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Canadian History
Honourable Christopher Finlay Fraser, M. P. P.


One of the most eloquent debaters in Canada, was born at Brockville, in October, 1839. Mr. Fraser is of Celtic origin, his father, John Fraser, being a Scotch Highlander, and his mother, Sarah, nee Burke, of Irish birth and parentage. It fell to the lot of our subject, when a boy, to be poor, for his parents, like the majority of pioneers, brought into the new country very little gold in their purses. But this very poverty seems to have been a stimulus to the ambition of the lad, and it is said that he resolved early in life to carve out his own fortune. In order to accomplish anything, young Fraser knew that he must become equipped with an education. Schools in those days were sparse, and yet well conditioned; and the best of such tuition as his purse afforded he was resolved to have, and have it he did. We are told that he did not hesitate to put his hand to any employment that was offered, and it was between the periods of such employment that he attended school. When a mere youth he was found employed in the office of the Brockville Recorder, working for a little salary, which he most carefully hoarded to use in his education. But even this honourable ambition, and all the dauntless industry could not have availed, had our subject been composed of the ordinary clod material. But no such composition was his. He was gifted with altogether unusual mental alertness, and his utterances, when only a boy, were remarkable for their brilliancy, force and sometimes for their wit. When he had obtained what he deemed a sufficient education, the young man (this was about the year 1859) entered the office of the Hon. A. N. Richards, late lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, and began the study of law. He was a hard working student, and after passing a most creditable examination, was, in 1863, called to the bar. He settled down to the practice of his profession at Brockville, where a profitable business soon began to grow up around him. Most observant people about Brockville has the young man in mind when he came back from his studies to open a law office in their midst; and before he had been long with them in his new role, they began to perceive that his abilities were quite beyond the usual. But the young advocate was all this while fashioning out his own career for himself. He had no sooner established himself fairly in his profession, than he began to give attention to political questions. At the election on 1867 for the confederated provinces, he offered himself as a candidate for his native place, but was defeated by a narrow majority. Some years later he again presented himself for election, but was again defeated. Later on our subject was to distinguish himself by taking a conspicuous part in the formation of what was known as the Roman Catholic League. Roman Catholics being in a minority in the province, Mr. Fraser judged that they would be more effective if united in a public body, when asking for certain rights, than if they remained disconnected. This was a wise movement for the sake of the object stated, and a just one; but it was also a clever move, and since that day Mr. Fraser has come to be regarded as the political director of his co-religionists in Ontario. In 1871, Mr. Clark, who had some time before defeated Mr. Fraser for South Grenville (in the Legislative Assembly) died; and our subject, once again presented himself, and was returned at the head of the poll. His great abilities were at once recognized in the legislature, and a year later he was appointed Provincial Secretary and Registrar. On appealing to his constituency for the usual ratification of his acceptance of office he was elected by acclamation. He remained Provincial Secretary till 1874, in the Mowat administration, when he became Commissioner of Public Works. This office he has since held, and he has taken from the first a commanding place in the legislature. He is ready, brilliant and powerful in debate, whether the question be an old one or one sprung upon him, and he is a man with whom the opponents never care to trifle. He is not malicious nor unkindly in his place upon the floor when attacking or defending, and one and all are delighted to sit and listen to him so long as he remains upon his feet; for whether they agree with what he is saying or not, they are pleased with the fresh, vigorous, brilliant and manly way that he has of saying it. Overwork in there later years had told so upon his constitution that it was feared he might have to lay aside the harness; but we are glad to be able to say that there is now every ground to believe that a long career of usefulness and brilliant public service still remains before the Honourable Christopher Finlay Fraser.


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