interests of Sir Hugh in the new company
was Sir John or the ministry, we learn from Mr. Tilley's
statement, to the effect that when he was seeking for directors
for the company from the lower provinces, Sir John's injunc-
tion was, " But take care that those you select be not men who
will fall under the influence of Allan." Every step in the
negotiation was made with a view to circumscribing the
powers of Sir Hugh, as the government knew his ability in
manipulation, and the power he held by reason of his influ-
ence in the money markets. If Sir Hugh chose to fling away
his hundreds of thousands in buying influence through the
province of Quebec that was no affair of the government.
Money is the greatest power known to man, and those who
have it use it to accomplish their ends. It is only a few days
ago since a " railway magnate " passed through our province
scattering gold ; and in his progress bought up, it is estimated,
over fifty newspapers. But we need not waste time. This much
is as clear as day. If the government had been under obliga-
tion to Sir Hugh, if they had taken his money in lieu of their
support in the railway scheme, he would have been the favour-
ed one in the charter ; but instead of this we find he is one
man of thirteen, given the same amount of stock ($100,000),
as each of the other thirteen receives, getting no preferences,
save the presidency, which he would have obtained from the
company itself, and that he is hedged in at every point by
government restrictions. Madness itself could not suppose a
bargain or an understanding in light of such facts, unless on
the assumption that Sir Hugh Allan was an idiot ; and with
Sir Hugh alone, of the company, was the government charged
with trafficking. One point, only, remains now to be disposed
of. To what did the stolen telegrams, in which Sir John and
other members of the government ask Sir Hugh Allan for cer-
tain sums of money, refer ? Let us hear Sir John. He makes
no attempt to deny that money was spent at the election. It


was needed, and it was legitimately spent, as money is needed
and spent at every election known to man under responsible
government. " We were simply subscribing as gentlemen, while
they were stealing as burglars," affirms Sir John. He found
the Ontario government with its purse and its promises in the
field against him, and he had to fight fire with fire ; but never
he says, was a dollar spent corruptly. This local government
force was sprung upon him ; he found the enemy strong at
every point, and had to meet its strength with like strength.
Sir Hugh Allan came forward and said that if the government
bad not had sufficient time among their friends to get what
money they needed, he could advance them a certain sum.
Promptly we may be sure was the offer accepted, with the
understanding that friends of the government would do as
they have always, whether properly or improperly, been asked
., make up the amount of the loans, and other expenses.
But this did not tie the government to Sir Hugh; already
tiny had refused his overtures, and ended his hopes of the
BCheme for which he had disbursed his $300,000 in gold ; in
their succeeding relations they treated him as they did his
twelve associates. Here then was the feature which the gov-
erament's opponents called "had:*' accepting loans from a
contractor in a public work. But we have shown that the
act did not influence the course of the government in dealing
with the lender in his r.-lation to the contract; hence the
charge of impropriety _:oes to the wall. Perhaps some will
indiscretion '' for impropriety. We shall not quarrel
with whomsoever does so. One more point remains. Was it
proper thai the government should scatter all this money
through the electorate? Is not that debauching the public
mind? It i-, we answer without hesitation, but the sin rests
on the shoulders of the system which prevails in every country
under responsible, and party government. Sir John simply
did as his neighbours, no more, and nothing worse. At every
election there are expenses, some light, and some vast, and


these have to be borne by ministers and their friends. The
SpecUcfo may be pitiable, and it is pitiable, but it is true,
and is a part of our system as much as the ballot itself. At
the last general election, if the reporter of the Globe, who at-
tends to keyholes, is to be believed, Sir John gathered the
manufacturers about him, and levied an election tax. Probably
he did ; and his reform friends were not behind him. The
reformer as well as the tory, has his " fund " at election time,
and he does not use it to make the electors purer and more in-
dependent. Once, indeed, he did move in this direction, when he
farted a large sum to "put down corruption." The only differ-
ence between the c<msei Native and his neighbour in this respect

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 33 of 57)