Joseph Edmund Collins.

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

. (page 36 of 57)
Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 36 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


then is it entitled to more than a homoeopathic
application ; and we consider it to be the duty of the minister
to take the matter firmly in hand.

An important addition to the cabinet also, as we have said,

Mr. John Costigan, the minister of inland revenue. He

born at St. Nicholas in the province of Quebec in 1835,.

i ducated at St. Anne's College, after which he removed to
Victoria, New Brunswick, where he was appointed judge of
the supreme court of common pleas. He sat for his present

in the New Brunswick assembly from 18GI to 18GC when



430 LIFE OF SIB JOHN A. MACDONALD.

he was defeated. He was returned to the house of commons
in the general elections of L872, and has not been defeated
since. We have already seen Mr. Gostigan through our nar-
rative and recorded our admiration of his actions. His ap-
pointment to the cabinet was the just recognition of an unfal-
tering fidelity to principle and public duty, and of an ability
endowed with special (nullifications for administration; an
unbiassed judgments and a calm and sound understanding.
YV. are inclined t«> aecept the many statements abroad that
his hand is already seen in the management of a department
which had been, tor but too long before his appointment, a
marvel of red tape an 1 inefficiency. One thing there is we
would wish to say just here and it is this : that we would there
had been less stress laid upon Mr. Costigan's appointment as a
Roman Catholic Irishman, than as a gentleman whose talent
w. add be a decided gain to any administration. The " Catholic
vote," like the " Orange vote," is fast becoming a reproach to
Canadian politics, insulting to such Irishmen and Irishmen's
sons as do not haunt the shamUes at election times, and above
all most degrading to religion. It is notorious that the votes
of Roman catholics have come to be regarded as political mer-
chandize, to be bought and sold; and that tins monstrous state
of affairs is due to a vanity in high ecclesiastical places which
imagines it is being invested with an importance and a dignity
while really degrading itself to a marketable commodity, be-
coming the game of lawyers and political adventurers, for
whom all these put out their hooks, and of whom they dis-
course in their business letters in such a manner that one
might fancy the " he" under discussion- was a horse, but that
here and there " His Grace " appears on the page. While an
uncompromising advocate of the rights of his co-religionists,
Mr. Costigan's influence has never been in the direction of
separation and estrangement — being universally esteemed by
his protestant fellow-countrymen — much less towards promot-
ing the state of affairs to which we have reverted, and which



k M WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 431

must bring the blood surging into the cheek of whomsoever
calls himself catholic or Irishman. Mr. Costigan is the type
of & true man, who conceives a certain line to be his duty,
ami having Bet up that star, unfalteringly follows it to the end.
Through the storm and the sun -shine he has ever held on his
course, wavering not to the right hand nor to the left.

It would not be well that we should close our historical

sketch, such as it has been, without devoting a word to the

great party Leader who-.' oratory has made the land pregnant

through the campaigns, and who readied his present eminence

moke had rolled away from the Waterloo of his

party. Mr. Edward Blake we need not introduce at any length

ader. He is the BOS) a! the Hon. William Hume Blake

bom we have spoken in the early pari of our hook, and

who was one of the greate s t orators that has ever appeared in

a colonial parliament, becoming afterwards a judge whose tal-
and judicial insight long adorned the heiieh. Mr. Blake
may be said to have come into the political world with a com-
pound mill-stone about his neck, a code of party traditions,
and a set of private opinions, both diametrically opposed in
nature and direction, yet being afraid to disavow the one, or to

ilaim the other, Hence, he is to the superficial looker-on
the embodiment of a mystery : while his career is a record of
indications gone astray. As in our -><>lar system, where, by the
union of the two great forces, — the centripetal by which the
in. and the centrifugal by which it would fly
away,— the planet is restrained and accomplishes only a great
circle once in the year, so too does the force of inclination drag
Mr. Blake one way, and that of party tradition the other, result-
ing in political revolutions that give delight to his enemies.
We to this criticism with no little feeling of re-

, as there is no writer that ever set pen to paper in this
country who has a higher estimate of Mr. Blake's abilities, and
his capacity to do good, and to perform great things, than we.
Hut nature let him off her hands without backbone, and in



139 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

rwi y important step in his political life, he lias hesitated as a

man in mortal fear on the brink of some abyss which he fears

la about to swallow him up, tortured between the pleading

voice of his own opinion and the mercileSfi man late of expedi-
ency. The writer has sometimes seen him in public places, and
gloried as he taw him, tear himself away from the party idols,
and strike that loftier, nobler note which appeals to that in
man above the degrading interests of faction and of party.
At such times he has seemed to us as one alone upon the
mountain-top, the clouds around and the world below him,
bing a greater and a purer political gospel ; — but before the
morrow we have found him among the throng making gods
out of -the dregs of party clay. This fault is a legitimate
subject far tie- biographical vivisectioiiistj because its influence
i- traceable in the praetical life of the countiy; the other
great short-coming of Mr. Blake is more his own affair than
ours. We need hardly say that to his manner it is that we
He -eems to have inherited the traditional whig cold-
ness ; and it may be said of him, as it was of Lord John Russell,
that it is impossible to be enthusiastic about him, for if any one
were rash enough to be tempted into momentary admiration,
the ebullition might be checked with a chilling word, a look or
a letter. As a debater who speaks entirely from the head Mr.
Blake's place i> undisputed in Canada; he is indeed, intellect-
ually, as great an orator* as Gladstone and superior to the

* Mr. R. W. Phipps, in the Toronto World, in an admirable portrait of Mr.
Blake, says, in shaking of certain other qualities of that gentleman as an orator ;
. . " Add to this a voice which seems to reach you just as it left the speaker,
though far away ; a power, possessed equally by no other Canadian, of framing and
of clearly delivering in long succession impromptu sentences, always grammatical,
often magnificent, and always in perfection conveying the idea ; add to this a
peculiar assuredness of expression and manner, and you have the leader of the
opposition delivering an address." And on the attitude of the opposition leader
to the national policy, the same writer says : " But on the great and living sub-
ject of the national policy he is lamentably weak. Ready to destroy the sources
of independent strength, to play into the hands of the foreign manufacturers, he
can be no leader for the young and ardent spirits of the growing north. As I have
before said, he appears unable to appreciate the re3ult of the injury he proposes






•■A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA." 433

English statesman, who wears his " heart upon his sleeve for
• laws to peek at," in showing cold indifference to petty annoy
ance. There is a suspicion that he fondles the idea of Cana-
dian independence to his heart, though upon the subject he lias
beenaa silent as the t »mb. Bat this matters little now. The
tide has ebbed past, never again return to him, and his skiff
high upon the data This glorious scheme is reserved for
warmer hearts, and champions loyal enough to the cause they
love, to boldly avow their faith. The other day we beard with
a thrill thai a champion had arisen in the chair which inclina-
tion would lead Mr. Blake to fill, with "nationality" for his
guiding star; but looking, we saw he Was a party slave with

chains upon his heelsand wristi Some newspaper represen-
tatives attending the session of L882, at Ottawa, waited upon
Mr. Blake with ■ modest presentation, which was accompanied

hy an address. It was gratifying to the delegation to be
ured thai Mr. Blake recognised the press ;e> rendering a

" vei ■;. deal of assistance to public men is getting their

before the count ion of those

winged postilions that are said to drive the chariots of Pluehus
through the Esther, were to wait upon the leader of the oppo-
sition with a sheet of parchment, he would, we may be sure,
treat them with the same measured courtesy and scant effu-

to work. Knowingly, I do not believe he w..uld advocate it. But at pi
give him command of the good si. a] Poli« y, and he summons the m

•uda to leeward, master, art- duties on coarse goods, prime nece>>-
and raw material, I see. I do to l" them. Pipe all hands. Cut them

away ! '

" ' Why, bleM my eyes, cut awaj < u\s to leeward, sir ! 'says the old salt,

'every mast '11 - '» by tin- board I '

pinion i- inaccurate,' returns Mr. Blake. ' You will observe that the
pressn m in no degree affect the safety of the masts, as it comes from

. and the masts are supported by the shrouds on that side.'
" ' But blow me tight I Your honour ! sir I ' oriel the veteran, the picture of

• y, ' what '11 happen when we tacks ?'
" * You do not,' »y» Mr. Blake, solidly, 'enjoy the confidence of the reform
and cannot, therefore, understand fiscal navigation. Cut away the

" Mr. W. B. McMurrich, ex-mayor of Toronto.
BB



434 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

sion. Without exhibiting our imagination at all, we can fancy

liim saying. "<> yes! — thank you gentlemen Fou are here
from the boh, That orb 1 recognise to be of considerable im-
portance to us in showing light." Mr. Blake entered the field
with a sturdy how and an unerring shaft : hie arm was strong

and tli.' object biased like a star. The prise and the day have

passed; the morrow and the might-have-been have come.

Edward Blake is opportunity in rains.

We have approached the cud of our Btory ; and the taper

barns low. However our narrative way be received we have

striven to do what we have helieved to he our duty, and have
written by the light that has l»een given to us. If ingoing
through oui there should DC anv leader who finds his

idols broken, let him !>»• assured that, while our judgment may
have been at fault, and an ampler Btudy of the subjects pass-
ing in such rapid review along the current of our story might
have lent a different colouring to our pictures, what we have
put to paper is our deep conviction, and is done with an
earnest jlesire to tell the truth. Actors along the ground over

which our laboUTfl have Led 08, have here and there arisen, for
whom an antipathy has grown up, as one learns to hate in <»n«-
short hour, at the theatre, the wicked and detestable Richard ;
but while for such our dislike has been hearty, we have striven
to giv3 them, grudgingly though we must admit, such credit
as has been their due.




CHAPTER XXIII.



Tllnl'<;HT AND LITERATURE



HAYIX<1 kept <>ur readers for forty years in the desert
where politicians play their part, we now gladly enter
that fairer land where soft winds whisper to the summer leaves
and wild flowers grow. We have only a little space at our
disposal, and we do not propose to Lumber it up with the good

and the bad, like an auctioneer's inventory ; for certain other

( Sanadian writers, from whom we trust we differ on most things,
are exceedingly partial to this habit. Neither can we give a
li>t of all the luctantly though we leave some of these

• flowers of the wild-wood to blush unseen Less than
fifty years ago, Lord Durham made a study of tie- social con-
dition of our people, concluding that tie- French^ lanadian race
must become absorbed by the English population; and one
he reasons he adduced was that they had no literature.
Manv changes have come sine.' Lord Durham wrote that re-
port The proving f Quebec has now not alone seats of learn-
ing distinguished by their scholars, and their labours, hut an
array of native litterateurs that do an honour to our young
Dominion Nay, more, up to a recent period, she has distanced
all her English sisters in the field of literature, and notably in
the departments of history and belles lettres. In the former
sh«' .till maintains the supremacy! but by our own Mr. Roberts
her poetic crown has been disputed, though her athlete of
the muses has borne the laurel away from the Institute of re-
gal Paris. It may not be considered out of place to say here,
that Lord Durham was not astray alone in his prediction of a

blank of letters for our French sister, but in the belief that

435



436 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

the French-Canadian would disappear before a sufficient force
of statutes. It is only by a gradual process of absorption that
the piece of old France which lies along the banks of the St.
Lawrence, will cease to he. The union of the two provinces
with a preponderance of English power in the legislature, ss
Durham proposed, could in time have crushed the French na-
tionality, except thai here and there, in the hack wood villages
a barbarous ad some antique custom would still be

found to linger, as lie who travels through the less-civilized

district- of Ireland finds the emhers of the Celtic tongue How-
es o

ing brightly in t cluster of Cabins upon which the light of the
has yet not dawned. But chiefly to geography and con-
federation the people of Quebec are indebted for the prospects
of their old-time customs ; and the traveller who, five hundred
years from now, visits our great Dominion, will find flourishing
on the banks of the St Lawrence, a quaint civilization, instinct
with the blood of youth, yet wearing the semblance of old
age; a social system that will remind him of a creature with
the sturdy limbs of a lad, and the hoary head of an aged man.
To our young Canada, developing into robust nationhood, it
is a cause for fraternal as well as patriotic regret to see among
such an important section of our people, opportunity and thrift
wedded to an obsolete civilization ; and it w r ould be false deli-
cacy for us, much as we admire the devotion of our Quebec
fellow-countrymen to the language and customs of their be-
loved France, the ability of their scholars and public men, and
the frugality and the industry of peasant and artizan, to hide
the regretable but palpable fact, that the ordinary French -
Canadian citizen is the social inferior of his fellow in the
sister provinces. He who passes on the rail-cars from the
English to the French territory, is at once sensible of having
passed from a superior to an inferior order of civilization ; he
sees not the husbandman employing the skill or resource of the
age upon his farm, but finds him still a slave to the customs
adopted in France a hundred and fifty years ago. The leaven



THOUGHT AND LITERATURE. 437

of modern contrivance through the rest of Canada stops, as if
confronted by a wall of iron, when it reaches the French-Can-
adian province. Like the island of Calypso, — though the com-
parison will not stand " on all-fours," of which Mr. Roberts
Bays in his delightful ballad,

" The loud, black flight of the storm diverges

< h er i spot in the loud-mouthed main,
Where, crowned with summer and sun, emerges

An i-sle unbeaten of wind or rain" —

stands the province of Quebec in the Dominion of Canada.
The invigorating galea of our modern civilization Mow over
all the rest of the land, hut diverge on reaching this quaint
province, which is left to the repose of its old-time ways.
One of the litterateurs of the French province is P. J. 0.

ivean, who obtained sonic eminence in the sphere of letters.
through that merit which finds a warm place in the human

heart, than through his prominent place in the political and
1 world. !!<• \vi rlcs Gurrin. a passionless novel

•ted to the social customs of the first half of the century.

The crudity which its critics took BO much to heart, was per-
haps it- least fault. The hook l>y which M. Chauveau will he
best known is M ouv&nu re et Intellectuel, though

nothing of his that we have seen entitles him to a niche in the
temple of fame.

Among the French-Canadian writers a prominent place be-
longs to J. M. Le Moine. This writer has been subjected to
some very stupid criticism, on the ground that his style is
too circumstantial, hut it is in this very respect that Mr. Le
Moine's contributions are chiefly valuable; and though the
painstaking anthor does not reach high flights, or make am-
bitioua pictures, some of his narrative is sweet and interesting;
and his work is certain to live on its own account, and also to
furnish food to an army of literary workmen.

A writer of some aote is Monsieur J. C. Tachd who once
wrought himself to the pitch of writing that barb&rous moral



438 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

drama TVow Ugs Mon Pays in which he endeavoured

to portray the religions and soda] history of the aborigines.
UN best book is perhaps his / 9 et Vbyagewrs, which, as

we may gather from the name, is redolent of the music of the
pines and the delightful romance and incident of the wild-wood.
M. Tache* has an unerring aim, and sometimes strikes with an
iron hand. His style is pure, clear and vigorous; and a spirit
of poesy breat hes through his pag

[/Abbe* K. EL Casgrain tears himself away from theology to
:• / / He loves to write in

sonorous phrase, that rings on one's ear like (he music of a mel-
low bell; and it is unfortunate that he has not at his command

a more inharmonious prose for the conveyance of his murder-

tidinga Tin enthusiasm is 80 strong that it frequent ly

takes him from "the straight and narrow road"; and his esti-
mate of the chanu'trr of some of the early Indian tribes should
not be taken without a respectable modicum of suspicion.

Prof. Hubert La Rue has written a series of domestic and
other sketches, wherein on the humble lot of the habitant

after the day's toil is ended, and hears the prattle of the little
ones gathered about the parent's knees, as if, indeed, the picture
was not in the imagination, but that he had stretched himself
as the sun went down, before the cottage door, by the waters of
the St. Lawrence.

In hi> 76th year M. Philip Aubert de Gaspe* came with
st3ady step before the world with his marrowy, warm-blooded
book Les Anclens Canadiens, teeming with legends of the
chivalrous period ; and M. Faucher has delighted a large Cana-
dian circle and not a few readers in France, with the charming,
collection of sweet home-portraits of wood and dale, the fire-
side, summer evenings, the field and the garden, and the whole
round of rural spots hallowed by time, and so dear to the habi-
tants, in A la veillee, contes et r^cits. M. Faucher has a riotous,
imagination, and would sometimes seem to have an ambition
to be regarded as a sort of Munchausen.



nan-
welve



THOUGHT AND LITERATURE. 439

The story of early Canadian history lias a strong charm for
If. Joseph Marmette, who tells in Heroisms et Trahiaon the
thrilling story of the defence of Fort Yereheres by that modern
Boadicea, Mile, de Vercheres, against a band of forty -five In-
with no assistance saw her two brothers, boys under
me servant, two cowardly soldiers, an old man of eighty
and some women and children. M. Marinette has evidently
back through the years and let a keen-eyed imagination
enter that fort where this brave young girl with flowing hair
and resolute dark eyes fronted the lavage foe. This writer
1 1 «• i ^ tli.' gift of the picturesque and a hunger for the horrible,
II Benjamin Suite lias caught the attention of a large and
admiring circle <»i" readers; and among his contributions to
literature, A<> Coin du feu is perhaps the best. He who

tpe in the summer-time from the hubbub and
glare of the city, and go "nt into the great woods where the
calm majesty of nature reigns, will find a fund of delight in

reading Un* Chadded Vown t and Le Loup-Qarou, the record

"fniic whohas not learnt forest i an- ing out of books. This
writer i- sometimes able to com.' away from the grotto and the
pine grove, and pencil, with life-like fidelity, an historic scene
of the long-buried past of his country.

To Canadian letters tic premature death of Louis P. Tuj>
was a serious loss. Still, he has left behind him an im-
perishahle contribution in Le Canada sous V Union. M. Tur-
s opinion i-> that Lord Sydenham, the first governor under
the union, was actuated by a narrow view, being Imbued in his
dealings with the French-Canadians by an anglicising and
protestantizing spirit. When writing our own sketch of this
ernor, we were unable to turn up all the documents we.
should like to have seen; nevertheless, from what we did see,
our conclusion was that Sydenham had a narrow mind, and was
capable of becoming a Metcalfe in proper season. But it is al-
most impossible to believe, yet is it not the less true, that M. Tur-
cotte considers that Metcalfe held the balance fairly between all



440 LIFE OF SIR JOIIX A. MACDOXALD.

parties. It might stem almost as if a portion of the same poison
which seduced poor old Viger from the path of duty, had in
some manner found its way to the ear of the brilliant young
historian*

ALU' Ferland has put literature likewise in his debt, in the
production of his very clever // iaUrirt </" Canada] not indeed
that we think his book ought to remain "a whole unto itself
alone." but that it contains a vast quantity of material which
some other builder may he able to turn into a more comely
shape. id abbe* has contributed various papers on

literary topics, and OHM in tbe summer's heat slipped over to
Labrador, giving some delightful sketches of that dreary land.

A neat little volume / SfcatttS, recently published by

T. Bender, sums up the current literary work of the French
province in a form that is terse and delightfully readable.

Of the current and late literature of the English provinces,
witli three or four exceptions, there is very little to be said.
Mr. McMullen has written a history of Canada for which we
are unable to speak with any degree of respect; and Mr. Withrow
has produced a book also purporting to be a history of Canada,
which is, if possible, a still poorer publication than its negative.*
Mr. Tattle's ambition also led him in the historical direction*
and he has written a history of Canada in two large volumes.
The first volume is a creditable compilation of others' labours,
i^ written with some grace, and here and there may be said to
contain passages of much strength ; the second volume speaks
with divers tongues, and reminds one of a large crowd of per-
sons tied together, somehow, b}- a rope, each one pulling in a di-
rection contrary to his neighbour. It would seem as if each
character, figuring since confederation, in this second part, has
written all that refers to himself ; while the whole has gone to
the public reeking w T ith printer's errors. Dr. Henry H. Miles
has written a history of " Canada under the French Regime"

* Withrow'a book is a refurbishment of McMullen'.-.



THOUGHT AND LITERATURE. 441

a conscientious compilation, exhibiting a cold-blooded desire to
record facts. Students go to this work as ships go to a wharf
for ballast ; it is a mass of unimpeachable record. A remarkable
book in its way is Mr. Robert Christie's History of the late

ince of Old Canada; in five volumes. It occupies the
place in literature that a variety store does in trade ; is a vast
aggregation of feet bundled together, higgledy-piggledy, a
hopeless wilderness of disorder, without even an index to help
the explorer through the labyrinth. Dr. Canilfs Bay Quinti
\< a valuable collection of raw material, also thrown together at
heads and points, but which is nevertheless valuable material
for the future workman. The book deals with the struggles of

-ettlers who first came to the shores of Quintd Bay, and
contains some delicious scraps in which you get the perfume
of the cedar, and hear the whirr of the wild dock's wing. A
very excellent book is Mr, James Rannay's History of Acadia,



Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 36 of 57)