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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In Bantling Bay while the whale blows,

The fate of Franklin no one knows ; * * *

and told, how, often in the wierd light of the aurora bore-

the brave commander and two of his company, clad in

white, were seen gliding swiftly by bound for the frozen pole.




CHAPTER VI.

THE LIGHTS OF '44.



WILLIAM HENRY DRAPER, whose commanding pres-
ence and sweet silvery voice would attract anybody
who visited the gallery of the legislature, was born in Lon-
don, England, in 1801. His father was rector of a High Epis-
copal Church there, but the son yearning for adventure left
the parsonage when a mere lad and entered as a cadet on board
an East Indiaman. Here he had plenty of the adventure that
falls to the middy's share, but tiring of the " floating palace,"
as Marryat describes the East Indiamen of those days, and
even the allurement of a tiger hunt in the jungle after the voy-
age, the young rover, in his twentieth year, reached Canada,
and settled down to the less romantic employment of teaching
school in Port Hope. But this new occupation was only a
stepping-stone and did not detain him long. He studied law
and was called to the bar, taking up his residence in Toronto*
or what was then known as Little York. In 1836 Toronto
elected him to the legislature of Upper Canada, and the fol-
lowing year, at the invitation of Sir Francis Bond Head, he
took a seat in the executive without a portfolio. During
the battle of smoke at Gallows' Hill he was an aide-
de-camp to the governor ; became solicitor-general in 1837,
and attorney-general in 1840, succeeding, to the latter office,
Hon. Christopher A. Hagerman. Mr. Draper was a tory. He
staunchly upheld the union of Church and State, but did not
consider that any church, save his own, had the right to an offi-
cial existence. Dear to him, above every feature of government,

86



THE LIGHTS OF 'U. 87

was the prerogative of the Crown, which he looked upon as a
constitutional safeguard, never indeed regarding it as a tyranni-
cal engine, even when it kept the majority under its heel
and demitted the governing power to the minority. Yet, ac-
cording to the light he had upon political liberty, he wafl i
good man, and loved his country well. The fact is, he regarded
"popular rights " as a doctrine so full of evil, that, it would,
if granted, undermine our stately systems and plunge the whole
governmental fabric into ruin. As all good and thoughtful men
1 the doctrines of communism, so did he regard
the principles of the reformers. During many a year he was
i brake upon the gr oat -rolling wheel of progress, but in his
obstruction saw only the duty of the patriot. He possessed a
graceful form and a commanding presence; and when lie ad-
dressed a jury, in his earlier years, or his fellow legislators in
later life, so rich and courtly was his eloquence, so sweet and
insinuating were tic tones of his voice, that he won for him-
self the* name of "Sweet William." He had a subtle know-
ledge of human nature, an inexhaustible fund of tact when
beset by difficulties to mollify opponents, and "make the worse
appear the better reason " ; yet he never had a large personal
following, and could not hold together the incongruous ele-
ments of the cabinets he led. It is not as a politician that he
endures in our memory now, but as the justice of the dignified
-Mid silvery voice that for thirty years adorned the
bench with his high character and great judicial insight. He
died on the 3rd of November, 1877, being then in his 77th
year, regretted for his lofty character and great abilities.

Robert Baldwin, the great Reformer, and son of Dr. William
Warren Baldwin, of Summer Hill, Cork, Ireland, was born at
Toronto in 1804. In 1789 his father and grandfather emigrated
to this country and settled in the township of Clarke, Ontario,
but removed afterwards to Toronto, where young Dr. Baldwin
betook himself to the dual profession of law and medicine, prac-
tising both for a time, and the law exclusively in later years,



88 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

with marked success. About six months before his death,
which occurred id 1844, he was called to the legislative council
of Canada. In 1825 Robert, who was now twenty-one years,
entered upon the practice of law with his father, and the firm
was thereafter known as " Baldwin & Son." In 1829 a va-
cancy oc cu rred in the representation of York, by the resignation
of Chief Justice Robinson, and Robert Baldwin was called
out by the liberals to oppose the candidate of the Family
Compact, Mr. Small. Young Baldwin, like his father, was op-
1 to the outrageous system of government which then pre-
vailed, and being of a singularly lofty and honourable char-
acter, and of marked ability, his entry into the field of politics
created much attention. It was a time surely to fire any man
who had in him the love of fair play, and could rise above
personal or class interests. Of the twelve years from 1824 to
1836, the government was in a minority in the popular branch
for eight years, a fact which some of the tories declared at
the time to be " annoying, but not of much consequence." Mr.
Baldwin was elected despite the array of government strength
he found in the field ; and on his entry into the house at once
began to assail the odiousness of the existing system. In 1836
he went to England, and w T hile there sought an interview with
the colonial secretary, Lord Glenelg; but that languid gentleman,
who reminds one of Frederick Fairlie in the " Woman in White,"
refused to see him, though he was good enough to intimate
that he would attend to communications in writing upon the
subject. Mr. Baldwin's efforts availed little then, but the prin-
ciples for which he strove were soon to triumph. The report
of Lord Durham not long afterwards, which set the tory world
aghast, was a powerful auxiliary. In 1840 Mr. Baldwin be-
came solicitor-general under Mr. Draper, with the approval of
the reform party, and the year following the union was ap-
pointed attorney-general for Canada West. This position he
retained till the meanness and tyranny of governor Metcalfe
forced himself and his party to resign office and make way for



THE LIGHTS OF '.^. 89

a government by the minority. We may as well anticipate
the remainder of his career. He remained in opposition till
1 s k8, when he again became leader of the government, which
position he retained till 1851. At this period he bade farewell
to public life, retiring full of honours, and surrounded by af-
fluence, to his seat at Spadina, Toronto. Here he died on
December 9th, 1858. Throngs of people from every surround-
ing part streamed in to his funeral, to attest their love and
respect for this good and noble-minded statesman.

Robert Baldwin married a sister of the late Hon. Edward
Sullivan, who bore him several children. One of these enter-
ed the church, and another went to sea, while a daugh-
ter married Hon. John Ross. Mr. Raid win was somewhat
above the middle stature, of stout build, and slightly stooped
at the shoulders. As a speaker lie was not captivating, but he
was convincing, for every sentence seemed to come from a
deep well of conviction ; and though he hesitated as he spoke,
and broke and marred his sentences, his aims were so noble

and SO good that he always received the profound attention
and respect of his auditors. Indisposition he was mild and
affable, bnt he could not woo popular favour by the smaller

which, in many men, are the passport to popularity.

he was neither cold nor formal, and all who came to know
him closely were captivated by the sweet sincerity of his
character. We have seen a private letter that he wrote to a
friend in Kingston, who had decided to enter political life, and
from it we gather that he was not enamoured of the public
sphere. I confess,'' he says, "was I to put public inter-

ut of the question, it would be more the part of a private
friend to wish that you might be disappointed, for politics are
certainly a most thankless and profitless occupation. Do what
one will, sacrifice what one may, and his conduct is misrepre-
sented and his motives maligned, and the only consolation left
is the consciousness of having done one's duty." Well is it with

tatesman who, opening his heart, can say that he has done



90 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

his duty. Well has it been with the high-minded, the good
Robert Baldwin.

One of the most remarkable men in appearance and ability
in the house was Mr. Louis Hypolite Lafontaine. He was a
son of Antoine Menard Lafontaine, who had been a member of
the parliament of Lower Canada from 179G to 1804, and was
born at Bouclu-rvillo, in October, 1807. He began life as a bar-
rister, an«l applied himself diligently to his profession, accumu-
lating a handsome fortune. When the oppressions of the little
British clique became intolerable, he was found among the
daring young spirits at whose head was Papineau, who
met to discuss ways of throwing off the hateful yoke. Later
on he became the rival of Papineau, and put himself at the
head of la jeune France ; " and the priests shook their heads at
his orthodoxy." He was on the search for liberty then and
often hinted at throwing off the "ecclesiastical fetters" as well
as the yoke of the Compact. In 1837 he fled the country from
a warrant for high treason, passed over to England, and thence,
in some trepidation, silently slipped across the Channel to
France. There was no evidence against him, however, and an
ironical letter he had written to Mr. Girouard on the absurdity
of rebellion was taken literally, and went far towards removing
him even from suspicion. His little tour had a wonderful ef-
fect upon him, for he came back, not only a good loyalist, but
a pious Christian. He went to mass ostentatiously, frequented
the sacraments, and muttered his Ave Marias aloud. The priests
killed the fatted calf on his return, and he became a pet and a
light of Holy Church. In 1842 he reached the goal of his po-
litical ambition, by being called to the cabinet as attorney-
general East, but the next year, with his colleagues, fell a
victim to the snares of the governor-general, and resigned. In
1848, when the tory fabric tumbled down, he again came in as
attorney general East, which position he retained till 1851.
Two years later he was appointed Chief Justice to the Queen's
Bench of Lower Canada, and in 1854 was created a baronet of



THE LIGHTS OF '44. 91

the United Kingdom. He was married twice, first to Adele,
only daughter of A Berthelot, advocate, of Lower Canada, and
secondly to a widowed lady of Montreal. He left no issue.

Mr. Lafontaine was a man of a very commanding appearance.
He had a strikingly handsome face and a magnificent forehead
which was said to resemble strongly that of Napoleon the
First. * He was not," says the writer of Washington Sketches,
"an eloquent speaker, his utterances being thick and guttural,
and hisEnglish, though good in structure, bad in pronunciation."
He was a close and very decided reasoner, never losing his-
temper ; but having formed many of his ideas arbitrarily from
books he was tied to theories and dogmatical He frequently
showed a passion far the impracticable in politics, and was vain
of his knowledge of the British constitution, of which one keen
critic at least, said he knew nothing. He was an honourable
opponent, but Ids resentments were as undying is his attach-
ments. In his judicial capacity he SOtCelled, and down to his

death added a lustre to the dignity and efficiency of the Bench.
The Speaker of the Assembly, the Hon. Sir Allan Napier
MacNab was born at Niagara, in 1798. While a lad at school
the Americana attacked Toronto, and he was "one of a number
of boys selected as able to carry a musket."* The lad then
entered the ship of Sir .lames Yeo, where he was rated as a
midshipman, and accompanied the ftX] led it ion to Sacket's Harbor
and other points. Promotion being slow on ship-board, he joined
the 100th Regiment in which he saw some service, and subse-
quently entered upon the study of law. In 1825 he was called
to the bar, and some months afterwards began to practice his
profession in I lamilton. Up to this period he had been a victim
to impecnniositv, having l>een "compelled to restrict his peram-
bulations within the charmed circles of the blue posts which in
these times marked the boundary that must not be passed by a.
bailed debtor/'f

* Morgan ; " Biographies of Celebrated Canadians."
+ Dent'i «* Last Forty Years."



<>2 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

In 1829 he was elected to parliament for Went worth, hav-
ing created sympathy far himself among the tories. He was
speaker of the last parliament held in Upper Canada, and
when the rebellion broke out hastened from Hamilton to
Toronto with his men of Gore, and dispersed the deluded band
that Mackenzie had gathered about him at Montgomery's
tavern. Later in the year, he ordered the cutting out of
the which was surrendered to Niagara Falls-

We have already seen that he was chosen by the tories as
speaker of the see.. ml parliament under the Union. We shall
meet his figure again, all important with its gauds of honour,
and shall not anticipate his career. He was not of much con-
sequence as a politician. He had a good presence and could
make a ready speech, but he lacked all the essentials of an or-
ator, and the tact that charms one's friends and mollifies his
-enemies. Though his speech was jagged and often lumbering,
he was always drawn up in the order of battle, ready to level
a lance against any opponent, whether he knew his mettle or
not, or to rush into the most intricate question that he knew
nothing about. Sir Allan would have been a better man had
they not spoiled him with their gauds and knighthood. It is
not every man who is equal to the carrying of a ribbon or a
star, or a C. M. G. to his name. Sir Allan was not. The mo-
ment that the title fell upon him, his usefulness departed ;
he seemed to feel that he had been absorbed by the Crown,
and drawn out of the coarser and unholy atmosphere of com-
mon life in which he had formerly lived. Henceforth his duty
was to guard faithfully the interests of that Crown of which
he felt himself a part. Prosperity and honours are often con-
vincing tests of a man. They are what fire is to the metals.
From the ordeal only the gold issues unchanged. And,

Hearts that the world in vain have tried,

And sorrow but more closely tied;

That stood the storms when waves were rough,

Yet in a sunny hour, fell off,

Like ships that have gone down at sea,

When heaven was all tranquillity.



THE LIGHTS OF %> h 93

Dominick Daly, the son of Dominick Daly, by the sister of
the first Lord Wallscourt, was born in Galway, Ireland, in 1798,
and married in his twenty-eighth year the second daughter of
Colonel Ralph Gore, of Barro w mount, County Kilkenny. He
Btodied law, was, in due time, called to the bar; but not
caring for the legal profession, came out as secretary with
governor Burton to Quebec. Shortly after his arrival he
me provincial secretary for Lower Canada; and on the
accomplishment of the Union became provincial secretary
for Canada, and a member of the board of works, with a seat
in the council Be retained the provincial secretaryship till
lS4s. when he was driven out of office by the reformers. Be
sat in gloomy state three years longer for Megan tic, and then
betook himself to Rngland where he petitioned the govern-
ment for a substantial recognition of his twenty-fire years 1

faithful Bervice in Canada. In answer to his prayer he was
appoint* d successively to the governorship of Tobago, Prince
Edward [stand, and Western Australia, and received e knight-
hood If ever henchman deserved reward at the hands of the
Crown, Dominick Daly did. His idea of political duty was

tow unswerving fealty to the Crown, and support every
government that came to power. lie was a body upon which
the political sun never set. When s government, of which be

t member waxed strong, Dominick became full of party
sinew and vitality; but as that party waned and the end
drew near, the colour faded out of him; he became a
sort of political jelly-fish, and calmly awaited the change of
parties, when he developed new affections, a new frame, and
fresh marrow and muscle. Like Mejnour of the Rosy Cross,
he saw rulers come and go, and parties wax and wane, and
fall to pieces, and rally and grow great again; but time nor
change affected him. In the best of nature he assisted the
successor of Burton and his clique to thwart and oppress
the French majority ; and he aided Durham in laying the
broad foundation of an enduring liberty. He strove with



94 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

Sydenham to found the basis of an equitable political sys-
tem ; and he aided Metcalfe in strangling popular rights. He
was courteous and genial in private life, had strong personal
friendships, and was a pious adherent of the Catholic faith. He
believed that the king could do no wrong, and that the duty
of the subject was to obey the sovereign or the vice-regent,
unquestioning! y, under every circumstance. He would be an
odd figure upon the scene now, and even in his day was a
Cariosity. He was the amarantus of the cabinet, its never-
fading flower ; but his enemies used harsher prose, and named
him the " Vicar of Bray." His preferments in after days to
high place and title, is an eloquent commentary on the wisdom
and discrimination of Downing Street.

Another noted man of this Parliament was Robert Baldwin
Sullivan. He was born in Ireland, but emigrated to Little
York when only a lad, and studied law there in the office of
his uncle, Doctor Baldwin. While a student he was appointed
legislative librarian, and, we are told, made the most of his
opportunity among the political records. He was admitted to
the bar about 1825, but not thinking himself qualified for
citv practice, moved to the county of Middlesex. But his suc-
cess in two cases, especially in the libel suit of the demagogue
Collins, attracted much attention, and he was invited to remove
to Toronto. He accepted the invitation, moving thither in
1828. In 1834 he entered public life, opposing William Lyon
Mackenzie for the mayoralty of the newly incorporated town
of Toronto. Up to this period, his liberalism in politics had not
been doubted. But it appears he now became disgusted with
Mackenzie and his most zealous supporters, who, whatever their
political virtues, were noisy and coarse, and could easily be mis-
taken for demagogues. From this date an estrangement grew
up between him and the reform party, and when Sir Francis
Bond Head offered him a seat in the council, he readily threw
himself in with the Compact. He was a member of Sir George
Arthurs council, and lent his strength to putting the rebellion



THE LIGHTS CF *4 J. 95

down ; was also in the cabinets of Lord Sydenham, Sir Charles
Bagot, and Lord Metcalfe. Strangely enough, under the gall-
ing rule of the latter, he returned to his first love, retired from
office with his colleagues, and afterwards attacked Metcalfe in
a number of slashing letters fugned " Legion." In the Baldwin-
Lafontaine cabinet, under Lord Elgin, he was provincial
secretary for a time, and was elevated to the bench in Sep-
tember, 1848. He died on the 14th April, 1853.

Mr. Sullivan's public career would not be a good model to
hold up to the aspiring politician. He was a brilliant and
powerful speaker, but lie had no convictions, and upon the very
subjects, in discussing which, he lashed himself into the whitest
heats, he often felt the least. In every man is born a moral in-
stinct which reveals the difference between right and wrong, and
points out those principles that are the great highways in the
moral field ; hut not to all men is given that perception in the
same degree. In some indeed the duty path is plain as the
lines thai -car the brow, while to others so vague appears the
way that they are ever in doubt, and cross and reeross the faint-
traced path unconsciously. Mr. Sullivan was one of this latter
•class. He had warm and generous impulses that came from
his soul, but he would tell you after he had made a speech
upon some great principle, that thrilled, if not convinced, every
one who heard it, that he did not believe a word of what he
had said himself, and that with as good or better reason he could
have made a superior speech upon the other side. Not un-
like Voltaire, when he said to the young infided, " You say I
have made it as clear to you as the sun in heaven, that there
is no God ? — then it is by no means so clear to myself !" In his
day Mr. Sullivan was the meteor of the political sky.

With M. D. B. Viger, at one time a noble patriot, we need
not concern ourselves at any length. He was born in Lower
Canada, studied law, and at an early age took part in the
movement for political freedom. In 1834 he proceeded to Eng-
land, and laid the grievances of the French people before the



96 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

government ; and in 1837, rose with Papineau into rebellion.
He was arrested for treason and thrown into prison; hut on
being released was returned again to parliament by a sweep-
ing majority. He was also elected to the first parliament un-
der the Union, and took his place prominently among the re-
formers. Mr. Viger was a mild and venerable man, who no
donbt loved his oountry, but it is hard to resist believing that
he was somewhat jealous (as old men nearly always are of
young rival- of the young French leader. He did not forget
that this leader, M. Lafontaine, had been once a lad in his
office, and from his lips learned his first political lessons.
Now the people had forgotten the master and rendered homage
only to the student. When the reformers were forced out
of the cabinet, Metcalfe, we need not doubt, had his eye upon
the venerable patriot, and, master of cunning that he was,
poured into the old man's ear a long tale of flattery, telling him
that he was the father of the French people, and their rightful
leader ; and that therefore it was he wished him to take a seat
in the council. Whatever the wily governor said or did not
say, the old man walked into the trap, and covered his lustrous
age with no little ignominy. He lived to a very old age, and
was serene to the parting moment. The account of his last
hours is touching reading, and we linger by the bedside to see
the glared eyes brighten for a moment, while the dying man
utters, with his parting breath, "Jaime mon Dieu, et faime
mon Pays."

Looking through the house among the opposition, we see
another figure deserving special notice. This was a man of
low stature, with a bright eye and an electric movement.
John Sandfield Macdonald was born at St. Raphael, in the
County of Glengarry, Upper Canada. His grandfather, a
Scottish Highlander and Roman Catholic, had emigrated
thither from Scotland in 1786. There was a good deal of
romance in the youthful days of this politician. He left the
paternal roof at the age of eleven, we are told, resolved to do



THE LIGHTS OF V,.',. 97

for himself in the world. Discovered many miles from home,
lif was taken back against his will, but he soon took an oppor-
tunity to start off the second time. On this occasion, as he
was bargaining with an Indian at Cornwall to paddle him
across the river to the United States, the Indian demanding a
half a dollar, and the lad having only a quarter, his father
came up and again carried him home. Be Boon broke away a
third time, and hired with a store-keeper for three years at a
sliding seal<- of salary, £10 for the first year, £12 10s. for the
second year, and £15 for the third year. He removed after
two; in Cornwall, but abandoned the position

in a lew months, and entered upon a Btudy <»t" law with Dr. Orqu-
hart <>f the same town. The following occurrence, it is related,
turned him from mercantile pursuits to the law: One day,
while out in the lie was pelted with snow-halls by

urchins, who. at the same time, contemptuously called him
a " counter h not for the snow-balls he cared,

but he was stung with the thought that the calling he had
adopted could be flung reproachfully in his face.* In June,
L840, he was called to the bar, having completed his studies in
the office of Mr. Draper. He was first elected to parliament
after the Union, in March, I M I , and joined himself with the op-
position, though he had no love for Sir Allan MacNab, the leader
of that party. Up to this time Mr. Maedonald had loose



Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 7 of 57)