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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till at last trade was languishing BO low that it would have died
had that been possible ; commercial houses and financial insti-
tutions which had been regarded firm as the hills came toppling
down ; our people were fleeing the country in thousands look-
ing for work, while the solicitations of the idle for work, and
of the hungry for bread, were heard in every Canadian city.
The government cannot manipulate the state as it manages a
department i nevertheless crises do sometimes arise, when a ju-
dicious touch of the hand may give a new direction and a life
motionless commercial forces. The people, whether unrea-
sonably or not, believed that it lay within the power of legisla-
tion to better their condition, and they waited upon Mr. Cart-
wright in hundreds, telling their woes and asking his help.
But that statesman assured them that in such an emergency as
this, and face to face with these problems of trade, that govern-
ment was only a fly on the wheel ; and, turning gloomily away,
the sufferers heard it whispered abroad that the cure the fin-
ance minister had for this deplorable state of things was direct
taxation. " Our opportunity has come," said Sir John, to his
colleagues, at a caucus held about this time ; " want has over-
come the prejudice of a theory, and we will propound a policy
that will better this wof ul state of affairs and carry us back to


office." From that day forth the conservative chief began to
•nize and marshal his forces ; to "get his hand upon the
pulse of the country," and to breathe into his followers the
sinie hope and ardour that filled himself. Sir Richard Cart-
wright sneered at the " new-fangled doctrines," and his chief
losing a momentary restraint upon his vernacular, affirmed in
broad Scotch, "that the scheme was the corn laws again Avith a
new face." The question presented to the ministry was one
between commercial misery and a favoured theory, " but, in
deference to the formula, they chose to l>e stiff-necked, and
kicked complaining industry into the camp of their oppo-
nents." * In (he house of commons on the 10th of March, 1870,
Sir John boldly laid down the "broad national policy" of hifl
party, in a speech of much vigour and point, His contention
was thai there should be a thorough reorganisation of the
tariff, which should be constructed in such a manner that it
would, while producing sufficient revenue ^>r the current ex-
penses of the country, also afford i stimulus and a protection
to home industry, entice capital to the country, and keep our
own artisans at home at the employment which must arise
under the fostering legislation. Once again the cry went
abroad, and thi> time at the dictation of the conservative
chief, " ( Canada for the Canadians;" and the heralds appeared
through the country giving the -dubboleth a liberal translation,
assuring the clamorous workmen it meant that when they
e to the liberal-conservative ministry for bread, they would
not be offered a stone in the form of direct taxation; that
henceforth our raw material would not be sent out of the
country to give employment to the artisans of foreign cities;
and that no longer would the American "drummer" be found
Belling hifl goods upon the thresholds of our crumbling and idle
factories. On the 17th of September, 1878, the two parties
appeared at the polls, Mr. Cartwright and the ministry bound

* Prof. GoMwin Smith, in The Byetemd


neck and heel to their idol; Sir John with the light of hope in»
his eve, and " Canada for the Canadians " upon his lips. The
change Which he predicted had come. It swept the country
in a whirlwind, and the ministry and their god of clay fell in
ruin :

M Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen ;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on Que BMCTOW lay withered and strown."

Rolls away the cloud again -which had hidden for a brief
time the hero of our story, and wo find him at the head of his
cabinet, potent still for vast endeavour and g reat national en-
terprise. Mr. Mackenzie, who must have cursed idols and phan-
toms of every kind, did not wait till the assembling of parlia-
ment, but, with the demeanor of an honest man, who had tried
to do his duty, quietly gave up the ghost. The new cabinet
as follows :

The Right Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald Premier and Min.

of Interior.

Hon. S. L. Tilley - Min. of Finance,

" Charles T upper - - - Mr,*, of Public Works.

* H. L. Lan<;evin - Postmaster-General.

" J. C. A i kins Secretary of State.

" J. H. Pope - - - Min. of Agriculture.
" James Macdonald - M in. of Justice.

* Mackenzie Bowei.i. - Min. of Customs.
"J.C.Pope - Min, Marine and Fisheries.
" L. F. G. Baby • - Min. Inland Revenue.
" L. F. R. Masson - - Min. Militia and Defence,
" John O'Connor - Pres. of Council.
" R. D. Wilmot - Speaker of Senate (without portfolio).

The mxgnum opus of the new administration was the Na-
tional Policy, which, less for brevity than ridicule, has come to-


he known as the "N.P." The framing of a tariff striking at
the root of our whole financial and mercantile system, was a
task of tremendous importance ; but the difficulties disappeared
before the masterly ability and skill of Hon. S. L. Tilley. No-
thing was done in haste or blindly ; every commercial " inter-
est ' ' in the country was carefully considered, and its intelligent
opponents consulted before the law was put to paper; and
though, as was only to have been expected in any law ever yet
framed by the wit of man, for a country possessing more or less
a diversify of interests, itfl operation bore harshly here and
at first, upon the whole it was a triumph for enlightened
statesmanship and commerce. The aim of the new tariff was
twofold : to stimulate home industry, and to produce a revenue;
and with this end In view, upon all imported goods which we
were capable of producing at home, there was levied a heavy

tic, and an ad valorem tax; while upon such article*
could do! manufacture among ourselves, was put a lower
duty. "I'li«- tariff pinched in many places during its early
operation, anil many cried out against an overtaxed breakfast-
table ; but at last complaint had hex mouth stopped with
home-made sugar. It is not necessary to make prediction**
when we have at hand an array of facts. The national policy

been four years in operation now. Winn submitted by
Mr. Tilley to the parliament, Mr. Cartwright loaded it with a
n, and declared that it would neither raise revenue
nor stimulate industry : that, on the contrary, it would throw
a weight upon the shoulders of struggling trade, and make the
people more powerless than before to pay the tax. .But the

lit is different. It has raised a revenue, and produced a
surplus; and has been coincident with, if it has not in great
measure occasioned, the appearance of an era of prosperity be-
fore not equalled in Canada. We. know that the wevil or the
drought La stronger than ministries, and that statutes are
powerless to make the corn to spring or the sun to shine, but

do not hesitate to record our conviction that Sir John


Macdonald's ministry came upon the scene at an important
time, that its vny cry upon the hustings before it put a line
upon the statutes roused the spirits of the country, brought
public confidence to itfl feet, and drew capital out of its hiding
place. By its legislation it has done, and it is only folly or
prejudice that will deny it. an enormous amount of good; it
has brought into our lap millions upon millions of dollars of
foreign capital, and added to the gross of our national wealth
in an amazi: ■■-. The best proof that it has done so is

found in the refusal of the people, after its four years' trial, ta
give it up. There are portions of the Dominion, particularly
in tht- maritime provinces, where the people derive no benefit
from, and perhaps are to some extent Imrthened by, the direct
operation of the policy; but they are amply repaid for this
by the fuller throb, from the general prosperity of the country,
which they feel in their veins, The outlook at the present is,
that, while we may still expect some grumbling down by the
sea, and hear notes of discontent, mollified by the restraining
influence of the smuggler in the prairie province, the national
policy for many a year, if not for a generation that will know
Ofi not, is to be an institution of the country.

Uuiing the month that witnessed the re-appearance of Sir
John upon the ministerial scene, Lord Dufferin took his de-
parture from Canada; and on November following the present
Governor-General, Lord Lome, accompanied by his consort the
Princess Louise, arrived in Halifax. The fates which seem to
have taken so kindly an interest in Lord Dufferin, and de-
lighted tp assist him through troublesome places, must have
grown afraid for their portege* and kept back the storm which
hung ready to break over the vice-regal office when Lord
Lome reached the capital. In December, 1876, M. Letellier de
St. Just, a Dominion Senator, a pronounced, perhaps we ought
to say a rash, reformer,* and a member of Mr. Mackenzie's

• Merely for courtesy's sake the writer uses'the word " reformer," which is the
name of a party absorbed, as we have seen, many years ago into the Liberal-Conser-


ministry, was appointed lieutenant-governor of Quebec. M. Le-
tellier was undoubtedly an able man, but he was defiant and
haughty j and it is doubtful if he could look at any question
pt from the standpoint of party. Unfortunately for him,
and worse - till for political morality, he carried into the gub-
ernatorial chair all his party loves and hates, which he made
HO effort to hide, The conservatives were led by the premier,
ML 1).- Boucherville, in the legislative council, and by If. Augers
in the lower chamber. It is useless to deny that M. Letellier
came to the administration with an exaggerated sense of his
functions and powers; but what was worse still he believed
that he had, and he really did have, the countenance of the
Mackenzie ministry in hie feeling and attitude towards his
cabinet, while he was egged on to hostilities by the rash coun-
i • Brown and many other (Jpper Canada reformers)

II well as l.y the lradiir of his own province. I'pon

the other hand, the Quebec ministry, at the first, received the
new governor with contempt, and L, r ave him plainly to under-
stand thai his inclination or prejudice was of no consequence
to them; that he had a certain figurative duty to perform ;
that he was to sign their documents, and, bo far as administra-
tion was concerned, to think only as they thought. There
was soon open war between M. Letellier and his advisers, the
former disapproving of several acts of the government's public
policy; and after his ministers had several times treated his
jestions with contempt or scorn, he took the Leader of the
opposition, M. Joly, Into his confidence. This state of affairs
could not continue, and at last, at the advice of those who
had spurred him on to the conflict, the governor dismissed his
ministry. Sis justification for this act he based on three
mds: first, that he doubted whether his advisers
possessed the confidence of the province; secondly, because
lii- ministers had introduced measures without laying them

retire coalition. Historically speaking the two partiesnow in Dominion politic!
are the Liberal'O m and the Grits.


before him and obtaining his sanction ; and thirdly, that
although they had known of his determined hostility to the
railway and stamp measures they passed them through, nomi-
nally with his consent, although he had never sanctioned them,
instead of either abandoning them or resigning his office.*
Tin- subject was promptly carried to the Canadian Legislature
during the session of 1S7S, where it immediately became a
party question, and gave rise to a long parliamentary brawl.
John Maedonald made a masterly speech in condemnation
of tli«' action <>t' M. Letellier, and ofTered a motion affirming
that the dismissal of the Quebec ministry was "unwise and
subversive of the position accorded to the advisers of the crown
since the concession of the principle of responsible government
t" the British North American colonies." f This motion was
lost by a vote of one hundred and twelve to seventy ; but on
the return of Sir John to office, M. Letellier was dismissed.
This, thm, was the storm in which the new gubernatorial boat
put out, Lord Dufferin getting across the Atlantic before it
broke. We have not space here to discuss the merits of tin
question, neither have we the desire to say more than this
that the whole affair was alike disgraceful to the governor and
the ministry, is a stain upon our history, and serves to show
how unwise it is to drag the little municipal questions of pro-
vincial jurisdiction through the grooves of federal parties. But
one by one each province is dropping into the maelstrom of
general politics, New Brunswick \ being the last to cast aside
her individuality.

* Mr. Stewart, in Canada under the Administration of the Earl of Dufferin. Mr.
Stewart treats this question at considerable length, and with much vigor and

t See Canada Hansard, Session 1878, Vol II., page 1878.

t In New Brunswick, by a system of seduction and compromise, a sort of mosaic
administration had been perpetuated from confederation down to the present year,
■when Mr. A. G. Blair appeared upon the scene at the head of a new ministry.
Mr. Blair would be an ornament to any legislature, and his chief colleague, Mr.
Elder, is a politician who might take rank among our foremost public men. It
is the fate of controversy and party questions, in small communities to assume


In 1879, on the retirement of the former incumbent, Hon.
(now Sir) William Johnston Ritchie, one of the puisne judges
of the supreme court of the Dominion, was appointed to the
chief justiceship. He was the son of the honourable chief jus-
tice Ritchie, of Nova Scotia, and was born at Annapolis, in that
province, in 1S13. His paternal grandfather came from Scot-
land and settled in \<>va Scotia some time before the Ameri-
can revolution. His mother was Eliza Wildman Johnston, the
des lendant of a distinguished U. E. loyalist family ; hergrand-
- 'tchm-in of the Annandale line. He was educat-
Btndted law at Halifax with his brother,
Hon John William Ritchie, late chief judge in equity for Nova
S bia; was called to the bar of New Brunswick in 1838;
in the city ol St. John from L836 to 1855, and was
a Queen's counsel in 1854. He sat for the city and
>f St. John in the New Brunswick assembly from L848

ial aspects, and to be einbued with a hitterness utterly unknown when the
eats greater ; end if we in to believe the newspaper

nta of the lat- n mi ■ display ol

to Bay n< >tlii n_r <«f the vio 1 amenities

kn.-wn at leas- oea *hich are weU understood in th«

n they are held to be inviolate that did little

to thus.- eoncerned for our part we on—ider ■ hgfalitiiu with i

■ueof lords and all the other hollow paraphernalia, for eaoh one of the little

let, under the confederation, an expense and a folly ; yet they may

ate some right to an existen will sh<»w less of t his petty grabbing

'ee, and give their attention (we refer particularly now to New Brunswick)

•■illy source of income they have
ise money. They have far many years pursued I
ith their timber lands; yet it may not be now too late to mend,
DO, nession after session, t<> itnre telling the

en destroyed during the year— ami the more cut down,
ies, boasting of the enue he has secured never

been planted, or of one conserved. The -•.
too of • large tracts of timbered lend fa III! who, lllj , more, Ufa monstrous ;

like unto a man. who, not content with drawn t, falls upon, and

• d. The [umber lands (they are not, generally, ad-
apted sre all the capital New ns wiek has, and these should be
: not to much as an acre should be parted with ; for by an
•i the Bimple principles of forestry, and the adoption of careful regnla-
. these tracts would yield, and reyield, I timber for an in le-

a perpetual source of revenue to the


to 1851 : in 1854 he entered the executive council of New

Brunswick, and the following year was appointed to a puisne
judgeship of the supreme court, which position he retained till
asion to the chief justiceship,, on the death of justice
Parker. In 1875 he was appointed a puisne judge of the Do-
minion, and four wars later, as wv have seen, succeeded to the
chief justiceship. H<- has been twice married, first, in 1845, to
Miss Maitha Strang, of St. Andrew's, who died in 1847, by
whom he has a daughter living; second, to his present win-
ning and amiable wife, (I race Vernon, daughter of the Kate
Thomas L. Nicholson, Bsq M of St. John. New Brunswick, and
step-daughter of the late Admiral W. K. W. Owen, R.N., of Oam-
pobello, by whom he baa twelve children. As a lawyer, Mr.
Ritchie was an ornament to the bar, and Ins various promotion-
only the recognition of ■ rare order of merit. To the judicial
Beat which he now fills, he has brought an adorning talent,
a vast breadth of view, a sober understanding, and a fault-
judgment, that have won universal admiration and respect.
It is a mistake to suppose that a lotos-eater's calm surrounds
the occupants of our benches ; on the contrary, there is now a
kind of judicial war. proper and discreet, going on between the
Dominion court and the inferior tribunals. Owing to obscure
definition of certain provincial powers upon the one hand, and
of federal jurisdiction upon the other, in the British North
America Act, there is in this quiet way some conflict of opinion
among the judges as to " provincial rights," much as there is
among the politicians ; but the trying task of holding the
balance evenly between the aggregate of the provinces, and
each province singly, at once calls for the highest talent and
the keenest discrimination. And in this important respect, as
in all others belonging to his sphere, Sir W. J. Ritchie gives a
lustre and a prestige to our highest Canadian seat of justice.

Towards the close of the year 1880, it became known that
the government had entered into contract with a powerful
svndicate for the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway,


which had for many years be3n proceeding in a half-hearted
and desultory fashion. The entire road, from ocean to ocean,
it was specified, was to be completed within ten years from the
date of the contract, and that portion known as the prairie sec-
tion, and roughly estimated at 1,000 miles, extending from
Manitoba to the Rocky Mountains, was to be equipped and run-
ning within three yean. In return for this work, the syndi-

was granted a cash subsidy of $25,000,000 and 25.000.000>
- of prime laud, in alternating sections along the railway
route, and was to receive the roads already built under gov-
ernment control. During the discussion on the contract in
parliament the following Session, one or two opponents of the
ministry turned aside from the legitimate debate to indulge
in hitter insinuation with respect to the "Pacific scandal."
The prime-minister defended the new contract in a speech of
much power, and paused for ■ moment, as be glanced at the
members who had sought to sting him. " I will not/ 1 he said.
"draff into this discussion, as far as \ am concerned, and as
far as my remarks are connected with the Bubject, any refer-
ence to the political past. Allusions were made to it by those
opposed to the government, especially by those who desired
to asperse myself; but, sir, there is the record, there ifl the fruit
of the appeal to the country— and I am prime minister of
I Sanada." Well might the prime-minister be excused for hurl-
ing tin- unmanly insinuations back, in a tone of pride, and in
these triumphant words. He took occasion, too, to show to
what extent the country had been the loser by the miscarriage
of the Allan contract of 1872. " Nine precious years have been

rince that time which can never be recovered, during the
whole of winch that road would have been in successful pro-
gress of construction ; the men engaged in that scheme, if they
could have got the ear of the European capitalists, were strong
enough to push the road across the country, and now instead
of there being scarcely the foot-print of the white-man outside
tin- province of Manitoba, there would have been hundreds of


thousands of persons who have gone from mere despair to the
United States, in our own north-west territories. That coun-
trv. instead of having but a small settlement in the eastern
end of it, would have been the happy home of hundreds of
thousands — to use th smallest figure — of civilized men, of
tamest, active, labouring men, working for themselves and their
families, and making that region, much sooner than it will be
now, a populous and prosperous country."

In the summer of 1882, we find the conservative chief once
again before the electorate, asking judgment on the acts of his
administration. Nor for all the battles he has fought does be
■seem the feebler ; but ifl in the thick of the fray, with the fire
of other days in bia eyes, still wielding that subtle and irresis-
tible fascination over the crowds who have gathered to hear
him. A writer who makes pen-portraits moving with life, saw
the chief under the glare of the lamps, in the Toronto "amphi-
theatre," addressing a large assemblage, and among other
touches has given Dfl this portion of picture.* " Always clear-
v- >i< « 1 always turning, always watching . . . ; he pours out
that succession of argument, of wit, of joke and of story, many
of them old, of flashes of thought, many of them new and
bright, of political reminiscence and political fact, rambling yet
not unconnected, and always bearing straight on the point,
all of which have, for many a long year past, among Canadian
populace or in Canadian legislature, been more powerful than
the voice of other living man. I look on him, facing this way
and that, imagining, declaiming, striving, and think of Praed's
Sir Nicholas :

" ' The gallant knight ia fighting hard, his steel cap clove in twain,
His good buff jerkin crimsoned deep with many a gory stain ;
And now he wards a roundhead's pike, and now he hums a stave,
And now he quotes a stage-play, and now he fells a knave.' "

The result of the election is too fresh in the mind of the
reader to re-state it here. It is enough to say that the people

* R. W. Phipps, in the Toronto World.


approved of Sir John's administration, and sent him back to
office with a powerful majority in his following. Previous to
dissolution certain changes had been made in the personnel of
the cabinet, the most important of these being the accession of
Hon. A. W. McLelan to the department of marine and fisheries,.
in the room of Hon. J. C. Pope ; and the assumption by Hon.
John Costigan of the portfolio of inland revenue. It is un-
fortunate, but unavoidable, that it is necessary to take the
minister raw from the constituency and put him in charge of
a department which is a complicated organization of special
knowledge. It follows that to inferior, or even an ordinary
ability, in BUch a position falls completely into the meshes of
mbordinate, from which lit- is neyer able to clear himself.
An ambition that is above being the pipe whereon the clerk's
finger may s«»und what note it please, will struggle out of the
bondage, though it cannot do so immediately) and will over-
come the mysteries of the labyrinth bit by bit. ( tf (he impor-
tant and intricate office of marine and fisheries, Mr. IfcLelan
had no more special knowledge than he possessed about making
boots or clocks, but his energy and his fine ability stood by him
in the hour of Deed \W have, however, this to say: our popu-
lation ia rapidly increasing, and our fisheries are speedily dis-
appearing. Science has pointed out to us a means by which
we may resist the forces of destruction. If the science of fish-
breeding by artificial means 18 not a delusion, and we do not

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 35 of 57)