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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Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 34 of 57)
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is that the latter sometimes goes in debt to bribe and corrupt,
as we see by the post-election scandals with which men like
Mr. David Blain now and again regale the public nostril. We
need not do more than say in conclusion, that every judge of
tli. land, every impartial observer who has studied the story
of the connection between the prime-minister and Sir Hugh,
is forced to admit, that, while the accidental relations between
the giver and the receiver of the railway charter, assumed, at
the first, an aspect strongly suggestive of wrong-doing, that
there remains no tittle of evidence, no unprobed source, not
even the breathing of a fact to prove that the conduct of Sir
John showed aught than fidelity to his public trust, or was
other than that of a man of honour. This, too, is the verdict
of the people who have repented of their rash judgment and
taken him back to favour. And it will be the verdict of
history.




CHAPTER XXII.

"A WET SHKKT AND A PLOWING SKA.''

FENDING the struggle a wrestle with the inevitable, Sir
John, on the morning of the 5th of November, placed his
nation, and that of the ministry, in the hands of the gover-
nor-general. About an hour later, he rose in his place in the
house, announcing that the government ha<l resigned, and that
ccellency had called upon Mr. A lexander Mackenzie to form
a ministry. Then the great eland of change rolls in, shutting

from our sight the figure upon whom our eye SO tang had rest-
ed with pride and admiration ; and a new crew appear upon the
deck of the ship of state. Two daya after SirJohriB resignation,
the new premier was able to announce his ministry, which was

•Hows :

Boh, Ai. i:\a.\m.!! Ma« kin/ii: Premier and Mi n. Put Works.

- Minister of Ju*
Min. Marine and Fisher

- Mia. of AgrUndture.

- Min. of Fi m

- Min. of the Interior*
Min. of Customs.

Secretary of State.

- Min. Inland Rev

- Postmaster- Gene ral.



" A. A. Dokion
Albert J, smith

■ Luc Li:ti i.i.ikk di: St. Just
EtlCHABD -I. ( lABTWBIGHT -

c DATED Laird
Isaac Burim

" David ( 'hkistik -
" Telesphore Fournier -
1 N >XALD A Macdonald



• This department had been recently created in lieu of that of secretary of state
for the provinces, which, being at once useless and a travesty on the imperial oflke,
was abolished.

407



408 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDOKALD.

BON. Thomas Coffin ... - Receiver-General.

• William Ross - Min. Militia and Defence.

" Edward Blake .... (without portfolio).

" Richard W. Scott - - - (without portfolio).

Mr. Mackenzie was determined on a thorough cleansing of
tin* Andean stables, and asked for a dissolution, which was
granted. If the reform newspapers were to be relied upon, a
large number of members had bought their way to the legisla-
ture with sir Hugh Allan's money; and by a new election,
candidates would have an opportunity of judicious bribing with
purer cash. There was not a superfluity of brotherly love in
tlie cabinet, and Mr. Blake could not hide, or probably did not
try to conceal, his scorn for Mr. Mackenzie; while Sir Richard
Cartwright, who looked with no friendly eye on responsible
< mment, was sadly out of his element among radical states-
men grown up from the trades. The chilly relations between
Mr. Mackenzie and Mr. Blake then, as now, were due to the
leadership which passed the latter because he could not bend
to negotiation. If Mr. Blake has ever had a political in-
trigue, which we do not believe, then surely must it have been
di tie rent from those of other men. We can imagine this sin-
gularly icy statesman threading the long winding-stair of a
solitary tower, and, having reached the top which looks out
into the star-lit night, carrying on an intrigue with his own
half mystical ambition. Never can our imagination picture
him courting his colleagues or the people for their preferences ;
never of him can anybody say :

"Off goes Aw bonnet to an oyster wench ;
A brace of draymen bid God-speed him well."

On the 2nd of July, the old parliament ceased to exist, and
the two parties went to the polls. The reformers had no
rigidly defined policy to propound, their chief mission being to
purify the country. They pledged themselves to keep faith
with British Columbia, but gave warning that they considered



"A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 409

the construction of the Pacific railway within the time specified
impossible, and that they would not bind themselves to that
portion of the contract. The other measures in the programme
were not of more than ordinary significance, the chief being a
readjustment of the franchise, and the taking of votes by bal-
lot ; a revision of the militia and insolvent laws ; the qualifica-
tion of members for the legislature ; the creation of a Court of
Appeal for the Dominion ; the promotion of immigration ; an
improvement of the canal system, and the development of un-
occupied territory. As well might one standing upon the
shore reason with the ocean that has been lashed into fury by
tli - storm, as Sir John implore Canada, disturbed and startled
by the alarming scandal which the reformers had ridden up

and down the land, to listen bQ reason, to hear his defence. She
stopped her ears, and turned away. The reformers " swept the
country," and Mr. Mackenzie, in the new parliament, found a
majority of eighty at his back We differ from Mr. Mackenzie
in our view of many public questions, and have no admiration
for him as a writer, much less as a biographer painting a por-
trait under the coercion of party prejudice, but nevertheless we
do not hesitate to say, that his intlumee upon the political life
anada has be- that he was faithful to his trust, and

ve to do his duty. "We should like to be able to say that
he was a popular administrator; but we cannot. He was, and
is, "Ut of sympathy with the spirit of our time; and the robust
judgment of the young country is against him. Cast-iron
theories always hedged him in, and set bounds to his every im-
pulse and plan; at last they grew so narrow as to become his
coffin. A man who follows a doctrine, of course, has no need
i<»r brains; and reminds one of the captain on the lee shore
who scorned the advice of his officers, went by the "Navi-
gator's Guide," and put his vessel upon the rocks. But it is
only ignorance or prejudice that would deny to Mr. Mackenzie
a place amongst the foremost statesmen of his time. In and
out of office he has exhibited a tireless industry in examining



410 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

and mastering every subject belonging to the public sphere ;
and those who have seen his inner life declare he has never
lived an idle day. Of his policy of stubborn resistance to the
popular will, he certainly was the heir rather than the arbiter,
and if he ever desired to be free from the yoke of that power
which dominated almost every important action of his admin-
istration, his escape from the leading strings was made after
his opportunity had been lost, and when he never again could
breathe the breath of confidence into the people. In later
n his head rolled on the block to propitiate the decrepit
policy of his master's making. Nor has the deposed leader
any loyalty for the hand that cut off his head ; but repays lii<
lucky rival with a support as frigid as the latter gave to him
when he became prime-minister. Too often the community
is the measure of the man, the " village Hampden " seldom at
taining to the stature of the giant ; and if our colonial states-
men develop smallermindedness in the political sphere, than
British statesmen, the fault is perhaps rather the country >
than their own. But this much is certain : From 1840 to
1 S ~>'2, Lord John Russell was prime-minister of England, with
Palmerston as foreign secretary ; but in 1855, the latter be-
came premier, his former leader taking the colonial secretary-
ship ; and the mast amicable relations existed between the two
statesmen. In 1835, the Duke of Wellington accepted the
foreign secretaryship, under Peel, with cordial loyalty, bending
to the wishes of his party ; though the bluff old statesman was
not without the opinion that his prowess in the council was only
equalled by his skill in campaigns. British history abounds
with similar instances, the leader of to-day becoming the subor-
dinate of to-morrow, not regarding the change as a personal
injury by the fortunate rival, but as one of the fortunes of po-
litical war. One of Mr. Mackenzie's faults seems to have been
a repellent manner which he could no more control than if it
had been dyspepsia ; but many a one who had claims upon his
courtesy came out of his presence vowing revenge. Such slight



"A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 411

faults, however, help sometimes to make up a bill of assassina-
tion. But the change of heads, surely, did not make the re-
form atmosphere warmer. The party lost a leader, whose blood
was cold ; and got an iceberg.

When Mr. Mackenzie assembled his forces at the capital, he
soon discovered that office is a boisterous sea, studded wdth
rocks, where shipwreck awaits the helmsman who is given to-
napping. The ghost of poor Scott, whom the reformers had
conjured at the election, arose in the cabinet, the premier find-
ing that the task of conscientious duty was vastly easier out
of office than when leading a government. The murderer Riel,
for whose apprehension Mr. Blake, with the approbation of Miv
Mackenzie, had offered a reward of s.yooo, was elected for
Provencher, at the general elections, and actually presented

.-elf at Ottawa; was introduced to the clerk of the house,
took the oath, and was enrolled a member of the legislature.
During the election of 1873," tin blood of pour Scott " had been
chief reform battle cry; but a year later Mr. Mackenzie-
permits the unpunished murderer to come into the capital,
brazenly stalk through the city for days, and then boldly pre-
liiniself to the clerk of the house of commons and sign the
members' roll. We have not been able so express any feeling
but indignation at the conduct of Sir John Macdonald's govern-
ment in shielding Riel from the ooneeqnenees of his crime;
bat indignation has been succeeded by contempt for the action
of Mr. Mackenzie is permitting this felon, red-handed, and pre-
Baming,to present himself before an officer of the legislature,
and to swear upon the Holy Scriptures the oath of an unbrand-
e 1 man. On the 15th of April, Mr. Mackenzie Bowell,the pre-
sent minister of customs, moved for the expulsion of the mur-
derer from parliament, which was carried by a vote of 124 to-
n's; bat sixty-eight members did actually vote that this man-
slayer should be permitted to retain his seat. Let some histo-
rian who does not care whether or not he soils his page, put irk
the pillory the names of this sixty-eight.



412 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

Among the other difficulties with which the premier found
he had to cope was the agitation on the New Brunswick school
Mil, to which we have referred; and complications arising out
of the repudiation of the contract to build the Pacific railway
within the specified time. The engineers employed upon the
surveyi itemed the mimatry by pictures of gigantic difficulties,
and 1 1 11 wars was deemed insufficient to complete the work ;
though the reader will conclude that even great engineering
obstacles disappear in the face of proportionate energy. When
British Columbia learnt that we had broken faith, refusing her
marriage portion, her indignation knew no bounds ; and to ap-
pease the storm of passion in the mountainous colony, Mr. Mac-
kenzie despatched thither Mr. J. D. Edgar, a gentleman of much
ability, and of good address, to endeavour to pacify, with ex-
planation, the excited colonists. Mr. Edgar held several con-
ferences with the premier of the colony, Mr. Walkem, but the
luctof that gentleman does not seem to have been either
politic or dignified, and the envoy, without having accomplish-
ed anything, though the fault was not his, returned to Ontario.
After some diplomatic wrangling, the " Carnarvon terms " were
proposed to the Dominion government, which provided for the
-construction of the rairway from Esquimault to Nanaimo with
all possible dispatch ; that the surveys on the mainland should
be pushed with all possible vigour; that the waggon road and
telegraph line should be immediately constructed ; that a sum
of not less than $2,000,000 per annum should be expended on
the British Columbia portion of the line, and that the railway
should be completed and open for traffic from the Pacific sea-
board to a point at the western end of Lake Superior, before
the 31st of December, 1890. Legislation was introduced to
■carry these terms into effect, though it was reserved to a suc-
ceeding ministry to remove the road from the statute book to
the prairie and the mountain.

We cannot in the space now remaining to us, follow Mr.
Mackenzie through his administration, but must content our-



"A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 413

selves with a hasty glance at his most important work. Dur-
ing the vear 1876, the United States demanded of Great Britain
the extradition of certain fugitives from justice, under the*
terms of the tenth clause of the Ashburton treaty, but the
English government refused to grant the request, unless upon
the condition that the offenders should not be tried for any
offence other than that for which their surrender had been
demanded* To thifl wrong-headed stipulation the United
States government would not agree, and the operation of the
clause named was for the time suspended. Canadian criminals
fled across, the boundary, finding protection under the Ameri-
can tla;_r. and forgers, murderers and escaped convicts came
trooping fr<»in the republic into our cities, where they laughed
at the laws they had outraged. Such a state of affairs was, of
rse, intolerable j the British government with a grace in
which there was do dignity receded from Its position of stupid

obstinacy, and the suspended clause assumed its former virtue.
A Canadian extradition act was passed by the Dominion par-
liament on the following war, but owing to the existence of
the imperial law, it has since remained as lumber on the
Itatnte book. In 1874, the general election law providing for
by ballot, simultaneous elections, and the abolition of
property qualification for members was passed; in 1875, was-
btHshed the Supreme Court of Canada, having civil and
criminal jurisdiction throughout the Dominion, and taking away
— though only in nam. — the right of appeal to England, except
where imp. rial interests were involved; in the same session
passed the Canada temperance, the homestead exemption T
the petition of right, the militia, the maritime court, and the
public accounts audit acts. By the latter it was provided that
the auditor-general should be a detective, his functions being
to keep his eyes open for ministerial dishonesty ; and his office
was put beyond cabinet control. As the assumption of the act
was that governments are given to steal, and that auditors are
not incorruptible, persons as suspicious as the framers of the



414 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

measure must be in a state of perpetual alarm, lest dishonest
ministers may some day league themselves with the temptable
auditor for the purpose of plunder. Besides these important
measures, it is to the credit of Mr. Mackenzie that he has left
to us, though in leges won w ar j p toj a wider range of constitu-
tional privilege. That respectable fossil in the colonial office,
doling the early years of Lord Dufferin's regime, had through
the plural pronoun of the first estate, issued these instructions
t q the governor-grnt ml. If, in any case, you see sufficient
cause to dissent from tlir Opinion of the major part, or the
whole of our (sic) privy council for our (sic) Dominion, it shall
be competent for you to exercise the powers and authorities
1 in you by our commission, and by these our instructions,
in 9pp<mUon to such tkt if! "/' >iiin,i. " These, of course, are the
words of a scribe, and the sentiments of a sovereign, innocent
of the trend of modern history, and of the nature of Canadian
spirit Mr. Mackenzie, to his credit let it be said, challenged
this insolrnt impertinence, opened correspondence with the
colonial office, and contended that the governor-general, his
council an-1 thr parliament of Canada should bear the same re-
lation to the people of the Dominion, with regard to all acts of
domestic policy, as the Queen, her privy council, and the im-
perial parliament bear to Great Britain. To this firm conten-
tion, the home office, after some resistance, with a supercilious
shrug, at last consented. It is difficult to read these des-
patches, much less to write about them, and 4 keep one's temper.
We have only this to say : When we are ready for separation,
and the day is not far, it is our desire to part from our mother
with feelings of good will ; but this will be impossible if the
colonial office is permitted to go on provoking our resentment.
An imperial puppet at Ottawa, in the present temper of our
people, would be surprised at the suddenness with which Cana-
dians would return him to the government whence he came, did
he dismiss a ministry in whom the parliament and the people
had confidence. Few suppose that the rash attempt will be



11 A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 415

made ; we are assured even from imperial quarters that Down-
ing street has withdrawn her hand ; yet the wolf we saw yes-
terday may not be dead, and we must not be charged with over
timidity, if we show anxiety about our folds. In 1848, we
thought we had seen the last of the Downing-street wolf ; but
as lie appeared again in 1873, there is no sufficient guarantee
that we arc not to have still another visitation. We have no
faith, we must confess, in frightening away the wolf; we will
be able to rest without fear only when we see him fairly de-
stroyed. A good deal has been written by light writers and
by heavy writers, concerning the functions of a governor-gen-
< nil. <T his lieutenant, under responsible government; and we
ii Mr. Aipheus Todd, C.B., picking his feeble way
through a waste of constitutional tombs by the light of a tal-
low dip. Some assert that the duty of the governor-general is
now merely to lign documents; While Others maintain that he
i> the agent of the state that appoints him, and holds in his
hand a power greater than tin- people, With the latter view,
may Bay, we are in acc«»r«l. To talk of the supremacy of
the people in a subordinate state, is to utter a paradox, even
though the shadow of foreign domination fell across our coun-
try but once in a generation. Practically, (though there is at
least one important exception) we do now govern ourselves;
but we somrtini' Oiat we do so only by the sufferance

of the foreign agent at Ottawa. The type of a perfect legisla-
tive and governing system is the municipal institution. The
warden (or the reeve as he is sometimes called) is not himself
the authority, but the executor of the council's will ; the recep-
tacle wherein resides the authority of the assemblage. Author-
ity is indivisible, and is resident only in unity; and in the
municipal institution is begotten of the council — which is an
embodiment of the people's will — and is expressed through
the person presiding. The warden has no power save that
which he derives from those over whom he presides ; but he is
at once the executor and the representative of the will of that



416 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

body. This is, then, the true type of government by the people.
In the Canadian cabinet, the authority of ministers is resident
in, and administered by, the president of the council ; but that
authority is paraded before the overshadowing authority of the
foreign power, as Tested in the agent of the latter, and may be
pted or set aside. In our provincial governments the case
ia tlif same in form, though differing greatly in nature, the
Canadian ministry filling in a large degree the place of the
foreign power with respect to the higher cabinet. Our friends
in the republic glory in sounding upon their trumpets that
they have government by the people; but in the veto, which
is an assumption that one man i> wiser than many millions,
there is more than the phantom of a king. The governor-gen-
eral then, may be a " wooden horse," but like that of the Greeks
before the gates of Troy, he has within him a power whereof
few of us dream. We have been fortunate in the mild domi-
neering of such foreign agents as the Dufferins and the Lornes ;
but we may get another Metcalfe before we are all gray, and
tl irn we shall probably have — independence.

In 1877, it became known to Mr. Mackenzie, that the impe-
rial government were about appointing, as the Canadian repre-
sentative at the Halifax fishery commission, an English diplo-
matist. The premier at once offered a firm protest, and main-
tained that it would be an outrage if the Dominion were to be
without a local representative in view of the magnitude of her
interests at stake. The imperial government, however, did not
consider that we were entitled to a domestic commissioner,
contending, among themselves, that it was an affair of the em-
pire — though the interests of Canada alone were at stake.
Yielding, however, to the uncompromising attitude of Mr. Mac-
kenzie and the ministry, and " to satisfy the colonists," Sir A.
T. Gait was nominated as the Canadian representative. In ad-
dition to the higher grounds of manhood, equality and liberty
which make the scheme of Canadian independence so dear to
all those who scorn to be " subjects " of a foreign state when



"A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 417

they may be " citizens " of their own, are several questions
bearing upon the trade and welfare of our people, by which we
sutler from being held in the leading-strings. It is surely more
than an imaginary grievance that we are not permitted to make
our own commercial treaties, but must be content to accept the
altered into on our behalf by the foreign govern-
ment. In a speecli of tremendous power, during the session of
L882, Mr. Blake contended that the right of making Canadian
treaties should be in the Dominion government. Some time
in writers in the newspapers declared that Mr.
Blake was at beart a staunch friend of Canadian independence;
whereupon, at a public gathering in Montreal a few months
later, lie repudiated bis utterances at the late session of parlia-
ment, by declaring that we noWj practically, had self govern-
ment in Canada. Mr. Blake's gteai speeches, unfortunately,
but too often resemble railway brains running In different di-
ventualiy meeting in disastrous collision.
After the defeat of Sir John at the polls, the conservative
embled

" . Scattered sedge

Afloat, when, with Betes winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red Sea coast,"

and were many dreary weeks before they had spirit to raise
their heads. Two or three members at a caucus, which at last
made a desperate effort for life and organization, were of the
opinion that Sir .I<»lin had seen bis time and done his work ;
1-ut such counsel only Btirred the deep-seated loyalty of the
party to the chief who had led them so often to victory, to a
new activity. Once again the well-beloved leader sat at the
head of his erstwhile scattered followers, and began to whisper
in their ear the words of hope. He had been studying the poli-
tical situation, and saw that decay had laid its hand upon the
ruling party. The country had fallen into a state of commer-
cial ud year after year, during the administration
of Mr. Mackenzie, saw the situation grow worse. Enterprise

AA.



418 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

was without heart, capital shrank timidly away, and confidence
had fairly gone out of the country. Each session of parliament
showed a large deficiency in receipts in comparison with the
expenditure. For some time previous to 1874, the customs
duties on unenumerated imports had been 15 per cent., but in
the session of the last-named year, to meet the threatened de-
ficit, Mr. (now Sir) R. J. Oartwright, minister of finance, intro-
duced a measure providing for an increase to 17', per cent. Mr.
Oartwright, like all other statesmen, had no hesitation in ad-
mitting that taxation was bad ; but he preferred taxation pure
and >imple. to taxation with a saving clause. His increase fell
into the gaping jaws of deficit, which still hungered for more.
Year after year the balanc o the wrong side of the book,



Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 34 of 57)