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Sir John A MacDonald
The Last Election - Commercial Union - Unrestricted Reciprocity, 1891


THE circumstances of the country during the years which preceded the general election of 1891 were in many ways exceedingly favourable to the agitators whose aim was to induce Canadians to adopt the policy of "commercial union" with the United States as a remedy for the business depression under which the country was suffering. The settlement of the North-West had not proceeded with the rapidity that had been anticipated when the transcontinental railway was completed. A succession of bad seasons had had a most discouraging influence on the settlers who had come into the country. The price of agricultural produce was low, and for a long time gave no sign of improvement. The farming population was therefore, for the moment, poor and far from contented. The inflation which had followed on the opening up of the North-West had been succeeded by a period of reaction and extreme depression in Winnipeg and other western centres. The National Policy had, in the east, stimulated production in manufacture before a sufficient market had been created in the west for the goods produced, so that the artisan suffered with the farmer. The renewal of the reciprocity secured by the treaty of 1854, so favourable to Canadian trade, had been, over and over again, refused by the United States. In that country a distinct hostility to Canadian interests had been created after the rejection by the senate of the Chamberlain-Bayard treaty, and the consequent assertion and protection of Canadian rights in the fisheries of the coast. The threat of President Cleveland to abrogate the bonding privilege by way of reprisal for the latter proceeding, accentuated the anxiety of those who doubted Canada's ability to stand up against the commercial dominance of her great competitor on the American continent.

These and many other minor circumstances conspired to strengthen the hands of those who in 1887 and the following years advocated a policy which in practice would have involved the surrender of the country's commercial and fiscal independence as the price to be paid for the full enjoyment of the markets of the continent.

Between 1887 and 1891 a vigorous and sustained campaign was carried on in favour of this policy—at first under the name of "commercial union," and later, as this term became increasingly unpopular, under that of "unrestricted reciprocity." The movement attracted the support of men actuated by widely different motives. Mr. Goldwin Smith, the gloomy prophet of annexation perhaps even more than its advocate, lent the service of his skilful and incisive pen and the prestige of his name to a cause which promised industrial alleviation at the moment, with ultimate realization of his own conception of Canada's inevitable future as a part of the American union. His openly avowed object for the moment was to "bring Canada within the commercial pale of her own continent."

Mr. Erastus Wiman, a Canadian resident in New York, and a man of considerable ability and exceptional energy, brought the resources of wealth, and a business organization which covered the continent, to the promulgation of the ideas of the party which advocated this drastic change in Canadian policy. Many business men, impatient at the prolonged depression of trade, joined the Commercial Union League, which was formed to influence public opinion. Among politicians another factor in the situation should not be left out of the account. It was that of personal discontent, due to the long continuance of Conservative supremacy under the leadership of Macdonald.

While the party system seems, on the whole, to furnish the best machinery yet devised for self-government by free and democratic communities, in operation it is not without serious drawbacks and some dangers. Even in England, the birthplace and home of modern constitutional government, the fierce struggle of parties striving for power has not unfrequently obscured men's regard for the real interest of the State. It is hard at times to reconcile party spirit with patriotism in the acts and utterances even of such a man as Charles James Fox, to mention but a single instance.

Conditions of public life in a new country like Canada exaggerate this evil. Politicians have not the wealth common among the ruling classes in older communities, and so it means more to them to lose office, with its influence, its emoluments, and its opportunities for the distribution of patronage. Parties cling to power desperately, and under skilful management an undesirable regime may maintain its ground for a very long period.

This reacts on the spirit of an Opposition. A party long kept from power and the rewards of office grows bitter and discontented. It is scarcely too much to say that a small section, at least, of the Liberal party, towards the end of Macdonald's career, was in this mood and ready for very doubtful adventures. A few certainly laid themselves open, even among men of their own side of politics, to the suspicion of disloyalty, as that term is understood in Canada.

The keenest advocates of fiscal union with the United States were, however, outside the ranks of political party. The Commercial Union League which was formed for the special advocacy of the scheme had Mr. Goldwin Smith as its president. The movement secured support from the president of the Toronto Board of Trade, and the president of the Council of Farmers' Institutes—circumstances which indicated the possibility of a strong movement in its favour among the trading and farming classes of Ontario.

Two powerful organs of public opinion—the Toronto Mail and the Globe—one professedly independent and the other strongly Liberal in its traditions, gave active support to the new policy.

On the other side of the national boundary line the movement was encouraged by the introduction into congress by Mr. Butterworth, a member of the House of Representatives, of a bill which proposed to settle all the existing differences between the United States and Canada by the adoption of a zollverein.

Against these various forces a group of vigorous thinkers, partly also outside of politics and influenced mainly by other than party considerations, set its face resolutely, and fought the Commercial Unionists on every platform. Foremost in this group were Principal George M. Grant, Dalton McCarthy, M.P. and Colonel George T. Denison. Their appeal against the new policy was chiefly based on the spirit of national honour and loyalty to British traditions, which they believed would be violated by any system which discriminated against the motherland and tended to make Canada subject, in the first place commercially, and later politically, to an alien people. An established reputation as disinterested men and as sincere and ardent advocates of imperial unity gave the arguments of this group great weight in an electorate long trained in principles of British loyalty, and their speeches went far to bring discredit upon Commercial Union as a popular cry. Meanwhile politicians on both sides watched closely to see whereto the agitation would grow.

In the Liberal party there was divided opinion as to the attitude which should be taken towards the new policy. Subsequent events proved that Mr. Blake, who had lately resigned the Liberal leadership, though publicly silent, was privately suspicious of the whole movement. Mr. Laurier, the newly-elected leader, in one of his earlier speeches in that capacity, while carefully stating the case for Commercial Union with the United States, hesitated about committing himself to it entirely, hinted that it might be "surrounded by insurmountable difficulties," but held that "the time has come to abandon the policy of retaliation followed thus far by the Canadian government, to show the American people that we are brothers, and to hold out our hands to them, with a due regard for the duties we owe to our Mother Country." He, at the same time, expressed his preference for a policy under which "all the nations recognizing the sovereignty of Great Britain would agree to rally together by means of commercial treaties," adding in reference to this, with prophetic vision of his own future efforts: "I consider the idea as good and fair, and such being the case I believe that it will eventually triumph." On the other hand Sir Richard Cartwright, whose authority at that time was great in the Liberal party, openly declared in 1887 for Commercial Union. In a speech delivered at Ingersoll on October 12th of that year, he said: "I am averse as any man can be to annexation or to resign our political independence, but I cannot shut my eyes to the facts. We have greatly misused our advantages. We have been most foolish and most wasteful in our expenditures. We have no means of satisfying the just demands of large portions of the Dominion except through such an arrangement as Commercial Union . . . . There is a risk, and I cannot overlook it. But it is a choice of risks. I say deliberately that the refusal or failure to secure free trade with the United States is much more likely to bring about just such a political crisis as these parties affect to dread than even the closest commercial connection that can be conceived."

An utterance such as this, coming from a man of position in the party, gave colour to the opinion that Commercial Union would be adopted as the Liberal trade policy. The provincial governments of the time were mostly Liberal, and at an interprovincial conference of their representatives held in the autumn of 1887, a resolution in favour of "unrestricted reciprocity" was passed, but coupled significantly with the declaration of "fervent loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and warm attachment to British connection," indicating clearly the danger which was anticipated from pressing the question of Commercial Union pure and simple. It is to be noted that a small Conservative minority at this conference, representing Manitoba and New Brunswick, which both suffered severely from restriction of trade with the United States, assented to this resolution.

When parliament met in 1888 it became necessary for the Liberal party to definitely state its policy. At the caucus held for that purpose a large majority was found to be opposed to any scheme which would make the fiscal system of Canada so dependent on that of the United States as it would be under complete Commercial Union, although some members were ready to make even this sacrifice for the sake of the advantages expected to flow from untrammelled trade relations.

The declaration of policy ultimately fixed upon was introduced into parliament as a resolution on March 14th, 1888, by Sir Richard Cartwright. It read as follows : "That it is highly desirable that the largest possible freedom of commercial intercourse should obtain between the Dominion of Canada and the United States, and that it is expedient that all articles manufactured in, or the natural products of either of the said countries, should be admitted free of duty into the ports of the other, articles subject to duties of excise or of internal revenue alone excepted ; and that it is further expedient that the government of the Dominion should take steps at an early date to ascertain on what terms and conditions arrangements can be effected with the United States for the purpose of securing full and unrestricted reciprocity of trade therewith." While the unpopular term "Commercial Union" was rejected in this resolution the substance of the idea was manifestly retained, since it is impossible to conceive a common tariff the terms of which would not be fixed by the predominant partner to the arrangement.

In parliament Macdonald met the issue thus raised by a direct negative. An amendment, approving of the protective policy of the government, was moved to the resolution of Sir Richard Cartwright by the finance minister of the cabinet, the Hon. G. E. Foster, and was carried by a vote of one hundred and twenty-four to sixty-seven. Again in 1889 Sir Richard Cartwright brought forward a modified resolution demanding a reduction of tariffs, and proposing that negotiations with the United States should be "conducted upon the basis of the most extended reciprocal freedom of trade between Canada and the United States in manufactured as well as natural products." This resolution also was voted down in parliament by a large majority.

But the Liberal party was now thoroughly committed to the general policy of unrestricted reciprocity outlined in these resolutions, and its leading speakers and writers devoted their energies during the next two years to the education of the public mind in this direction. They had perhaps been carried further than they intended by the apparent necessity for having some strong and individual line of policy to put before the country.

No reasonable person doubts that the majority of those who argued for closer trade relations with the United States did so with a view to the best interests of Canada and in perfect good faith. But it was unfortunate for the party that, while the policy thus adopted had in it much specious promise of material benefit, it was, as now put forward, opposed to sentiments and prejudices deeply rooted in the Canadian mind, and enlisted support of an exceedingly questionable character.

The extreme advocates of unrestricted reciprocity brought forward arguments and used expressions which offended the powerful sentiment of British nationality, and aroused suspicion of the objects they had in view. So true was this that a genuine belief was created in many minds that there was an organized conspiracy to hand over the country to the United States, and facts were to come to light which strengthened this suspicion.

The parliament of 1887 had yet a year to run when Macdonald, early in 1891, made up his mind that the time had come for an appeal to the electors on the momentous issue which had thus been raised. In many ways the chances of an election would at this time, under ordinary circumstances, have been strongly against him. Even his wonderful political adroitness could not altogether resist the swing of the pendulum, that tendency in free governments to lose strength during any long continuance of power, either by the defection of friends or the multiplication of opponents. Ontario was sore over the government's attitude towards the Jesuits' Estates Bill. Suspicion of corruption was hanging over one at least of his principal colleagues. A struggle going on in the West against the monopoly of transportation enjoyed by the Canadian Pacific Railway reacted unfavourably on the government which had granted the monopoly. The mere desire for change, after so many years of Conservative supremacy, was a force in the constituencies not to be ignored.

But he felt that it would be useless for parliament to meet again until the political atmosphere had been cleared by some definite expression from the constituencies. He perhaps recognized also the desirability of having a question of such far-reaching consequence to the Dominion settled once for all, while his own personal influence and prestige would count in the struggle. His political instincts, long trained to nice perception of the state of public feeling, told him that the time was opportune. He saw that the policy put forward by the Opposition, while it received support from a certain class of thinkers and business men, and for the moment seemed to serve the party purposes of his opponents, was fundamentally opposed to the main drift of Canadian history and Canadian purpose. He was convinced that the Canadian people shared his own fixed belief that greater things were in store for the Dominion than Commercial Union, or union of any other kind with the United States, could give.

The new policy, it was clear, drew support from some who had no sympathy with that devotion to British connection, and that passionate loyalty to the idea of a United Empire, which had played so large a part in Canadian history, and had more than once exercised a decisive influence on the course of events. The cold philosophy of Goldwin Smith, which placed the theory of free trade before national sentiment, was, to say the least, opposed to Canadian traditions. Macdonald on the other hand trusted to the strength of that sentiment to overcome every obstacle that confronted him in the coming contest.
He would not have been true, however, to his own record as a strategist in politics had he not tried to turn his opponents' flank. He had steadily opposed the plan of complete surrender to the American system. But he knew that the demand for improved trade relations with the United States was widespread and in a measure justified. In past times he had himself made every honourable effort to renew the reciprocal arrangement, which, between 1854 and 1866 had proved of so much advantage to both countries. Indeed, he claimed with apparent truth that every improvement in reciprocal trade hitherto made with the neighbouring republic had been obtained by Conservative governments of which he was a member. He now took steps through the medium of the home government, in connection with certain discussions concerning Newfoundland and Canadian fisheries, to approach the government of the United States once more *ith proposals for considering the various questions in dispute between that country and Canada with a view to an amicable settlement, and especially with the object of extending commercial intercourse between the two countries. How far he entertained hopes of success we have no means of knowing. But he well knew that a government in power striving to get the best terms possible from a commercial rival was more likely to be approved by the electors than an Opposition ready to make wholesale concessions and even risk political integrity.

The Conservative press made the most of this attempt to renew negotiations, and perhaps gave an exaggerated significance to the fact that the question had been re-opened partly at the suggestion of the American secretary of state, in connection with the discussion of fishery questions which concerned both Canada and Newfoundland. The Liberal party, recognizing that active exertion on the part of the government for better trade relations greatly weakened their own exclusive claim to this policy, denounced the new move as a mere electoral stratagem, and the circumstances introduced a new element of bitterness into the struggle.

Parliament was dissolved on February 3rd, and the election was fixed for March 5th. On February 7th, Macdonald issued his last formal appeal to the electors of the Dominion. This address, in which he reviews the work of his party in the development of Canada, criticizes the obstructive policy of his opponents, and finally concentrates attention upon the great issue immediately before the country, furnishes so good an illustration of his twofold character as party leader and national statesman, that even to-day, when the questions which he discusses are dead and buried, much of it may be read with interest. He says to the electors :-

"The momentous questions now engaging public attention having, in the opinion of the ministry, reached that stage when it is desirable that an opportunity should be given to the people of expressing, at the polls, their views thereon, the governor-general has been advised to terminate the existence of the present House of Commons, and to issue writs summoning a new parliament. This advice His Excellency has seen fit to approve, and you, therefore, will be called upon within a short time to elect members to represent you in the great council of the nation. I shall be a candidate for the representation of my old constituency, the city of Kingston.

"In soliciting at your hands a renewal of the confidence which I have enjoyed as a minister of the Crown for thirty years, it is, I think, convenient that I should take advantage of the occasion to define the attitude of the government, in which I am First Minister, towards the leading political issues of the day.

"As in 1878, in 1882, and again in 1887, so in 1891, do questions relating to the trade and commerce of the country occupy a foremost place in the public mind. Our policy in respect thereto is to-day what it has been for the past thirteen years, and is directed by a firm determination to foster and develop the varied resources of the Dominion, by every means in our power consistent with Canada's position as an integral portion of the British Empire. To that end we have laboured in the past, and we propose to continue in the work to which we have applied ourselves, of building up on this continent, under the flag of England, a great and powerful nation.

When, in 1878, we were called upon to administer the affairs of the Dominion, Canada occupied a position in the eyes of the world very different from that which she enjoys to-day. At that time a profound depression hung like a pall over the whole country, from the Atlantic Ocean to the western limits of the province of Ontario, beyond which to the Rocky Mountains stretched a vast and almost unknown wilderness. Trade was depressed, manufactures languished, and, exposed to ruinous competition, Canadians were fast sinking into the position of being mere I hewers of wood and drawers of water' for the great nation dwelling to the south of us. We determined to change this unhappy state of things. We felt that Canada, with its agricultural resources, rich in its fisheries, timber, and mineral wealth, was worthy of a nobler position than that of being a slaughter market of the United States. We said to the Americans: 'We are perfectly willing to trade with you on equal terms. We are desirous of having a fair reciprocity treaty, but we will not consent to open our markets to you while yours remain closed to us.' So we inaugurated the National Policy. You all know what followed. Almost as if by magic, the whole face of the country underwent a change. Stagnation and apathy and gloom—ay, and want and misery too—gave place to activity and enterprise and prosperity. The miners of Nova Scotia took courage; the manufacturing industries in our great centres revived and multiplied; the farmer found the market for his produce, the artisan and labourer employment at good wages, and all Canada rejoiced under the quickening impulse of a new-found life. The age of deficits was past, and an overflowing treasury gave to the government the means of carrying forward those great works necessary to the realization of our purpose to make this country a homogeneous whole.

"To that end we undertook that stupendous work, the Canadian Pacific Railway. Undeterred by the pessimistic views of our opponents—nay, in spite of their strenuous, and even maligant, opposition—we pushed forward that great enterprise through the wilds north of Lake Superior, across the western prairies, over the Rocky Mountains to the shores of the Pacific, with such inflexible resolution that, in seven years after the assumption of office by the present administration, the dream of our public men was an accomplished fact, and I myself experienced the proud satisfaction of looking back from the steps of my car upon the Rocky Mountains fringing the eastern sky. The Canadian Pacific Railway now extends from ocean to ocean, opening up and developing the country at a marvellous rate, and forming an imperial highway to the East over which the trade of the Indies is destined to reach the markets of Europe. We have subsidized steamship lines on both oceans—to Europe, China, Japan, Australia, and the West Indies. We have spent millions on the extension and improvement of our canal system. We have, by liberal grants of subsidies, promoted the building of railways, now become an absolute necessity, until the whole country is covered as with a network; and we have done all this with such prudence and caution, that our credit in the money market of the world is higher to-day than it has ever been, and the rate of interest on our debt, which is a true measure of the public burdens, is less then it was when we took office in 1878.

"During all this time what has been the attitude of the Reform party? Vacillating in their policy and inconstancy itself as regards their leaders, they have at least been consistent in this particular, that they have uniformly opposed every measure which had for its object the development of our common country. The National Policy was a failure before it had been tried. Under it we could not possibly raise a revenue sufficient for the public requirements. Time exposed that fallacy. Then we were to pay more for the home-manufactured article than we used to when we bought everything abroad. We were to be the prey of rings and monopolies, and the manufacturers were to extort their own prices. When these fears had been proved unfounded, we were assured that over-competition would inevitably prove the ruin of the manufacturing industries, and thus bring about a state of affairs worse than that which the National Policy had been designed to meet. It was the same with the Canadian Pacific Railway. The whole project, according to our opponents, was a chimera. The engineering difficulties were insuperable, the road, even if constructed, would never pay. Well, gentlemen, the project was feasible, the engineering difficulties were overcome, and the road does pay. Disappointed by the failure of all their predictions, and convinced that nothing is to be gained by further opposition on the old lines, the Reform party has taken a new departure, and has announced its policy to be Unrestricted Reciprocity—that is (as defined by its author, Mr. Wiman, in the North American Review a few days ago) free-trade with the United States, and a common tariff with the United States against the rest of the world. The adoption of this policy would involve, among other grave evils, discrimination against the mother country. . . . . . . . It would, in my opinion, inevitably result in the annexation of this Dominion to the United States."

After discussing the necessity that such a system would create for direct taxation to replace the ordinary revenue derived from import duties, which would be done away with by a system of commercial union, he returns to the vital issue of the election.

"For a century and a half this country has grown and flourished under the protecting aegis of the British Crown. The gallant race who first bore to our shores the blessings of civilization, passed, by an easy transition, from French to English rule, and now form one of the most law-abiding portions of the community. These pioneers were speedily recruited by the advent of a loyal band of British subjects, who gave up everything that men most prize, and were content to begin life anew in the wilderness rather than forego allegiance to their sovereign. To the descendants of these men, and of the multitude of Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen who emigrated to Canada that they might build up new homes without ceasing to be British subjects—to you Canadians I appeal, and I ask you what have you to gain by surrendering that which your fathers held most dear? Under the broad folds of the Union Jack, we enjoy the most ample liberty to govern ourselves as we please, and at the same time we participate in the advantages which flow from association with the mightiest empire the world has ever seen. Not only are we free to manage our domestic concerns, but, practically, we possess the privilege of making our own treaties with foreign countries, and, in our relations with the outside world, we enjoy the prestige inspired by a consciousness of the fact that behind us towers the majesty of England. The question which you will shortly be called upon to determine resolves itself into this: Shall we endanger our possession of the great heritage bequeathed to us by our fathers, and submit ourselves to direct taxation for the privilege of having our tariff fixed at Washington, with a prospect of ultimately becoming a portion of the American union? I commend these issues to your determination, and to the judgment of the whole people of Canada, with an unclouded confidence that you will proclaim to the world your resolve to show yourselves not unworthy of the proud distinction that you enjoy, of being numbered among the most dutiful and loyal subjects of our beloved queen.

"As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born—a British subject I will die. With my utmost effort, with my latest breath, will I oppose the 'veiled treason' which attempts by sordid means and mercenary proffers to lure our people from their allegiance. During my long public service of nearly half a century, I have been true to my country and its best interests, and I appeal with equal confidence to the men who have trusted me in the past, and to the young hope of the country with whom rest its destinies for the future, to give me their united and strenuous aid in this, my last effort, for the unity of the empire and the preservation of our commercial and political freedom."

Over-strained on some points as this address may seem to-day, it yet has in it the ring of reality and sincerity, and it reflects with reasonable accuracy the tension of public feeling at the time. The leader of the Opposition, Mr. Laurier, who must have found himself seriously embarrassed by one wing of his allies, replied with moderation, repudiating as an "unworthy appeal to passion and prejudice" the charge that unrestricted reciprocity was "veiled treason" . . . . "even when it was presented with the great authority of Sir John Macdonald's name." Sir Oliver Mowat and other prominent Liberals did their best to strengthen their leader's hands by re-affirming, as they had the strongest traditional right to do, their unqualified loyalty to British connection. It was while the judgment of that wavering body of electors which holds the balance between parties was yet in suspense that a new factor was introduced into the discussion.

An extremely able political journalist of the time, Mr. Edward Farrer, who had won distinction by his contributions, especially on economic questions, to other Canadian journals, had lately been transferred to the staff of the leading Liberal organ—the Toronto Globe—as its chief editorial writer, and as such was naturally supposed to have intimate relations with the prominent men of the party. Mr. Farrer had convinced himself that annexation to the United States was the inevitable destiny of Canada ; he was in communication, as afterwards appeared, with public men in the neighbouring states on the question, and he had prepared a pamphlet in which he discussed methods by which pressure could be exercised at Washington to force Canadians into political union. Among these methods were an increase of taxation on the products of Canada; the abolition of the bonding system by which British or foreign goods were imported into the Dominion through American ports; the imposition of a tonnage tax on Canadian fishing vessels; the cutting of connection between Canadian and American railways at essential points —everything, indeed, which would impress upon Canadians the disadvantage of not being a part of the American system. He claimed that steps such as these, by paralysing the commerce and industry of the Dominion, would compel the electorate to look to political union as the only way of escape from financial ruin. He paid Macdonald the compliment of saying that a time when he was about to leave the stage of public affairs would be a favourable moment for carrying out this coercive policy. "Whatever course," this writer said, "the United States may see fit to adopt, it is plain that Sir John's disappearance from the stage is to be the signal for a movement towards annexation. The enormous debt of the Dominion (fifty dollars per head), the virtual bankruptcy of all the provinces except Ontario, the pressure of the American tariff upon trade and industry, the incurable issue of race, and the action of natural forces making for the consolidation of the lesser country with the greater, have already prepared the minds of most intelligent Canadians for the destiny that awaits them; and a leader will be forthcoming when the hour arrives."

The proof sheets of this pamphlet were, it is said, stolen from the office of the printer, and they found their 'way into Macdonald's hands. They doubtless furnished the grounds of the reference in his address to "veiled treason." At a great party gathering in Toronto he disclosed, amid much excitement, what he pronounced to be a conspiracy to hand over Canada to the United States. The leaders of the Liberal party vehemently protested against having themselves associated with the opinions expressed in the pamphlet, and the writer himself promptly asserted his sole responsibility for everything that he had written, which was, he declared, merely an expression of his own private views. Nevertheless, the Farrer pamphlet strongly influenced public opinion, and was taken as an indication that the policy of unrestricted reciprocity furnished shelter to elements of disloyalty.

"The old flag, the old man, and the old policy," was the epigrammatic phrase, coined by a journalist of the time, into which the issues of the campaign were concentrated, and this became the Conservative rallying cry. The season at which the election came on was the depth of the Canadian winter. Macdonald was now seventy-five years old, and his friends looked forward with natural anxiety to the strain that the contest would put upon him. He threw himself into the campaign with all the energy of youth, travelling from point to point throughout Ontario, and speaking at times twice or thrice a day to huge audiences at places widely apart. The enthusiasm of his supporters knew no bounds, and far too great demands were made on his powers of endurance. The excitement of the contest was greatly augmented by the disclosures to which reference has been made. Sir Charles Tupper, summoned from his post as high commissioner in England, seconded the efforts of his old chief with great vigour.

The election took place on March 5th and at its close, for the fourth time in succession, Macdonald found himself confirmed in power, with a majority of rather more than thirty. It was not an overwhelming victory—a fact sufficient in itself to show that a large proportion of the electors did not take seriously the charge of treasonable conspiracy made against the Opposition. But that Macdonald's attitude on the question was not simply a party trick, nor yet a mere figment of his imagination, was soon shown in the most unexpected way. Edward Blake, long a member of the Liberal party and for some time its leader, had refused to stand at the election, and rumours had circulated which pointed to profound objection on his part to the policy of his friends. Throughout the campaign he maintained complete silence, but as soon as the election was over he addressed a letter to his old constituents of West Durham, in which he reviewed the situation and explained his own position. While strongly denouncing the protective policy of the government as well as its administration of public affairs, he went on to show that unrestricted reciprocity was practically indistinguishable from commercial union. But he had no illusions as to the result of adopting such a policy. The tendency would be towards political union. Hence his refusal to cooperate with his party. "Whatever you or I may think on that head, whether we like or dislike, believe or disbelieve in political union, must we not agree that the object is one of great moment, towards the practical settlement of which we should take no serious step without reflection, or in ignorance of what we are doing? Assuming that absolute free trade with the States, best described as commercial union, may and ought to come, I believe that it can and should come only as an incident, or at any rate as a well understood precursor of political union, for which indeed we should be able to make better terms before than after the surrender of our commercial independence. Then, so believing—believing that the decision of the trade question involves that of the constitutional issue—for which you are unprepared and with which you do not even conceive yourselves to be dealing—how can I properly recommend you now to decide on commercial union?"

How far the pamphlet of Mr. Farrer and the explanation of Mr. Blake to his constituents, to say nothing of the other speeches and journalistic utterances of the time, justify the attitude of Macdonald during the campaign of 1891, the impartial student of the period may perhaps best be left to decide for himself. Certain it is that in the bye-elections which occurred during the ensuing year, when people had been given time to coolly review all the circumstances, the Conservative majority steadily increased. Macdonald's still more triumphant vindication rests in the fact that, throughout the many years of Liberal sway which have since elapsed, his policy has been perpetuated, and it is Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself who has finally disposed of unrestricted reciprocity by declaring that Canadians will make no more "pilgrimages to Washington" in search of commercial advantages. Political strategist Macdonald may have been, but the searching test of time has proved conclusively that the consummate strategist was also the wise and prescient statesman.


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