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 42 of 57)
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Burke. But tli-' underinable quality by which the speaker ua
able to gauge the intellectual and emotional capacity of his

audience, to keep his hand upon its pulse as he speaks, and to-
sway it at his pleasure, Sir John | - in a degree superior

to thai of any living statesman. Sometimes, by a familial
i or two. you see him levelling distinctions between him-
self and the audience, as the clouds scattered when Ariel
raised his wand ; yon observe that one and all, the farmer, the
labourer, the mechanic, feel that they and the prime-minister
are assembled there on a common mission — the prime-minister
only happens to be prime minister, and speaking then; any one
else, also, might have been — the / is lost in the we ; yet by little
stages we observe that the crowd is led to see that the speaker
is the man who is doing their work the best. He makes no
reservations, and never sets up the barrier of ice between the
prime-minister and the crowd. Neither does he pose as a per-
fect man and an infallible politician, but as Lord John Russell
did in his " Recollections," tells them that in his public course
his footsteps here and there have erred, but that he has striven


to <lo his duty. Sir John has a fund of humorous anecdote
and joke which he uses in his speeches, and his hearers look for
these flashes even through his treatment of a Boundary Award
Of a trade question; but, with one firm step, still with the
smile upon his face and the twinkle in his eye, you see him rise
to tlie ground of dignified seriousness, and you listen to some
1 principle laid down in clear, terse language, and argued
in a style incisive and logical. Yet we know how difficult it is
to rise from levity to seriousness, and he who can do so with-
out sacrifice of dignity, reveals that which claims a respect too
deep t<> be shaken by the flashy foibles of a speech. Sheridan
usually carried "pickled puns" in his pocket to the house of
commons; but at last he found, to his horror, that he had raised
a Lfho^t whir! ! 1 not put t<> rest ;— that his audience had

refused to consider him in earnest, even in Ids most serious

and sententious mooda Sydney Smith was often a paragon of

penetrating sense and dignity; yet he had got the repu-
: a humourist* and when he sought t<> he most serious
had the i bion of finding that his hearers were preparing

to laugh, under the Impression that he was elaborating a joke.
I mce while he said grace at a very solemn dinner, a young lady
burst out laughiii

If y<>u .nt- of commons and the premier he there,

you will he likely to see him sitting at his desk, one legcro
over the other, frequently his head resting on bis hand. He

not fall into that clammy torpitude as it' he were a coiled

snake, as did Mi'. Disraeli; neither does he sii there his h<

upon his sleeve, and a cloud of daws pecking at it, but with i
and ears open t<> Bee and hear all going on ; never taking even
an unkindly thrust to heart, hut playfully overwhelming some
sententious labourer with a flash of repartee, good-natured ly
hut decisively and with dignity ('(.riveting some garhler of fact,
OT chatting in Open-hearted and jolly friendliness with a knot
of his followers. Some members like Darby Griffith, have a
faculty for asking troublesome, and sometimes even unper*


tint'iit questions. Darby one day so provoked the ministers by

king for facta which DC had no right bQ know, that Disraeli

who sat then at one of the treasury benched, uncoiled and com-
ing to his t'ret complimented the hon. member on the possession
of w a luminous intellect ; ? then sat down. Mr. Gladstone is
kept in a perpetual hot bath by members asking questions;
and sometinies delivers himself of a proclamation where yesor
no would be sufficient. Sir John'i way of dealing with the
smell-fungus members is much like Disraeli's; if he can give
the information he either simply gives it, or bells them it will
l»e brought down; <>r, if he deem that they ought not to have
it. then without any qualms, and with a pregnant brevity tells

i so; eventhoUf of his own valued supporters he

among the enquirers. Never dues that matchless tact seem to
fail him. There is no use in denying that Mr. Blake is a dan-
gerous opponent j and that his view of questions of law T and
fact are, in the main, almost certain to be riijht ; and this Sir
John cheerfully reCOgnise8,though taking the record the opinion

of the conservative chief has, on matters of precedence, and on

constitutional and other questions, Keen far less often astray
than the leader of the opposition. But should Sir John or one of
his colleagues or supporters have a bill or a resolution before
the house, and Mr. Blake called attention to any had feature,
or offered a substitution that Sir John believed to be an im-
provement; the latter has invariably adopted the suggestion
with cheerfulness, and courteously acknowledged its value. In
like manner, too, has he given, the benefit of his best thought
to the framing of the supreme court act and other measures,
while leader of the opposition. Sir John seldom makes a long

<h, and apart altogether from the magnetism of his ad-
dresses, the house, for this reason, would be prepared to hear
him when he rises. Long speeches have become an intolerable
nuisance in the house of commons, especially the outpourings of
members who have nothing original to say, but who are merely

rating the opinions of speakers who have gone before them.


In all his relations, either with opponents or differing friends,
Sir John is conciliatory; but he never recedes from a position
the tenability of which he has assured himself. His intellect is
clear and robust, and he has an eye to detect error in an oppo-
nent's position, lurk where it may. His speeches, as B rule, may
lodelsof clear, pure, incisive English, in which,
there is to be found the flash of wit, and an

under Current of Strong humour; while sometimes there darts
out a keen sting of sarcasm, or a shaft of scorn. His sword fre-
quently cuts deep, but it cuts clean ; ho is rarely Bevere, and
never -hows any malice or coarseness in attack. It has been
and truly. •• It Sir John make a statement of public policy,
then you may know he is equal to the occasion." And if the
difficulty in his \ crisis, then is he, too, able to

md grapple with it at the climax.

r John hi usin Isabella

('lark, in Se] ad by whom he had two children

John Alexander, who ra in 1847 and died the following

, and II is born in March. L850,and is still

living. I lied in 1857. He married again in

7. his present wife, Susan daughter of the late Hon.

T.J, Bernard, a member of Ber M. privy council of

the Island of Jamaica [n L865 1"' received the degree (hon-

v of !>.('. L, from Oxford University, and is alsoLL.I).
of Queen's University, Kingston, and a D. C. L, of the I ni-

ity of Trinity College, Toronto. In July 1867, he sn

ted a. E.C.B. civil by Her Majesty; and in ls7^
b knight grand cross of the royal order of Isabel

lica of Spain. In the same year h<> was nominated a
member of Her Majesty's privy council; and was sworn a
privy councillor, in August, 1ST'.). Sir John's residen.

dacona Hall. Ot Stadacona Club, Kingston, and the Ri-

i and Yacht Clubs, In private life Sir John has his circle

of warm admirers as well as at the public board. He is frank
and genial by temperament, kind and courteous in his social



relations, "a very prince," says a distinguished guest once at
his house, and a warm admirer, "at his own board." That
winning grace of manner which those who do not know him
think he wears for political purposes in public life, shines out
still more brightly in the domestic and social sphere ; that it is
really impossible to know Sir John at the fireside or the
hoard, and not to love him. The poet is not always right, for
thus he sillgfl :

11 He who ascends to mountain-tops shall find

The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow ;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.
Though high above the sun of glory glow
And far beneath the earth and ocean spread ,
Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
Contending tempests on his naked head,
And thus reward the toils to which those summits led."

Sir John has reached in this country the utmost round that
a Canadian son may elimh, but he does not find this lofty
peak " wrapt in clouds and snow," rather warmed by the strong
devotion and at lection of a band of friends who admire him
no less for those rare abilities which make him the greatest
statesman on the American continent,* than for those large-
souled and sterling personal qualities which have bound men
to him as with hoops of steel. When not receiving friends at
dinner or in some other social way, Sir John is to be found in
his little library attending to public business, or reading
until very late at night. He reads with great rapidity. The
range of his reading is very extensive and varied : this may
be really said to form his only recreation. In conversa-
tion he is brilliant and entertaining, and as several with
whom he exchanges hospitalities differ from him in poli-
tics, his conversation on public questions is tolerant, airy,
and good-natured. Mr. Gold win Smith, once replying in
The Bystander to the allegation of having learnt some
ministerial trick at " Stadacona Hall " tells us that his

* It is admitted, even by leading United States journals, that Sir John is the
ablest statesman on the continent.


impression is " that there is not much to be learnt at Stada-
cona Hail beyond the lessons taught by the example of a states-
man who knows how to lay politics aside in the social hour
and is large-minded enough to bear with opinions differing
from his own."

But the crown to Sir John's social success is given by the

place his very accomplished and popular wife Lady Macdonald

tills at the capital. Of the society circle there, is she voted

pre-eminently, the queen ; where in every project of social

the first and the last, and no less the favourite

of the elderly and the demure, than of the young folk. To go
to Ottawa and mention the name of Lady Macdonald to any
uf the young people there, ia at once to bring forth a peean in
her praise. Everything, they tell you that m to be "got up,"

Lady Macdonald has a hand in, not indeed that she seeks to

this place or even cares fox it ; but BO kindly is her nature

that Bhe is prodigal both of her time and energy to make

able; while it is a fact that nothing seems to

d so harmoniously or successfully when she is not at it-
head and front. Verily, then she be in the social, what
her husband is in the public, sphere, En political questions too
this gifted lady takes no little interest, and her judgment is

-aid to be scarce less sound than that of Sir John, who, it i<

whispered, is in the hahit of consulting her when he is about

ie important political step. And while we have

no doubt that, like the wives <>t' several distinguished I
lish en, what rumour -ays of Lady Macdonald in

this respect is true, yet it is the social sphere that she most
adorns, where she La no less warmly admired by ladies whose
husbands are politically opposed to Sir John than by those of
his own friends. In domestic life, Lady Macdonald is a model
woman, lavishing her tenderness upon an invalid daughter,
keeping a household that might well be the envy of any circle ;
attending to Sir John at late sittings of the house, and, as Mrs.
Disraeli used to do, and as Mrs. Gladstone does, wrapping up


her husband after he has made a speech, and zealously guarding
his health at home or while travelling. And to quote the

young people again, who will insist on telling their gratitude,
-In- is ready at five minutes warning, no matter how fatigued ^hc
maybe, to have lunch for a tired toboggan or snow-shoe party,

or t" accompany gatherings of young folks as chaperon. Add
to this her genial and kindly manner, her charity to the scores
who will press their wants upon a lady in high station, and

dally when they find her heart tender and her purse open.

r Lady Ifacdonald IS a worthy mate for her thrice

thy and distinguished husband.

As every labour, whether done in pain or Lingered over

fondly must Bomethne end, so too must close this book. The
1 in] making it> first tlight may not M-eni ni graceful on the

snug as tie- accomplished veteran of the air — though it may:
but no one will elude the ambition that prompted it to test

it< pinion-. This is our first book, and we may be reminded :
Y - we know it is, for we have seen your flight;" and we

... t that the work may have been adventurous and perhaps
be}-ond our calling, Lot, nevertheless, that we are satisfied.
And if the C 'ii>eience of a man upbraid him not, whether it be
his trade to write books or to rule empires, he need not to fear for
the critics who probably can do neither.

We have now followed Sir John through the wilderness for

y years, have seen him as a little boy with bright eyes and
■curly hair looking upon the land now so full with his name,
and so enriched by his work ; and we have seen him with
"shining morning face creeping like a snail unwillingly to
school ;" have wandered with him fishing-rod in hand around
the lovely shores of Quinte* Bay, and seen him carry away the
palm from the school-room; and later still, delighted at his
talent, we have observed him struggling with all his strength
of heart and brain to free from doom a noble but misguided
client; and have looked upon him entering the stormy road of
politics, and seen him through a long roll of turbulent years


till the dawn of a peaceful and higher era glows in the sky,
and we hear his voice cheering his followers to prepare for the
better order coming; then, too, this transition past, and the
dawn bloomed into the full day, finding him crowned —

. . " on fortune's slopes,
The pillar of the people's hopes,
The centre of the state's desire."

He has come through sunshine and tempestuous weather, has
borne the brunt of more than a hundred battles, yet is he still

11 of spirit, and as full of hope as when, in public harness,
saw him first* forty 3 >j still is his arm strong, his

blood warm, his glance bright ; and should he now care to
resign the place he has so worthily won, and bo honorably fills,—
something however which he is not likely to -1". and which his
country would mourn to see coin.' to pass -and sit down as
some men do by their cottage door as the afternoon advances,
glancing hack as one panorama at the record of their

lives, well might he feel that to him has come as much of glory
as usually falls to the lot of man ; well might a tinge of pride

to his check as he thought of the unbounded and Long-
continued trust the people have placed in his talents and his
honour ; then turning from the past to the present how might
he not thrill as he saw the glorious promise given to this young
nation, marrowy, gtrong~anned and ambitious, and the goddess
with benign Bmile from her abundant store shedding down
upon the land over which lie ruled, peace, prosperity and



appendix a.

This bill gjB!f9 rise to a warm discussion, Messrs. Hincks, Brown and
( ther Lending reformers giving it sturdy championship. Mr. John A.
MJftcdonsld resolutely opposed it for several reasons, one of which was
that the measure was to remain inoperative for three years. His views in
this respect, it will be seen, were the san he holds at this day, on

I of a parliament shown to be unrepresentative of the people.
nald said :

If r he avoided, it is meddling with til tion

of tl . should not be sltered till it is evident that the

people are suffering from t!i I that constitution as it actually

I say ' ment have never been called upon to bring

forward this meUSUre. The roioc of the country has been silent upon it,
and why ? Because the people b SI <\ under the present system, always
been fairly and thoroughly i . presented bj those whom they sent to parlia-
ment. The representatives, for the time being, have always fairly repre-
sented the people by whom they were elected, and there never has been
any want of sympathy between the people and their representatives. The
people have always been fully represented by their eighty-four members.
The best evidence of this is that we have no petitions before us in favour
of this measure; no one has asked for it. A sacrilegious hand has been
placed upon our constitution. In every question put to the people, clergy
I ves, rectories, or what not, the people of Canada have told their
representatives what course they wished them to take. Look at all the
other great questions of the day that have been put to the people of Can-
ada — are not our tables loaded with petitions regarding them ? Where is
re a single petition in favour of this measure from Upper Canada or
s Lower Canada? It has been said that this has been made a test
question at the elections: but if that is the real state of the case, the peo-
ple would have made their intentions known by petitions. The inspector-


ral introduced a bill which nearly doubled the number of represen-
tatives, and yet he says that the government had no intention of putting
it into effect. The only reason that can exist for such a course, is that he
sees the people are fairly represented by the members now siting here.
There is no reason for his proceeding, but this, which is the only one that
has ever been assigned : that the government can buy up the members and
can exercise more influence over them. The hon. the inspector-general
has a most winning way of exercising an influence over the members of
this house — a way much more potent than is possessed by any hon. mem-
ber on this side of the house. When 1 had the honour of a seat in the
cabinet, I found hon. DM tubers on the other side of the house a most
impracticable set ; but the hon. inspector-general is a much better hand at
that sort of thing. He is carrying this measure just as Lord Castlereagh
carried the union in Ireland. He traps a member here and a member
there, just picking up votes whenever he can get them ; and yet the strongest
reason ever given for this measure was, that it would prevent corruption
by the government. I am not afraid of this undue influence of the govern-
ment, tecause I believe the people of Upper Canada can take as good care
of her interests, even with only eighty-four members, as they could with
three times the number. I think also that I could not vote for this mea-
sure on account of the injustice of its details. Why, sir, to think that
4)0,000 persons in one place are to have six members, while 60,000 next to
them are to have but three members ! — there must be some strong reason
for this extraordinary inconsistency. It is evident that the country has been
cut and carved in all directions, without any regard to fairness or justice,
just to obtain the requisite number of votes to carry the measure. I know
that the inspector-general, if left to himself, would have done what is just
and right, but he is under the influence of men to whom he dare not say
nay. As I had made up my mind to vote against this bill, it is perhaps
not fair that I should refer to the details, but there is one great reason
why I should v< te against the measure, and that is that it is not now to
go into effect. Why should we now pass a bill of this import and nature
which is not to come into force for three years ? But I tell the inspector-
general that he dare not, according to the constitution of the country,
carry this idea into effect. He dare not continue the present house one
moment after this bill comes into force. You not only declare that
there are not a sufficient number of representatives, but you declare by
the Franchise Bill that there are a large number of persons in Upper
Canada who are not represented, but who ought to be represented ; and
yet you say now, after declaring that their rights exists, that they are not
to be granted for three years to come. The inspector-general cannot


give this advice to the representative of the Crown, and if he does he is
unworthy of the place that he holds. If he gives it, it will not be received.
Look at the Reform Bill in England. That was passed by a parliament
that had been elected only one year before, and the moment it was passed
Lord John Russell affirmed that the house could not continue after it had
declared that the country was not properly represented. How can we
legislate on the clergy reserves until another house is assembled, if this
bill passes ? A great question like this cannot be left to be decided by an
accidental majority. We can legislate upon no great question after we
have ourselves declared that we do not represent the country. Do lion,
gentlemen opposite mean to say that they will legislate on a question
affecting the rights of people yet unborn, with the fag end of a parliament
dishonoured by its own confessions of incapacity. ] have only one thing
.-ay, and that is, that I would recommend my hon. friend the
attorney-general to look carefully into the Inion Act before he Consents to
allow this bill to pass.



Vv the 1st of April, Mr. Macdonald inflicted a memorable castigation
on Dr. Rolph, whom he charged, and not without good reason, which was
plain at the time, and proved afterwards, with having a personal interest
in the object sought by the bill. Mr. Macdonald said :

If there ever was a farce in the world it is this proposed university.
You exclude all law, all medicine, all religion, and what have you left ?
This bill has been prepared to meet the views of certain gentlemen in
Toronto; it has been prepared to meet the views of the hon. commissioner
of crown lands (hear, hear); it has been prepared for that and for nothing
else. A great national school is to be destroyed by this bill— a noble
endowment for a great national institution is to be broken up ; and the
manner in which the inspector-general spoke, shows that he feels this. If
we are to have a great national institution in whic^i the qualifications for
every profession are to be obtained, a great national school to which all


the subordinate colleges are to look up, what will be the use of this uni-
versity which is to exclude all practical knowledge. By this scheme we
must go to Osgoode H ill fat law, to the great institution of the commis-
sioner of crown lands for medicine, and to Dr. Charbonnel, or the Chris-
tian Brothel* tor religion (Hear, bear-. This is the way in which the
endowment is to be frittered away fof DO purpose. For no purpose? Yes,
Mi. Chairmen, for I purpose — a very sinister Why, sir, instead
of one ureat university a national institute n, we ere to have a lot of little
institutions where people can learn a little Latin and less Greek, and
nothing well. Why are we to have this ; For. as 1 have said, a sinister
purpose ; to gratify the selfish ends and the personal feelings of the hon.
commissioner of crown lands.

Hon. Mr. Kolph said that the assertions of the hon. member for King-
ston were as unfounded as they were unworthy of that hon. member. II is
he descended so low as in his place in parliament to make assertions so
low as those he had just uttered 1 I ask him what he means by those
assertions ? Has he a right to say that I stand up here and give my sup-
port to measures for my own personal advantage ? How can he prostitute
his talents and his tongue to such calumny ? Such conduct is unparlia-
mentary, and it would be bettor for the hon. member to move an amend-
ment, establishing a separate medical school with public endowment than
to make personal attacks on me. A university teaches nothing— it only
confers degrees.

Mr. Macdonald continued: — I made those assertions because I thought
they were true ; and I repeat them, because I think they are still true ;
and because I think them true I cannot retract them. And I believe
that my feeling on this matter is the general feeling of Upper Canada. It
is known in Upper Canada, it is known in Toronto, that the commissioner
of crown lands has coolly and deliberately sacrificed, to gratify his own

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 42 of 57)