Henry John Wrixon.

Jacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) online

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to them by indignant critics inside and outside the House,
and had been happily applied. He declared that ever since
the Honourable the Premier had introduced the Pensions
Bill evil omen, ugly sound to free men he had pondered
over what could have been his motive in so doing. He had
thought of it in his waking hours, and it had even flitted
through his dreams. Was it his deliberate intention to
fasten upon Excelsior the horrors of the European Pensions
system ? If so, let him beware. He would find that the
people of this great Province would still assert themselves as
free men, and that the tyrant would brandish his whip before
them in vain. (This last outburst was excited by the fact
that the Government Whip was going the round of the
House, trying to make up his numbers for the division that
was now imminent.) Finally, as was written in the Sweet-
Brier next morning : ' The Honourable Member for Biggies-
wade wound up a convincing and impassioned oration by
declaring that some men were ever willing to sell their
country, and some were glad to have a country to sell ; but
the heavens forbid that the finger of posterity should ever
be able to point the eye of scorn at the recreant roll, and
there read the name of Slater Scully.'

Amidst the applause that the eloquent peroration excited,
the cries for a division were loudly heard. The Honourable
Mr. M'Grorty was put up by the Government to wind up the
debate with one of his rallying speeches, but though he spoke
with vigour, especially in denouncing the Opposition, he did
not produce his usual effect. He needed popular fervour to
support him, and the popular fervour was now the other way.
In political affairs we are very much led by names. Who
does not know the value of being called a Liberal ? And
the ancient abuses of the Pension system in Europe, by-
gone though they were, had created among many an innate
popular feeling against them, unless for the poor. Still,
there were many in the House who looked behind the names
of things, and there were others whose districts had suffered


from the Native disorders ; so that, when the Speaker an-
nounced the result, though the Government were defeated,
it was not by a large majority. Still, they were defeated.
William Brereton was out, and Sir Donald was in or, at
least, would be sent for. The Border Rangers' organisation
must stand over till things took another turn. Du Tell
turned to his patron more admiringly than ever, and Slater
Scully beamed through his glasses looks of benevolent
satisfaction, and felt at peace with all men even with our

Great was the excitement in and around the House of
Representatives, and on the broad steps leading to the
verandah, when the defeat of the Government was an-
nounced. But of the thousands who discussed that event,
and expressed various opinions as to its significance and
upon the incidents that marked it, how it showed that the
people were resolved never to allow the Pension system a
footing in the free land of Excelsior ; how Sir Donald had
proved too much for B. B.; how great the influence of the
Press had been in rousing the people to the true issue ; how
exhaustive was the speech of Du Tell ; how extraordinary
that of our politician ; how impassioned that of Slater Scully,
of all those who talked and speculated thus, only a very few
knew that the crisis had in fact been brought about by one
man, popularly known as Seeker Secretary. Had he been
able to come to terms with Mr. Brereton about the Workers'
Classification Bill, the machinery of agitation would never
have been set going, and the Government Bill, modified in
some of its details, would have been quietly passed.

But all history tells the same tale. Things are not what
they seem. The true story of great events is often different
from the surface appearance. It was not the great Napoleon,
but others behind him, who planned the revolution which
placed him on the steps of the throne. It was not MacLever
and the Pensions Bill that overthrew Brereton, but Seeker
Secretary and the Workers Bill.

During the periods of changing Governments, Walter
Crane had a trying time of it. Though in his Sunday
seclusion, at his nephew's down in Grubb Lane, he would,
as has been said, express himself with freedom about


political questions, yet he ever had so cultivated all the
outward signs of reverence for Ministers that the feeling
itself became something of a reality to him, and with his
kindly disposition, he really did evoke a liking for each new
Minister, as he came. Thus, no Highlander was more
devoted to the chief of his clan than was Walter Crane
to the ' Excellency ' that was for the time being presiding
over the Water Bureau. Still, he had to accommodate
himself to these rude events of the political world. He
knew all about each crisis as it threatened. Time had a
healing influence on his wounded feelings, and though he
would have preferred to concentrate his devotion on one
master, he loyally adapted it to all changes. A week ago
he had carefully gone over the names of the Members from
one of the printed lists, and, allowing for the possible con-
sequences of the defection of our politician, with the current
probabilities as to which he had made himself familiar, he
had arrived at the conclusion that the fate of the Ministry
was sealed, and that he must serve another lord. The
division just taken had borne out his calculations.

As our politician was coming away from the House
he found Crane, who had passed an exciting evening in the
gallery, quietly standing near the Ministerial Room, waiting
dutifully to the last for the bag of his dethroned chief. His
naturally kind face, which always bore a pensive air, looked
longer and sadder than ever. He bowed low as usual when
he saw Frankfort coming.

' Well, Crane, it's all over. The Government are out,'
remarked our politician.

' Out, your Honer ? '

' Yes ; out of office, you know, Crane.'

' Out of office, your Honer ? '

' To be sure. Defeated by Sir Donald. He is the man

' Well now, and look at that, your Honer. And the
heavens be above us all defend us ! Them pensions, I
suppose, your Honer?'

' Why, Crane, do you think the pensions wrong ? '

' I, your Honer ? What do I think ? How should
I know what to think about them abstruse sort of things ?


Only the people talking and rumouring about the General
getting so many thousands, and country growing poorer.'

' Oh well, he won't get them now, Crane/ replied our
politician, smiling to himself as he heard this favourite illus-
tration of the Sweet-Brier reproduced.

' But I was only thinking,' said Crane, inclining his head
to one side in such an inquiring manner that Frankfort, who
was about to hurry away, had his attention arrested.

' Thinking ? What about, Crane ?

' I was only thinking about the Reservoir, your Honer.'

' The Reservoir ? What on earth has it to do with the
crisis, Crane ? '

' Yes, your Honer, I was thinking at least the Honerable
Mr. Scully was just now saying among the crowd beyond,
that now the country would have a grand policy of repro-
ductive works. So we would be sure to have the Reservoir
anyway, now so we would, your Honer.'

Crane merely wished to say something polite and kind
to console our politician, as from his quiet corner in the
gallery he had observed the troubles that had beset him
during the debate. So he addressed to him the most con-
soling topic he could think of.

'Well, as to that, Crane, we must wait to see who the
new Minister for the Water Bureau is to be. They said in
the House that Mr. Slater Scully was to be the man.'

' The Lord be praised ! ' ejaculated Walter Crane.
However, he would have said as much for any new head of
his Department.

But here Mr. M'Grorty came out of the Ministers'
Room, where Mr. Brereton and his colleagues had been
arranging to submit their resignations to the Governor next
day, and gave to Crane the expected bag. He congratulated
Frankfort upon his speech ; but there seemed to be a hesita-
tion about him, as if there was something more to be said,
which led to their walking away together, joined by Mr.
Brereton, who came out after M'Grorty as the impromptu
Cabinet meeting was over. The Premier also congratulated
him on his ' fair and square speech,' and declared that it
came up like a breeze in the tropics, fresh and healthy, by
the ' Lord Tomnoddie.'


' Quite that,' chimed in M'Grorty. ' I was only going to
observe, when the Premier joined us, that you will now have
to consider on which side of the House you will sit when
Sir Donald comes in. You have spoken for us on the two
great questions of the session. I am sure you won't desert
us now that we are banished for the right cause.'

' Oh, that's all right, M'Grorty ! ' exclaimed Brereton.
' Let him pick out his own place to drop anchor. Don't
you, at any rate, bother,' he added, giving Frankfort a friendly
clap on the shoulder, ' to shake hands with a certain person,
however respectable, till you meet him. Time to think
about that when old MacLever and his crew come back
from the country.'

As they went down the street together, they discussed
the incidents of the evening. The Premier appeared deter-
mined to be jolly in the circumstances. Perhaps he was
not sorry to be released from the worries that go on accumu-
lating the longer a man is in office. He nodded in a familiar
way to Seeker and Mons. Froessolecque, who hurriedly
passed them, as much as to say, ' All right, I am out. You
and I know more about it than most people.'

He was quite good-humoured in his remarks about the
different points in the debate.

' Du Tell and Slater Scully were not bad. That point
about the rate of wages was sharp very told too. Just
the sort of thing to go down. Slater's peroration too
posterity and his name on the roll, etc. etc. When I see
him I will tell him that the only roll his name will appear
on will be the roll of the new Ministry. Whether the eye
of posterity will study that query.'

' And what about the Rangers then ? ' inquired our
politician. ' If there are no pensions, how are they to be
managed ? '

'Oh, that's all right, my friend. That's all right or
will be after a while. Wait a bit, and they'll take up the
Bill right enough, under some other name. Some time you
will know all about how it's done. By-by, I turn off here.
The missus only excuses me, crisis or no crisis, while the
House is actually sitting.'

Our politician, when he laid his head upon his pillow


that night, had at least the satisfaction of feeling that he had
done his duty. At the same time, he had a growing sense
of the difficulties that beset the position he had taken up.
How would his constituents, who were against pensions, and
the public take his action ? And what would the Press say
the mouthpiece of the public ? No doubt the Press was
at times unjust to public men ; indeed, it could scarcely help
being so. It had to back up its own side. Certainly the
Sweet-Brier was unjust to him in that unworthy suggestion
about the amendment on the Woman's Bill. However, the
morning papers would show. His stand-by was that he was
doing his duty as a representative of the people. The way
of duty had never been a primrose path.

It so happened that the papers were unusually late in
coming the next morning, owing to the extra amount of
matter occasioned by the report of the great debate. Our
politician was thus kept in some suspense, waiting to be
informed of the state of public feeling regarding the import-
ant and unusual position he had taken up. The Rising
Sun came first, and he was quite disappointed to find that
it had very little to say about him either way. It seemed
to have overlooked the significance of his action, while it
gave full prominence in clear type to the speeches that were
devoted to the party attack and defence. It, however, gave
a brief summary in lesser type of what he had said ; and
remarked that he had spoken in an intelligent manner.
Indeed, so intelligently that when it appeared he was going
to vote against his own party, the general feeling throughout
the House was that he was more intelligent than intelligible.
But he was more than satisfied with the News Letter, as
it not only gave a fairly full report of his speech, but in its
leading column rendered a passing recognition to ' Mr.
Frankfort's evident desire to support what he believed to be
for the public good, by whoever proposed.' Yes, that was
just his case. The Press was not so bad after all. He had
not yet seen the Sweet-Brier. It was very late in coming.
When it came he opened it, rather expecting to find some-
thing severe. This is what he did find :

Startling anomaly. Significant. The surprise and marvel of
the evening was the enormous apostasy of the new Honourable


Member for Brassville, Mr. Frankfort. He betrayed his party in
order to support the Tory Government and Pensions ! No wonder
that, as it is asserted, and we are assured correctly, he walked away
after the division arm-in-arm with, not his own leader, the patriotic
Sir Donald MacLever, but with the Tory Premier, Mr Brereton.
The reasons that induced the honourable gentleman to take this
unprecedented step he did not make very clear. Perhaps, indeed,
it would not have been easy to do so, since, as Mr. Stoker pointed
out in his well-argued and unanswerable speech, this same gentleman
voted at the Pensions Inquiry Board against Pensions to the poor !
To say the truth, he seemed, as might have been expected, ill at
ease in making his speech. Its most emphatic point was the great
need of having all appointments to the service of the State made
only on their merits. Admirable doctrine surely ! But what will be
the astonishment, nay, horror of the intelligent people of this Province,
when we tell them, on the most undoubted authority, that it is the
habit of this same high-principled legislator, among other exercises of
his public patronage, to nominate as letter-carriers in the post office
men who can neither read nor write ! ! ! As we proclaim it, vox
faucibus haesit. It seems to be incredible. Yet the particulars
of at least one instance have been forwarded to this office by an
indignant fellow-citizen of undoubted respectability. The name of
the lucky, though illiterate, individual is Terence M'Glumpy ; the
post-office town Glooscap ; the situation that of letter-carrier in His
Majesty's Post Office in the town of Glooscap. And we take upon
us to affirm, with a full sense of our responsibilities, that the aforesaid
Terence M'Glumpy was appointed on the nomination of Mr. Frank-
fort, when he was unable to read either print or writing, and so
could not decipher a single direction upon the letters that it was his
duty to deliver to the much- and long-suffering inhabitants of Gloos-
cap. We repeat, it seems incredible :

J Tis true, 'tis pity ;
And pity 'tis, 'tis true.'
Pro Pudor !

If the public were expected to read this with astonish-
ment and horror, there could be no doubt that our politician
did in fact read it with those feelings. With all his
good intentions, appearances were against him, and he did
not seem to be getting on as quietly and as free from
reproach as Meeks would have done. There was no deny-
ing that, though a Liberal, he had refused to follow the
Liberal leader, Sir Donald, upon two important measures of
the session. Then it was quite true that he did declare


against unqualified pensions to the poor on the commission.
Yet he voted for pensions to the Rangers. Then there was
that unpleasant fact that he had nominated as a letter-
carrier a man who could neither read nor write. And there
was the awkward episode of the letter to the Postmaster-
General, to which he got no answer. Also, to be sure, he
had walked away in friendly conference with the leader of
the party he was opposed to. He might be conscious of his
own innocence, but it did not follow that other people were.
None can tell the concern with which an honest man sees
for the first time his name proclaimed in print as being
identified with dishonesty. Wounds by the steel or the
bullet are not the only ones we suffer from nor, perhaps,
the most painful ones.

Our politician thought for a few minutes what he had
better do, if anything. The well -recognised rule of wise
men lately enforced upon him by Myles Dillon never to
contradict criticisms, seemed scarcely to apply here, as the
statement was so specific. It needed explanation, and then
it could be substantially explained ; though, to be sure, he
was still to blame, perhaps, for not inquiring into the quali-
fications of M'Glumpy. Then, as to that note, had M'Grorty
filed it ? Would he remember it ?

All difficulty as to the best course to take was obviated
by the action of Mr. Stoker. When the House met, and Mr.
Brereton announced that he and his colleagues only held
office pending the appointment of their successors, the Mem-
ber for Dead Hatch rose, he stated, to a question of privi-
lege. Du Tell looked quite surprised, but turned to listen
attentively. Mr. Stoker said that he wished to call attention
to the audacious statement made about the Honourable
Member for Brassville in the public press that morning, and
which directly affected the honour of the whole House. He
alluded to the paragraph in the Sweet-Brier to the effect
that he, Mr. Frankfort, had nominated as a letter-carrier in
the Post Office some person named M'Glumpy who could
neither read nor write. He need scarcely say that such
a statement must be wholly without foundation ; but it
would be only fair to his honourable friend, and, he might
add, to the House, which was also concerned, that he, and

VOL. I 2 C


also the late Minister of Education and Public Knowledge
and the Post Office, should give an explicit and unqualified
contradiction to such an assertion.

Frankfort at once got up and stated that the paragraph
in the Sweet -Brier was true except in some important
points, namely, in not stating that he had no idea that the
lad he recommended could not read or write, and in omitting
to say that as soon as he ascertained that fact he had written
to cancel his nomination. For greater promptitude he had
written a personal note to the Minister direct. He pre-
sumed that the Minister would have acted upon it.

Mr. Du Tell here rose and begged leave to observe that the
House would be gratified to hear the explanation of his
honourable friend. It would make it complete if the Minister
would kindly state that, on receipt of the personal letter
which his honourable friend alluded to, he had stopped the

M'Grorty said that, on his attention being called to the
statement in the press by Mr. Stoker earlier in the day, he
had sent for the papers, and unfortunately the note cancelling
the nomination that Mr. Frankfort alluded to was not among
them. He had no doubt that he received it, but, not being
official, he must have omitted to send it on ; and the
appointment being only a small one, he had put the whole
thing out of his mind, and now forgot all about the facts.

Some Honourable Members were disposed to continue
the discussion, but Sir Donald MacLever, in solemn tones,
insisted that further debate would be unjustifiable at that
stage, as there was no motion on the subject before the
House. He laughed at the whole thing to himself, and
thought it only useful for embarrassing our politician. His
view was generally accepted. Honourable Members were
too much interested in the possible developments of the
crisis to care much whether M'Glumpy could read or could
not. Du Tell, who wanted to make the worst of it, knew
that the worst had come out. The nomination of a man
who could not read was admitted, and as to the revocation,
where was it ? A private note, and that not among the
papers ! As a fact, he had no doubt that the note had been
written as Frankfort stated ; but, for the purpose of damag-


ing our politician with the public, there was all the material
necessary. As for Frankfort, unscrupulous or tricky conduct
was so foreign to his nature that even now he did not fully
realise the ugly aspects that "evil tongues might give and
suspicious minds might accept from the incidents of this
affair the private note included. So the House adjourned,
leaving on its reports the record of this unpleasant business.

The next morning the Sweet -Brier returned with re-
doubled vigour to the ' astounding admissions ' of the Mem-
ber for Brassville last night Its amazement at these was
only equalled by its consternation at the assertion that there
was a private note sent to the Minister, forgotten by him
and nowhere to be found.

It certainly had plausible ground to go on, and Mons.
Froessolecque, or some other ' We,' made the most of it. It
further appeared that the matter was exciting the most
lively attention throughout the Province, for a large number
of letters appeared in the columns of the Sweet-Brier, coming
from the most distant and widely apart districts, from persons
of all descriptions who were deeply and simultaneously
affected by the incident. ' An Anxious Inquirer ' ; ' O Tem-
pora ! O Mores ! ' ; ' Boss Tweed ' ; ' Perplexed ' ; ' Croker and
Co.' ; ' Indignant Letter-Carrier ' ; ' Surprised Lady Elector ' ;
'What Next? ' all these and others poured out their wounded
feelings into the inky bosom of the Sweet-Brier.

Why is it that we are so unamiably constituted as to be
ever ready to believe the worst of one another? If by
chance one takes the opposite direction, and thinks and
makes the best of what his fellow-men do, he himself is con-
demned as insincere, on the ground that no man could, in
fact, feel as he professes to. Is it because we derive a secret
pleasure from contemplating evil things in others from which
we are free ? or is it merely for the sake of pungent conversa-
tion ? or is it because, as Robbie Burns has it, that, after all,
men are an ' unco lot ' ? Whatever be the cause, certain it
is that many in Excelsior took a bad view of the Glooscap
incident, and quite relished the vigour and glow with which
the Sweet-Brier had exposed another job of the politicians.

In due time Sir Donald formed the new Ministry, and
the crisis was over. Du Tell got one of the junior places,


and generally it was composed of small men, as Sir Donald
preferred to be himself the only considerable figure in any
combination. The most popular appointment was that of
now the Honourable Slater Scully, the Member for Biggies-
wade, as Minister of the Water Bureau. Though Walter
Crane felt some uneasiness at transferring his allegiance from
his old chief, it was a good deal mitigated by the fact that
the new one was a man after his own heart, with a disposi-
tion at once jovial and generous. Slater Scully wished well
to all men, but he could very imperfectly gratify his naturally
kind impulses out of his private means. This difficulty
vanished when he was able to draw, or promise to draw,
upon the public. There was soon a vast increase of deputa-
tions, for all found the sunshine of hope when they came
into the presence of the new Minister. One from Brassville,
introduced by the Honourable Mr. Lamborn, wished to know
what prospect there was of the Government undertaking the
Reservoir by a special advance as ' a National work.' Slater
Scully assured them, as he beamed seriously on them through
the large glasses, that having given to that great project
' some of the best thought he was capable of,' they might
consider it un fait accompli whenever European complica-
tions settled down, so as to allow the Government to ' launch
a comprehensive loan to enable them to carry out their
grand scheme of Reproductive Works for the nation.'

The Minister had an invincible repugnancy to pressing
districts for the payment of overdue interest on advances, at
least beyond the point of a letter full of very strong threats.
He agreed to the Secretary, Lavender, writing any number of
these, but made that official's life rather a trial to him by
raising a variety of objections to taking any more effective
means of enforcing his demands. Sometimes it was :

'Will you, my dear friend, explain by what process,
official or demi-official, chemical or litigious, you propose to
get blood out of a stone to take the breeks from a High-
lander ? ' Or it would be : ' Lavender, my right hand but,

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 35 of 45)