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The Scot in British North America
Chapter V Canada from 1840 to 1867 Part A


The abortive rebellions in the two Provinces, like the war of 1812, had the immediate effect of stimulating political activity, and entirely diverting the current of public affairs. The skill and address of Mr. C. Poulett Thompson (afterwards Lord Sydenham of Toronto) surmounted the grave objections advanced in both Provinces against the project of re-union. The Home Government saw clearly enough that there was no prospect of permanent contentment unless by undoing the Constitutional Act of 1791. In Lower Canada, the representative system was under suspension, and the government carried on by a Special Council. The aim of the colonial office, therefore, was by a union of the Provinces, to give the British and loyal population a majority in the Legislature. It was supposed that by establishing, from the outset, an equality of representation, although Upper Canada was really inferior to the Lower Province in numbers and revenue, some security would be given for the ascendency of the English-speaking race. A minority in Lower Canada, chiefly representing the eastern townships, was British, and it was naturally supposed that they would unite with the members from Upper Canada. It seemed clearly the purpose of the Imperial Government if possible to swamp the French malcontents, and make the future Parliament predominatingly British. Hence the violent opposition to the union in Lower Canada. However, as the people there had no voice in the matter, their protests counted for little.

In Upper Canada, it might have been thought that the advantages to be reaped from the proposed measure were obvious enough. The finances of the Province were in a woful condition. Lower Canada collected the customs duties at Quebec, and although some sort of provision had been made for an equitable division of the fiscal revenue, as a matter of fact, the Upper Province reaped little or no benefit from it; on the other hand it had no power to levy import duties. The Union Bill by giving each section equal representation, and charging debts upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the United Province, gave the west a balance of profit out of the new partnership to which it had no equitable claim. On the other hand, the dominant party saw with dismay the prospect of a coalition, in a single Assembly, of the Reform elements in both Provinces. They well knew that the boon of responsible government vaguely promised would before long be made a reality. They trembled for the loyalty and religion of Canada, and feared that the Union Bill would prove to be a revolution in disguise. It must be confessed that, apart from personal and party considerations, there was no small cause for apprehension. The prospect of having a compact body of French Canadians, ready to throw in the weight of their influence with an Upper Canadian minority was not an inviting one. In after years the cry of "French domination," however, was heard not from the Conservative, but the Liberal side.

At that time, the loyal party apprehended "the greatest danger to our civil and political institutions, and even to our connexion with the parent state." [From Sir Allan McNab’s Address, as Speaker on behalf of the Assembly (13th of January, 1840. Christie, v. 345.] They only yielded because it was evident that the Imperial Government was bent upon the prosecution of the measure. An attempt was made by Mr. Sherwood to expunge the equality clause, and substitute a provision by which Lower Canada would have fifty members, and Upper Canada sixty-two as before. This amendment was rejected by a vote of thirty-six to nineteen. The discussion need not trouble us further here; it may suffice to mention that the measure, as drawn up by Sir James Stuart, passed almost as he drafted it. [By far the best summary of the Upper Canada objections will be found in a brochure addressed to the Colonial Secretary, Lord John Russell, by Chief Justice Robinson, entitled, Canada and the Canada Bill, pp. 198. London, 1840. The Lower Canadian case will be found in Christie, vol. v.: Garneau, B. xvi., ch. iii; Turcotte, Le Canada Sous l’Union, Introduction. The dispatches of Lord John Russell and Mr. Poulett Thompson are given in McMullen, History, ch. xxii.]

The Governor-General had been raised to the peerage in August, 1840, and on the 14th of June, 1841, he opened the first session of the first Canadian Parliament at Kingston, which had been selected as the seat of government, in the previous year, it should be noted, two important questions were temporarily adjusted. The Clergy Reserves were apportioned amongst the religious bodies, one-half to the Churches of England and Scotland, the other to recognised "Christian denominations," in proportion to their private contributions, vested rights being secured. The other event was the formal concession of the principles of responsible government by the Crown. His Excellency, in reply to an Address from the House, declared "that he had been commanded by Her Majesty to administer the government in accordance with the well understood wishes of the people; and to pay their feelings, as expressed through their representatives, the deference that was justly due to them." Thus for a time, at all events, all burning questions were adjusted. Attorney-General Hagerman, who had opposed the Union Bill, was dismissed, and Mr. Draper appointed in his place.

The new House was largely Unionist and Liberal, and a French Canadian Reformer was elected Speaker. [Amongst the Upper Canada section are to be found the names of James Johnston, J. Sandfield Macdonald, Sir Allan N. McNab, J. McGill Strachan, Malcolm Cameron, James Morris, David Thorburn, E.C. Campbell, John Gilchrist, Donald McDonald, Alex McLean, and Isaac Buchanan; and from Lower Canada, John Hamilton, Colin Robertson, Robt. Christie, Henry Black, David Burnet, John Neilson, and Michael McCulloch, all Scots. Turcotte, p. 66. Of the twenty-four Legislative Councillors, we may note the names of Robert S. Jamieson, William Morris, Alexander Fraser, Peter McGill, James Crooks, John Fraser, Adam Fergusson, John Hamilton (now a Senator), John Macaulay, John Macdonell, Adam Ferrie, and Thomas McKay – exactly one-half of the body. Ibid. p. 70.] The speech from the Throne was eminently practical, being chiefly filled with the recommendation of measures to develop the resources of the country by public works, especially the improvement of river navigation. It announced that the Imperial Government was prepared to guarantee a loan of a million and a half of dollars in aid of public works, and concluded with an appeal in favour of an effective system of elementary instruction for the people. Mr. Cameron moved the Address in reply to the speech from the Throne; but it was not destined to pass without debate and opposition. The Lower Canadians felt that now, at the first opportunity, it was necessary to protest against the Union, or "forever after hold their peace." The Hon. John Neilson, whose career has been already sketched, was selected as their spokesman. The amendment expressed regret "that the more populous section of the Province, which formerly constituted Lower Canada, by section of an Act of 1791, had not been consulted upon the governmental constitution substituted for that which was established under the said Act; and that there are features in the measure which now settles the Government of Canada, which are incompatible with justice and hostile to the common rights of British subjects." [Turcotte: Le Canada, &c., vol. i., p. 74.] Mr. Neilson’s speech was marked by its moderation. His motion was supported by the Hon. Robert Baldwin (who had resigned the Attorney-Generalship), and Messrs. Hincks, Price, Durand, and other Upper Canadian Reformers. It was, however, defeated by a vote of fifty to twenty-five. Mr. Neilson made a second attempt on the question of a loan proposed by the Government. This amendment, which was really the double-majority principle in embryo, was supported by Messrs. Baldwin and Hincks. Another made also by the member for Quebec in more general terms, received the support of Sir Allan McNab and Mr. Sherwood, Conservatives, and was only defeated by thirty-four to twenty-nine. At the close of the Session, Lord Sydenham, who had been in delicate health, received injuries by a fall from his horse, which caused his death in September, 1841. He was an eminently wise and conciliatory ruler, and died amidst the sincere regrets of all Canadians without distinction of party.

It now seems well to take up some of the more prominent Scots of the time in order, and trace their careers in biographical form. The first name upon the list is that of a Scoto-Canadian of the true Highland stock of Glengarry. The Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald was born at St. Raphael on the 12th of December, 1812. His grandfather had come to this country in 1786 with one of those Highland migrations which together made up the Glengarry colony. The future Premier had the misfortune to lose his mother at an early age, and, as the future sketched out for him did not please young Sandfield, he struck out a path for himself, with characteristic independence and self-reliance. On two occasions he ran away from home in search of fortune, and was brought back. He finally engaged himself to a storekeeper, with whom he remained two years. At Cornwall, he made a similar engagement; but the fire of ambition burnt fiercely within him, and he determined, by vigorous efforts, to enter a liberal profession. In 1832, although in his twentieth year, young Macdonald entered the Cornwall Grammar School, at that time directed by Dr. Urquhart. By sheer dint of plodding, in two years he was proclaimed "dux" of the school. In 1835, he had passed his preliminary examination before the Law Society, and entered the office of Mr. (afterwards Chief Justice) McLean, as an articled clerk. When his principal was elevated to the Bench, Mr. Macdonald served the balance of his time with Mr. Draper, the future Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal. In 1840, he was called to the Bar, and commenced to practise in the town of Cornwall.

He was hardly well in harness before he was invited to the representation of his native county (Glengarry) in Parliament. Mr. Fennings Taylor has remarked that this was no ordinary compliment to be paid to one so little known in connection with public affairs. However, the constituency was not hard to please, and so long as it could secure one of the real old stock, cared very little whether he called himself a Conservative or Reformer. [Portraits of British Canadians, p. 96; Morgan, p. 537.] Mr. Macdonald never issued an election address, but was returned in 1841 nominally as a Conservative. Parties, however, were at that time in so chaotic a state, that it mattered little what a member styled himself. Messrs. Baldwin and Draper were members of the same Government, and a new member had some difficulty in fixing his political attitude. At all events his first vote was given against the amendments of Mr. Neilson. Sometimes he was to be found with the Upper Canadian Conservatives, and sometimes with the Reformers; but his general attitude was one of opposition. On the question of responsible government there was, at least, an approach to unanimity. Resolutions on the subject were proposed by Mr. Baldwin, but were replaced by others drawn by Mr. Harrison, and the question was to all appearance finally settled. In 1843, the course pursued by Lord Metcalfe, to which it will be necessary to return again, separated Mr. Macdonald from his old friends, and he thenceforward acted as a Reformer, of the independent sort. At this crisis Mr. Macdonald certainly acted with great courage, since the Glengarry Highlanders were, when aroused, strictly loyal Conservatives. Yet notwithstanding their inclination to the side of authority, their representative carried them with him when he espoused the cause of the ex-ministers. His Gaelic and English harangues fired the Celtic blood, and Glengarry became, like its member, Reform to the backbone. The people of that county, nineteen-twentieths of whom were Highlanders, were not in the habit of doing things by halves, and having chosen their standard-bearer, like their forbears, they were singularly indifferent to the hue of the colours he bore into action. [A more extended account of the Glengarry folk will be given hereafter.] They not only returned their old member by a larger majority, but became permanently a Liberal constituency.

It was not until December 1849 that Mr. Macdonald took office. At that date he succeeded the Hon. W. H. Blake, who had been made Chancellor, as Solicitor General West, in the Baldwin-Lafontaine administration. In 1851 when Mr. Baldwin retired and was succeeded by Mr. (now Sir F.) Hincks, contrary to general expectation, Mr. Sandfield Macdona1d was not appointed Attorney-General. Whether he declined the office, or, as would appear more likely, was intentionally passed over, is not clear. That he was entitled to the post by traditional usage is certain; and his resignation of the Solicitor Generalship would seem to show that he felt piqued. When a new Parliament assembled in 1852, he was elected Speaker, on motion of Mr. Hincks, by a vote of fifty-five to twenty-three. In 1854, the Houses had not been convened until the latest day allowed by law. A vote of non-confidence on the Address caused an immediate prorogation and the House was dissolved. Hence arose a serious constitutional question. "The law provides that a session must be held within periods not later than twelve months of one another; and Parliamentary usage has established that, to constitute a session, one bill, at least, must be passed through all its stages of both Houses." [Portraits, p. 99] Mr. Fennings Taylor seems to think that, in protesting against this breach of law and custom, Mr. Speaker Macdonald intended to administer a grave reproof to the Governor-General. It rather appears that he was simply performing his duty as the mouthpiece of the Assembly, although he may probably have had as a secondary and subordinate object to pay off the Government for old scores. They had rejected him as a colleague, and the opportunity now presented itself of snubbing them. In temperate language the Speaker addressed His Excellency at the bar of the Council. "It has been, "he said, "the immemorial custom of the Speaker of the Commons House of Parliament to communicate to the Throne the general result of the deliberations of the Assembly upon the principal objects which have employed the attention of Parliament during the period of their labours. It is not now part of my duty to thus address your Excellency," because no act or judgment had been passed. He then pointed out that the passage of an Act is necessary to constitute a session and that Parliament had been prevented from accomplishing this, by the abrupt summons of the Governor-General. "At the same time," he concluded, "I feel called upon to assure your Excellency, on the part of Her Majesty’s faithful Commons, that it is not from any want of respect to yourself or the august personage whom you represent in these Provinces, that no answer has been returned to your gracious Speech from the Throne."

There can be little doubt that the Speaker was really within his right in making this protest. It is said that Lord Elgin showed manifest signs of impatience during the delivery of this address; but that may well be attributed to the vexation felt by an eminently constitutional ruler, at having been betrayed into a false step by his advisers. During the opening session of the new Parliament, Mr. Macdonald showed clearly that it was not the Governor-General but the Premier at whom his shafts were aimed. The elections had left the Government in a minority in Upper Canada, and the new element of opposition in the person and following of Mr. George Brown, had been materially strengthened. On the election of Speaker, the Hincks-Morin Government found itself in a minority of two, Mr. Sicotte being elected over Mr. Cartier, the ministerial candidate. The necessary consequence was the resignation of the Cabinet, and the formation of the McNab-Morin Government in its place.

Mr. Macdonald now became an independent member of the Opposition. He never entirely sympathized with the western section of his party. He was, to begin with, a Roman Catholic, and saw with regret the attitude assumed by those with whom he generally acted, towards his Church. Moreover he was opposed to the principle of representation based upon population, and preferred the adoption of the "double majority," under which the Government of the day must resign or appeal to the people, if it failed to command the support of a parliamentary majority from both sections of the Province. He thus stood isolated from his friends, and the influence he exerted was solely due to his individual force of character. When the two-days’ Ministry of 1858 was formed, Mr. Brown selected the honourable gentleman as Attorney General West. As we shall see hereafter, there was no sacrifice of principle on either part, since the principle of local autonomy was to be granted, with "some joint authority" for affairs in common to both Provinces.

In 1862, Mr. Macdonald playfully described himself as the political Ishmael [Portraits, n., p. 102.] yet in the same year, when the Cartier-Macdonald administration was unexpectedly defeated on the second reading of the Militia Bill, [The vote stood, yeas 54, nays, 61.] he was called upon by Lord Monck to form a Government. Mr. Brown was not a member of this Parliament, having been defeated at Toronto, and Mr. Macdonald was naturally chosen as the leader of his party. This attempt to form an administration was as courageous as that of the late Lord Derby in England ten years before; since it was felt that there was no promise for it in the future. On the 8th of May, 1863, a direct vote of non-confidence was proposed by Mr. (Sir) John A. Macdonald and carried by sixty-four to fifty-nine—a majority of five. The House was at once prorogued with a view to dissolution. Here a fatal mistake was committed—that described by Mr. Lincoln as swapping horses while crossing a stream. The Lower Canada section was entirely remodelled, Mr. Dorion succeeding Mr. Sicotte as Attorney General East. The Cabinet thus acquired a distinctly Rouge and Radical tinge. Moreover, Mr. Macdonald distinctly abandoned his double majority stand-point by choosing his eastern colleagues from the ranks of the minority. Of course it was open to him to plead that he trusted to obtain a majority in Lower Canada at the approaching elections, but he must have felt that there was little prospect of his doing so.

When the new House assembled it was found that although Ministers were in a majority in Upper Canada, they had made little progress in the sister Province. On the choice of Speaker, Mr. Macdonald had a majority of eight. A motion of want of confidence, pressed to a division, was lost by a vote of sixty-one to sixty-four. By avoiding the shoals in its way, the Government managed to tide over this Session; but in 1864 it became evident that the end was near. The Premier attempted to strengthen the Lower Canadian wing of his party, by making overtures to Sir Etienne Taché; but these were declined. A split in the party on the question of representation by population made matters still worse, and Mr. Macdonald finally resigned, to be succeeded by Sir K. Tache. However, the new Government found itself in as awkward a position as its predecessor, for it was in turn defeated on a trivial question by a vote of sixty to fifty-eight. It was now clear to both parties that a new departure was necessary. Hence the Coalition Ministry, of which more will be said hereafter. The project of a confederated British North America was introduced and carried, Mr. Sandfield Macdonald and thirty-two others voting against it.

In 1867, the first year of the Dominion, a new sphere of usefulness was opened up for Mr. Macdonald. He became Premier of the Province of Ontario, the head of a Coalition Government. For four years he laboured with diligence and ability in the organization of the various departments of legislation and administration. Too, little praise has been awarded him for the energy and power he displayed during this period. Party feeling, however, had again grown high, and after the elections of 1871, finding himself in a minority, Mr. Macdonald bade adieu to office for ever. He remained in Parliament, however, until his death, which took place on June 2nd, 1872, at Cornwall. Mr. Macdonald was tall and spare in frame, and for many years suffered from lung disease. Considering the infirm state of his health, the vigour and strength he displayed were astonishing. That he possessed extraordinary administrative powers will be admitted by all parties. He was eminently blunt and straightforward in the expression of opinion, as became one of the good old Highland stock. Personally he attached to himself hosts of friends; but politically, he was too independent to make a good party leader. That his aims were upright, and his personal character singularly above the suspicion of public wrong-doing, is beyond dispute. At the time of his decease he was "the Father of the House," having sat in it continuously for more than thirty years.

The next Scot of the first Union Parliament of 1841, who calls for special mention, is the Hon. Malcolm Cameron, member for Lanark. His father, Angus Cameron, was a hospital sergeant; he himself was born on the 28th of April, 1808. The future Legislative Councillor had a somewhat romantic youth. In 1816, his father settled at Perth, where he appears to have kept an inn. Perhaps it was there that young Malcolm acquired that distaste for the liquor traffic which made him so prominent an advocate of total abstinence later in life. When only twelve years of age he went on a farm and kept the ferry across the Mississippi River. He was thrown much into the company of Radical Scots, and soon imbibed their political opinions. On his father’s death, he obtained a situation at Laprairie, but, being badly treated, left it in 1824, and made his way to Montreal in the depth of winter. On his arrival there with both cheeks frozen, he was hired as a stable-boy, and thus earned enough to take him home to Upper Canada. He now went to school and studied hard, shortly after being engaged as clerk in the distillery of the Hon. A. Graham. Neither of his parents had been intemperate; but his mother had early trained him in the principles of total abstinence, and he was proof against temptation. He spent four years in this place, occupying all his spare time in study. In 1833, when on business, he visited Scotland, and married his cousin, Miss McGregor, of Glasgow. Three years after, he was elected for Lanark in the Upper Canadian Parliament, and immediately took an active part in the opposition to Sir F. Bond Head. He was a warm admirer of Lord Sydenham, and is said to have been offered the post of Inspector-General in the first Cabinet after the Union. Under Sir Charles Bagot, he effected great improvements in Custom-house management as Inspector of Revenue, and became Assistant Commissioner of Public Works in the Baldwin-Lafontaine Administration of 1848. He was subsequently made President of the Council. In the Tache-Morin Government of 1853, he served as Postmaster-General, and afterwards as Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Cameron sat in the House for twenty-six years, and was elected ten times for various constituencies: Lanark, Kent, Lambton and Huron. In 1860, he was chosen as representative of the St. Clair Division in the Council. Mr. Cameron withdrew from public life on accepting the office of Queen’s Printer, which he held for some years. He subsequently offered as a candidate for one of the ridings of Ontario, but was defeated. Mr. Cameron’s connection with the press extended fitfully over many years. He founded the Bathurst Courier at Perth in 1834, and conducted it for three years; assisted in establishing the North American, edited by Mr. (the Hon.) Wm. McDougall, as the organ of the "Clear Grits;"" and the Huron Signal, conducted with distinguished ability by Thomas McQueen at Goderich. Malcolm Cameron was proud of his success, and he had some reason for pride. He owed nothing to wealth or connections, but was strictly the builder of his own fortunes. His open, frank countenance and demeanour won for him many staunch friends; his business tact recommended him to party leaders; and whenever the opportunity offered, he was a faithful and diligent public servant. In the temperance movement he was a host in himself, throwing himself into it with more fervid enthusiasms than into politics. He died at Ottawa at the age of sixty-eight, on the sixth of June, 1876.

An account has already been given of Sir Allan McNab’s early life and military career. It only remains to sketch briefly his political life. A staunch Conservative, from first to last, he was not a blind partizan; for, on more occasions than one Sir Allan proved his independence, and also a ready willingness to acknowledge mistakes, as in the Mackenzie case. His first connection with political life was, on the surface, ill-omened; but in reality the first step to success. In the year 1829, he was examined before a committee of the Assembly, in the matter of the "Hamilton outrage" already referred to. Dr. Rolph submitted an awkward question which Mr. McNab refused to answer. This being reported to the House, Dr. Baldwin moved that he had been guilty of contempt, and Mr. Mackenzie followed up this motion by another, that the witness be committed to gaol during pleasure. Of course he remained there until the close of the session; but at the general election, 1830, he was returned for Wentworth with the Hon. John Wilson, as colleague. Up to the time of the Union he sat for the same constituency, and during the last House was its Speaker.

In 1841, he contested the city of Hamilton, with the Hon. S. B. Harrison, Lord Sydenham’s chief Minister, defeated him, and continued to represent that city until his retirement in 1857. At the time of the Rebellion he was Speaker, and went into the field in command of "the men of Gore"— the name of the district of which Wentworth and Hamilton formed part. To the affair of the Caroline allusion has already been made; it is only necessary to add that Mr. McNab was knighted for his services during the insurrection. He soon after became Queen’s Counsel, and conducted Crown business at county assizes. In Parliament after the Union, he was a determined opponent of the Government, and for a time allied himself with the French Canadians against the Government and the Governor. He had been defeated in the struggle for the Speakership, and felt somewhat sore at the time. In September, 1842, the Conservative members of the Cabinet resigned, and the party united under Sir Allan in opposition. Then followed the Metcalfe period, and after the elections of 1844, the result of the Governor-General’s personal exertions became apparent; since the member for Hamilton was elected Speaker, notwithstanding his ignorance of the French language, in preference to Mr. Morin. In 1848, Sir Allan once more found himself leader of the Opposition, and next year took an active part in the struggle against the Rebellion Losses Bill. When Lord Elgin appended his signature to it, the embittered party despatched their leader to England to secure, if possible, the disallowance of the Act; but he failed. On the defeat of the Hincks-Morin government in 1854, Sir Allan became Premier, with Mr. Morin as his chief Lower Canadian colleague in a coalition ministry. In 1855, Sir Etienne Taché succeeded to the Lower Canada leadership, and in 1856, Sir Allan "not willingly," says Mr. Fennings Taylor, but from some differences of opinion with his colleagues, resigned. The ostensible cause was the failure of the government to obtain an Upper Canadian majority on the question of the seat of government. On an amendment moved by Mr. Holton, Sir Allan had a gross majority of twenty-three, but failed to secure a sufficient vote from the upper Province. [Turcotte, ii., p. 293. The vote stood, Yeas, 70, nays, 47: but of the forty-seven, thirty-three were Upper Canadian members, whilst in the majority there were only twenty-seven.] Messrs. Spence and Morrison at once resigned, and Mr. (Sir) John A. Macdonald followed their example. Sir Allan McNab then retired, making way for his old colleague, the Attorney-General. That he was deeply hurt is shown by a remark made in the House that his colleagues had shown a want of confidence in him. Next year disappointment or ill health, perhaps both, led him to resign his seat for Hamilton, with a view to taking up his permanent residence in England. [Mr. Taylor says: "In 1857, His battles and the gout, Had so knocked his hull about, that he left Canada." Portraits, p. 320. Apropos of the gout, an authentic anecdote of Sir Allan McNab may be added. While he and the late Chancellor Vankoughnet were fellow passengers on an Allan steamer, in what was supposed to be imminent danger of sinking, the knight, being unable to move or aid himself on account of the gout, appealed to his friend’s sympathy thus: "My dear Van., I know you will not desert me – let us go down together."] His farewell address to the constituency was written with much dignity and feeling. It concluded with words which really disclose the brave old knight’s generous but somtimes wrong-headed nature: "One word before we part, and that is, if in times of trial and great excitement I have erred, I trust you will kindly ascribe it to an error of the head and not of the heart." [Portraits, p. 320: Morgan, p. 478.] After his futile contest at Brighton, Sir Allan returned to Canada, and was elected to the Legislative Council for the Western Division in the room of Col. Prince, who had accepted the office of judge in the Algoma District. In 1856 he had been raised to the baronetcy, and made aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales, in 1860. At the time of his death at Dundurn Castle Hamilton, on the 8th of August, 1862, he was Speaker of the Upper House. Sir Allan makes a grand figure in early Upper Canadian history, and, with all his faults, mostly, as he said, those of the head, his memory deserves to be held in deep respect because of his singleness of purpose, his blunt honesty and goodness of heart.

The Hon. William Morris, one of the Legislative Councillors of 1841, has already been alluded to in connection with the war. In 1820, he became a member of the Upper Canada Parliament, and in the same year received a testimonial in plate from the Glasgow creditors of his father as a mark of gratitude for the honourable manner in which he and his brother Alexander, who was in business at Perth, had discharged in full all the debts of the estate. Mr. Morris at once took up his position as champion of the Church of Scotland. He claimed, on its behalf, a fair share in the Clergy Reserve fund, and, as we know, carried his point. After being returned for Lanark, in 1836, he was elevated to the Legislative Council. In 1837, as already stated, he was active in reorganizing the county militia, for the spirit of 1812 was still strong in his bosom. Under Lord Metcalfe, during 1844-46, as Receiver-General, he approved himself a "valuable public servant." For the next two years, he was President of the Council, and retired from public life when his party surrendered in 1848. In 1853, he was stricken down by a painful disease, which proved mortal at last, and died at Montreal, on the 29th of June, 1858, leaving behind him a spotless name for integrity, and a public and private record of which no Scot need feel ashamed.

The Hon. James Morris, a son of the Alexander mentioned above, was also in the Assembly of 1841. He was born at Paisley, in Scotland, in 1798, and was brought out to Canada when only three years of age. In 1837, he was returned to the Assembly. In 1838 he was a commissioner on the St. Lawrence canals, and in 1844 became a member of the Legislative Council. Under Lord Elgin, in 1851, he served as Postmaster-General—the first who held the office after the transference of the postal revenues to the Province. Mr. Morris at once set himself to the work of reform. He visited Washington, and entered into a postal treaty with the United States. The average rate of inland postage had hitherto been sixteen cents; he at once established a uniform rate of five cents. In 1853 and 1854, the hon. gentleman was Speaker of the Legislative Council, and in the two days’ government of 1858, he again occupied the same position. In 1864, Mr. Morris had an important part in the negotiations which resulted in the formation of the Coalition Government, but did not take office. He died at Brockville on the 29th of September, 1865. A staunch Reformer, he was also a man of unblemished probity and considerable administrative ability.

The Hon. Adam Fergusson was one of the original Legislative Councillors from the Union. He never took office, but will always be remembered in the western peninsula for the stimulus he gave to rational and scientific agriculture. Born at Edinburgh, in March, 1783, he was the son of Neil Fergusson, of Woodhill. The family was of the old Highland stock, long established in Perthshire, and his farmer tastes were hereditary. Like his father, he became an advocate, as many of the gentry do in Scotland, without any intention of practicing. His heart was in the country, and, from first to last, the land had the first place in his extra-domestic affections. In 1833, he came out to Canada, and, in connection with Mr. James Webster, of Guelph, founded the village of Fergus, in what is now the county of Wellington, at the junction of the Irvine and Grand Rivers. His own residence was in the neighbourhood of Hamilton, where he lived on an estate to which he naturally gave the name of the property, held in right of his mother by his father, Neil. He was known far and wide as "the laird of Woodhill"—a landed proprietor remarkable for his thorough acquaintance with husbandry, as well as for his benevolent and generous disposition. In person, he was tall, the picture of health and activity, and to the last he adhered to the old-fashioned dress which, a century ago, marked out the gentleman farmer.

In 1839, he was called to the Legislative Council of Upper Canada; in 1841, to the same body under the Union, and he continued to sit there up to the time of his death. In politics Mr. Fergusson was a Whig at home, in Canada he called himself a Constitutional Reformer. He never tolerated, still less advocated extreme measures although he invariably acted with the Liberal party. [Mr. Fennings Taylor, to whose Portraits we are indebted for most of the facts here given, makes the shrewd remark that "the English Whig, like Colonel Prince, for example, will generally be found voting with Canadian Conservatives; while the Scotch Whig, like the subject of our sketch, will as generally be found voting with Canadian Reformers."] Lord Sydenham found in him an ardent supporter, and throughout his public career he was a moderate Reformer. It is principally, however, as an agriculturist that he will hereafter be known. On the first Board of Agriculture he sat as a Director, and to him, with others, is due the credit of establishing the Agricultural Association, of which he was repeatedly President. To him, also, we owe the establishment of a chair of Agriculture in University College, Toronto. He died on the 26th of September, 1862, highly respected by all who knew him. His son, Adam Johnston Fergusson, may be briefly noticed here. Born at Balthayvock House, Perthshire, in 1815, he came out with his father, in 1833, and became a barrister. In 1849, he was returned for Waterloo, and in 1854 for the South Riding of Wellington, on the partition of the counties. In 1860, he was elected for Brock Division to the Legislative Council, and, in 1863, succeeded Mr. Morris, as Receiver-General. When the Cabinet was re-constructed, in May of that year, he became Provincial Secretary, and retained his office until the fall of the Macdonald-Dorion Cabinet. In 1862, he took the additional name of Blair, on coming into possession of the maternal estates. In 1866, he was once more in office, replacing Mr. Brown, and in 1867, he became a Senator and President of the Council in the Dominion Cabinet. He died in office towards the close of the year.

The Hon. John Hamilton, "the father of the Senate," still lives and attends punctually to his legislative duties. His father, the Hon. Robert Hamilton, was, we believe, born in Scotland. The Senator himself first saw the light at Queenston, Ontario, in 1801. His wife, one of the Macphersons of Inverness, survived until 1873. Mr. Hamilton was president of the Commercial Bank for seventeen years, and also for some time of the St. Andrew’s Society of Kingston. Appointed to the Legislative Counci1 in 1841, and to the Senate in 1867, he has now occupied a seat in one or other Upper House for forty years. He is still hale and hearty at the age of eighty years. Another veteran, who passed. away some years since was the Hon. James Leslie. His father, Capt. James Leslie, of the 15th Foot, was Assistant Quarter-Master in Wolfe’s army at the taking of Quebec. The future Senator was born at Kair, Kincardineshire, in1786, and received his education at Aberdeen. He was for many years a merchant at Montreal. Served with the Montreal Volunteers during the war of 1812, and remained an officer until 1862, when he retired as Lieutenant-Colonel, retaining his rank. Mr. Leslie represented Montreal in the Lower Canada Assembly from 1824 until the Union, and sat for Verchères from 1844 to 1848, when he was called to the Legislative Council. In 1867 he became a Senator and remained a member until his death. Mr. Leslie only held office during a brief period, as President of the Council from March to September, 1848, and Provincial Secretary thenceforward until October, 1851. He died in 1873 at the advanced age of eighty-seven. [Le Moine: The Scot in New France, Appendix C.]

One of the most fiercely contested elections in 1841 was that of Toronto. The candidates were Henry Sherwood and George Monro, Conservatives, and the Hon. J. H. Dunn and Isaac Buchanan, Liberals. There was thus a Scot on each side. Mr. Monro, who only died a few years since, was a well-known and highly respected citizen, who filled in Toronto the office of Mayor during 1840. On this occasion he was unsuccessful, but he was returned for the third division of York, at a by-election, succeeding Mr. J. E. Small. He retained his seat, however, only until the election of 1847, when he was defeated by the late Chancellor Blake. The Hon. Isaac Buchanan has made a more conspicuous figure in public life. He was born at Glasgow on the 21st of July, 1810. His father was a merchant; but the son appears to have been originally marked out for a professional career. He was just on the eve of entering college when accident changed the whole course of his life, and he entered the office of a mercantile firm. The father appears to have been somewhat disappointed; still, with the shrewd common sense of the Lowland Scot, he yielded. Mr. Buchanan entered the service at fifteen, and before he was twenty he had become a partner and the whole of the Canadian department was placed under his control. In 1830 he removed to Canada, after a short residence in New York. His first place of settlement was Montreal; he then, in 1831, established a branch in Toronto. The business was subsequently extended to Hamilton and London. The firm of Buchanan, Harris & Co. was soon well known, by its success not only in Canada, but in Great Britain. In politics Mr. Buchanan was extremely moderate. He had no sympathy with the Rebellion, although he held strong opinions about the Clergy Reserves, and was every inch a Reformer. In 1841 occurred the memorable contest for Toronto, already alluded to. Those who remember it are never tired of recalling the stirring incidents of the time. Political passion rose to fever-heat, and not a little violence was the result. In those days party colours were worn, and processions with bands formed a salient feature in the canvass. There was only one polling-place, and it was kept open for the reception of votes from nine on Monday morning until five on Saturday evening. During the whole of that interval the old-time weapons of intimidation and violence were kept in use, as well as another which we can hardly flatter ourselves the country has yet relegated to the museum of political curiosities—bribery. "Who is this Mr. Buchanan?" asked a placard, and answered its own question, "He was only a shop-boy the other day." Mr. Buchanan knew how to turn this reproach to account. Holding up the placard in his hands, he exclaimed from the hustings: "These gentlemen," pointing to his opponents, "accuse me of being one of yourselves."

The result of the struggle was the return of Messrs. Dunn and Buchanan. The latter had no personal object to serve in entering the House. On the contrary, he became a candidate at considerable sacrifice of private interests. At the opening of the canvass he had publicly offered to retire in Mr. Sherwood’s favour, if he would only pledge himself to vote for responsible government. So far from being an extreme partisan, he presided at a dinner given to Sir George Arthur, the Lieutenant-Governor, who was a staunch Conservative. His short career as a legislator—for he resigned early in the Parliamentary term—was marked by sturdy independence. In 1844 he remained aloof, although his sympathies appear to have been given to Lord Metcalfe. In 1854 he unsuccessfully contested Hamilton with Sir Allan McNab; but in 1857, on the gallant knight’s retirement, he was duly elected for that city, and again in the years 1861 and 1863.

Mr. Buchanan supported the Macdonald-Sicotte Cabinet, voting with the minority against Mr. J. A. Macdonald’s motion of non-confidence. But on a similar motion in 1863 against the Macdonald-Dorion government, he voted yea. In 1864 he entered the Tache-Macdonald coalition as President of the Council, but made way for Mr. Brown in the same year. In 1865 he retired from Parliamentary life, and was succeeded by Mr. Chas. Magill. Space will not admit of an extended sketch of Mr. Buchanan. To do him full justice, it would be necessary to give an exposition of his views on the tariff and the currency. From early life up to this moment, he has been a busy man, endowed with singular power of character and indomitable perseverance. It will be matter of surprise to most readers to find that so little advantage has been taken of his rare business and administrative abilities. That he would have been no mere figurehead in a working department of government is clear from the record of his whole life. Perhaps the strong will which chafes at routine, the love of carrying out cherished convictions on subjects of public importance, and a certain want of pliability in his moral texture, had something to do with this apparent neglect. However this may be, Mr. Buchanan, as the builder-up of his own fortunes, is a man of whom any country may be proud. He has never preferred self to principle, place to the manly independence which he most deeply prizes. Whether one agrees or not with his opinions on currency or other matters, there is no mistaking the sterling earnestness and single-mindedness of the man. It is pleasing to record that, now, although he has passed the allotted span of three score and ten, Mr. Buchanan is still in full vigour, active and combative yet, as he was forty years ago when he fought the Family Compact in its stronghold at the chief city of Upper Canada.

In what may be termed Sir Charles Metcalfe’s Parliament of 1844, we find, for the first time, the name of John Alexander Macdonald, as member for Kingston. The future Premier of the Dominion deserves a larger notice than circumstances will admit of in this work; still it may be possible, within reasonable compass, to give a sketch of the career and salient characteristics of a statesman who, at this moment, occupies the most prominent position in the Government of Canada. [The writer has drawn upon Fennings Taylor: Portraits, p. 25; Morgan: Celebrated Canadians, p. 581; The Canadian Portrait Gallery, edited by J.C. Dent, vol. i. p. 5; Weekly Globe, Jan. 28th, 1876; The Canadian Parliamentary Companion, and the general histories and writings of the period.] The difficulties inseparable from such an undertaking are by no means small. Most of the biographies already published are loudly eulogistic or largely caustic. Yet it would seem possible to give a fair account of the subject, without yielding to the temptations of partisan prejudice. Sir John A. Macdonald was born in Sutherland-shire, Scotland, on the 11th January, 1815. When he was only in his sixth year, his father, Mr. Hugh Macdonald, removed to Canada, and settled in business at Kingston. There the son was educated at the Royal Grammar School, under Dr. Wilson, and Mr. Baxter. It is noted that at school he was a proficient in mathematics, but gave no promise of future eminence in any walk of life. Having determined to study law, he entered the office of Mr. George Mackenzie, and was admitted to the bar, at the age of twenty-one, in the year 1836. His eloquent defence of Von Schulz, the leader of the rebels at the Windmill affair, first brought him before the public; and in 1846 he became Queen’s Counsel.

In 1844, as already mentioned, Mr. Macdonald was elected for Kingston, and continued to sit for it under the Union, and after Confederation, until 1878, when, for the first time, he suffered defeat. In the Assembly of 1844, the new member appeared as a Conservative supporter of Lord Metcalfe. His party considered that Messrs. Baldwin and Lafontaine had misconstrued the principle of responsible government, and were bent upon utterly destroying the prerogatives of the Crown. It is impossible to conjecture what might have happened, had the Governor-General failed to carry the electorate with him at this crisis. The probability is that he would at once have thrown up his commission; if not, he must certainly have been recalled. All, however, went on swimmingly; his Excellency had a good working majority in the House, and had already obtained a Ministry after his own heart. Sir Allan McNab was elected Speaker of the Assembly. Mr. Baldwin moved several amendments to the address, in one of which he directly proposed a censure upon the Governor and his advisers. This amendment was lost by a vote of forty-two to thirty-six [Turcotte, i. p. 170-173; McMullen, p. 500.] - Mr. J. A. Macdonald voting with the majority. This Session was the first held at Montreal, whither the seat of Government had been transferred from Kingston. The Governor-General was raised to the peerage shortly after, under the title of Baron Metcalfe.

During his first Parliamentary years Mr. Macdonald intruded himself but seldom upon the attention of the House. Like a prudent politician who aims at future success in public life, he was content to serve his apprenticeship, by noting all that went on around him with that keen insight into men and measures which has characterized him throughout his long career. In 1847, he was called upon to accept the Receiver-Generalship, in the Sherwood-Daly administration. On this occasion he was only ten months in office. The general elections of 1847-8 caused a total bouleversement. The first contest took place upon the Speakership. The Conservative candidate was Sir Allan McNab, the former Speaker; Mr. Morin was put forward by Mr. Baldwin and the Reformers. The latter was elected by a vote of fifty-four to nineteen. A vote of non-confidence was carried by a similar vote, and Mr. Macdonald, with his colleagues, found themselves out of office. During the heated discussions on the Rebellion Losses Bill, Mr. Macdonald spoke with vehemence against the measure. But parliamentary opposition was of no avail, and the measure passed by a large majority.

So soon as this storm had blown over, Mr. Macdonald set himself to work at the task of party organization. Circumstances unquestionably favoured his efforts. The retirement of Messrs. Baldwin and Lafontaine was the signal for a schism in the Reform ranks. Mr. Brown entered Parliament at this time, and, with that inflexible sense of principle which always swayed him, proclaimed war to the uttermost against Reformers, who, in his opinion, had proved false to reform principles. For some time the strange spectacle was seen of an Opposition coalition between the Conservatives and the recalcitrant Liberals. In 1854, Mr. Cauchon moved an amendment on the Address, to which a further amendment, friendly, not hostile, was moved by Mr. Sicotte. The latter was carried by a vote of forty-two to twenty-nine. The division list shows that politics, like adversity, sometimes bring strange bed-fellows together. In the majority were to be found Messrs. Brown and J. A. Macdonald, Mr. W. L. Mackenzie and Sir Allan McNab, Mr. Sandfield Macdonald and Mr. Murney. The immediate consequence was a dissolution. The results of the Opposition compact were soon to appear. [During this debate, Mr. Macdonald made a trenchant attack upon the Ministry, from which two sentences may be quoted: "It was well known that the system of the present Government had been that of a most rampant corruption, and, appealing to the most sordid and the basest motives of men: in every part of the country their money was for use, and offices were offered in return for offices brought to their aid. . .Now, a Government should be free from suspicion, and should feel a stain on their escutheon like a wound on their person." And, again: "There may be Walpoles among them; but there are no Pitts; they are all steeped to the lips in corruption; they have no bond of union, but the bond of common plunder."]

The Government candidate, Mr. Cartier, was rejected by a majority of three, and Mr. Sicotte chosen by a large majority. So the Hincks-Morin Government passed away. Evidently no resource was open to the leaders other than a coalition. Sir Allan McNab was therefore chosen as Upper Canada chief of the Cabinet, whilst Mr. Morin, who continued to possess the confidence of his own section remained in office. Of this administration, Mr. J. A. Macdonald was the Attorney-General, West. The Reform element was represented by Messrs. Spence and Ross, the latter a son-in-law of Mr. Baldwin; but the new Upper Canada Reformers, "Clear Grits," as they were termed, were left out in the cold, and opposed the new Government as vigorously as they had opposed its predecessor. In 1855, the personnel of the Ministry was changed, so far as Lower Canada was concerned, Messrs. Cartier, Cauchon and Lemieux coming in, and Messrs. Morin, Chahot and Chauveau retiring. The policy of the administration, however, remained the same, and to it the country owes two great measures of reform, the secularization of the clergy reserves and the abolition of the seignorial tenure in Lower Canada. In both cases, vested interests were conserved or paid for, and two subjects which had vexed Canadian political life for many years were removed for ever from the arena.

Thus an Administration, for the most part Conservative, had successfully accomplished the settlement of the two most serious questions before the public—after the Reform party had given them up in despair. There can be little doubt that to Sir John Macdonald must be attributed the education of his party on the subject of the reserves. Many of them, no doubt—including Sir Allan McNab—took part in their secularization with reluctance. But the Attorney-General saw, with that unerring prescience which has always been a salient characteristic of his political type and temper, that the popular demand could be resisted no longer. He has often been compared with the late Lord Beaconsfield, in personal appearance and political idiosyncrasy. [Mr. Taylor refers to a conversation with Mr. G. A. Sala, the London correspondent, at the ball given to the Maritime Province delegates in 1864. "Who is he?" asked Mr. Sala, when Sir John entered the room. "How like Disraeli," was his comment. "A very remarkable man, I should think; one would enquire his name anywhere."] Whatever likeness there may have been in the former respect, there is certainly some reason for tracing the analogy in public life. Sir John has been termed a Tory; but he never really was one, in any strict sense. No public man has ever been more persistent and outspoken in the expression of his own views; yet he has always recognised the demand for progress; in short, he is Liberal Conservative, ready to adopt reforms when the country is ripe for them. Instead of the maxim, "Go a-head at all hazards," his motto is, "Hasten, but ‘hasten slowly’ and deliberately, pari passu with public opinion." In a recent biography by no means favourable, as a whole, is recognised this distinguishing trait in his character; and it points, not only to the reforms already noted, but to the readiness with which he accepted the proposal to render the Legislative Council elective. [Canadian Portrait Gallery, i. p. 12.] In his own governmental department, the Attorney-General was equally bent upon necessary reforms. To him were due the Common Law Procedure Act, the remodelling of the County Courts, and other purely legal improvements. No Government, perhaps, within living memory, placed so many valuable measures on the statute-book as this one; for, in spite of modifications, it was substantially the same from 1854 onwards. The merit, as well as the responsibility incurred, belongs, in great part, to Sir John Macdonald, who was at once the head and the soul of the Cabinet. [A list of the legislative and administrative work accomplished by Sir John will be found in any late volume of the Canadian Parliamentary Companion.]

During the period immediately under review, three elements of discord, not by any means connected together, were introduced. The railway era set in, and with it frequent charges of corruption. "My politics," Sir Allan McNab had said, "is railways," and the projectors of lines beset the lobbies of Parliament. The Grand Trunk and the Northern lines were the subjects of more than one investigation from time to time. In the second place, there was a strong sectarian movement at work which evidently affected the electorate of Upper Canada. The Corrigan murder case was, perhaps, one of the chief reasons for a crusade, not indeed begun then, but powerfully stimulated by that notable failure of justice. As early as 1834, the cry was raised against ecclesiastical corporations, separate schools, and other Roman Catholic institutions. Finally, the agitation for representation based on population made significant progress. Even before the results of the census of 1851 were made known, the claim for increased Upper Canadian representation was raised. The western Province was reaping what it had sowed in 1841, when the equality system was established. It had now the advantage of Lower Canada, both in respect to wealth and population, and demanded that the balance should be at once redressed. Sir John Macdonald could not see his way clear to the immediate adoption of the principle, because the preponderance of his own Province did not yet appear so marked as to call for re-adjustment in the parliamentary system. Moreover, the Lower Canadians beheld in a maintenance of equal representation, the only security for their laws, institutions, language and religion. Abstractedly viewed, they were prepared to acknowledge the justice of the demand; but they wanted guarantees for their cherished privileges as French Catholics.

It was evident from the first that, sooner or later, some change was inevitable; yet it cost years of heated agitation to secure the precise remedy needed under the perplexing circumstances. Mr. Brown, with a western majority at his back, would have nothing but "representation by population." Mr. Sandfield Macdonald with a small band of followers, advocated the double majority; the mass of the Lower Canadian members with a minority from Upper Canada, voted down both propositions, apparently because there seemed no tertium quid which could satisfy both sections of the Province. To the Attorney-General West, the first necessity appeared to be that of carrying on the Government. There was no pretence that any Cabinet formed upon the lines laid down by Mr. Brown would carry a majority with it in the House or in the country. The Rouges or Liberal Lower Canadians, were almost as unanimously opposed to the new theory of representation as their Bleu opponents. The Eastern and some of the Western members from Upper Canada occupied the same position; and there was nothing hopeful in an agitation which, at best, promised only a dead-lock. This was the Liberal Conservative view of the situation; the other side will be displayed when we come to treat of Messrs. Brown, Mackenzie, and their friends.

But whilst, on the cardinal issue, there was not much hope of a satisfactory adjustment of rival opinions, there were side questions which threatened to put the existence of the Government in jeopardy at any moment. In November, 1857, on the retirement of Sir E. Taché, the Attorney-General West became Premier in name as well as in fact, and the struggle was at once precipitated. At the general election in that year, the Reform Opposition received considerable accessions to its strength, numerical and other. Mr. Brown was returned for Toronto as well as North Oxford, and a number of able coadjutors found their way into Parliament at the same time, amongst them Messrs. T. D’Arcy McGee, Mowat, Connor, Wallbridge, and, shortly after, Mr. Macdougall who was returned for Mr. Brown’s Oxford seat. On the representation question, the Opposition leader only mustered thirty-two on a division. Messrs. J. H. Cameron, Buchanan, and Malcolm Cameron voted nay, not because they opposed the principle, but because they considered its discussion premature. [Turcotte, ii. p.333.] The Lower Canadian members grounded their resistance to the proposal of Mr. Brown upon the assumption that the settlement of 1840 was in the nature of a federal compact, which must be adhered to, with the alternative of a dissolution of partnership.

A more favourable opportunity for overthrowing the Macdonald-Cartier Government occurred on the seat of government question. The conflicting claims of Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto had led Parliament to cut the gordian knot by referring the question to the Queen. Chiefly from strategic considerations, Ottawa had been selected, and then an opportunity was open to all the expectant capitals to unite against the Government. The single claim of any one city was readily disposed of; but when all united upon Mr. Piche’s amendment that "in the opinion of the House, Ottawa ought not to be the seat of Government," all the recalcitrants could make common cause, and the amendment was carried by sixty-four to fifty. Of course this was, in no sense, a party vote; still, Ministers regarded themselves as in honour bound to adhere to the decision of the Crown, after Parliament had deliberately invoked it, and at once resigned.

Then followed the episode of the Brown-Dorion Government which only lasted from August 2nd to 4th. To it a reference will be made in a sketch of its Premier. Mr. Brown resigned, because the Governor-General, Sir Edmund Head, refused a dissolution. The House had, in the meantime, passed a vote of non-confidence, in the absence of Ministers, and there was nothing to prevent the old Government returning to office. The necessity of going back to their constituents, however, was a disagreeable one, and what has been called "the double shuffle" was resorted to. The members of the Macdonald-Cartier Cabinet accepted different offices from those previously occupied; then resigned these, and re-occupied their old positions, the name of the Administration only being changed to that of the Cartier-Macdonald Government. This was done, under colour of an Act, certainly intended to apply only to mere casual transfers from one office to another. According to the text of the statute, however, any member resigning an office and within a month accepting another, was freed from the necessity of seeking re-election; and there was certainly no limit put to the number of those who might so pass from one office to another. If one, why not twelve? It was the double resignation of office and return to it which certainly appeared to shock the moral sense of the community. A biographer says, and we can readily believe his statement, that Sir John Macdonald was entirely opposed to the "shuffle," and only yielded, contrary to his own judgment, when he found his colleagues bent upon it. At all events the Legislature and the judges in both Superior Courts of common law sustained the Ministers, and the affair blew over. [Legislative Assembly Journals, 1858, pp.973-6; Upper Canada Q.B. Reports, xvii. p. 310; C.P. Reports, viii. p. 479 – cited by Todd: Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, p. 537. n.]

In 1859, the question of the seat of government necessarily presented itself once more. Mr. Sicotte had left the Cabinet, because he differed from his colleagues on the subject, and the adverse vote of the previous session remained on the journals. Some of the members of the former majority, however, were brought over, and the Ministry triumphed by a majority of five. The discussion throughout is a salient example of the dangers always imminent when local interests are temporarily united on the surface, even though they are diametrically opposed to each other at bottom. The only striking event of the Session was the refusal of the Legislative Council to adopt the Supply Bill, by a majority of three. The excitement over this novel coup lasted but a short time, for the vote was soon after reversed, and the Bill carried by a majority of four.

During the next Session, several attempts were made to oust the Government, on the Budget. A motion of non-confidence was moved, and lost by seventy to forty-four. In May of that year, Mr. Brown introduced the subject of a Federal Union between the two Provinces, in the form of resolutions; but the first was lost by sixty-seven to twenty-six, and the second by seventy-four to thirty-two, only four Lower Canadians supporting the project in its entirety. So far Sir John Macdonald and his colleagues had triumphantly pursued the path they had marked out for themselves; but, in 1861 signs of party dissatisfaction manifested themselves with unmistakable clearness. Mr. Sicotte had formally joined the Opposition, and, as the census returns came in, the representation question once more occupied the attention of Parliament. Mr. Sandfield Macdonald submitted the double majority principle to a vote, but was defeated by sixty-four to forty-six. On a direct vote of non-confidence, Ministers again succeeded, but their majority was reduced to thirteen. Mr. Ferguson, a Conservative member, then introduced a Bill to apportion the representation according to population. A prolonged discussion ensued, in which Attorney-General Macdonald took a prominent part. He said he opposed the project before and should do so on this occasion. He believed that the measure simply meant the overthrow of the existing Union, because Lower Canada would never consent to it. The Opposition could not hope to come into power without abandoning the principle of representation according to population. In 1858, they had abandoned it, and in the Toronto Convention of 1859 they had deliberately chosen another remedy. In his view the only solution of the problem was to be found in a federal union of all the British North American Provinces. The Bill was thrown out by a vote of sixty-seven to forty-nine, only one Lower Canadian member, Mr. Somerville, voting with the minority. The Session was an exceedingly barren one in legislation, so large a part of it having been taken up in constitutional debates.

Some notable changes were effected by the general election of 1861, Messrs. Brown, Dorion, Lemieux, and Thibaudeau, on the one side, and Messrs. Sidney Smith, Gowan and Morrison on the other, found themselves without seats. The Ministry itself underwent some modification; but it still possessed a majority. On the vote for Speaker, the Government candidate was elected by a majority of thirteen on the 20th of March, 1862. Mr. Macdougall proposed an amendment to the Address in favour of representation by population; but it only received the votes of forty-two, all Upper Canadians. But in May, the Opposition from both sections of the Province, found a common platform on the Militia Bill, and succeeded in securing its rejection at the second reading by a vote of sixty-one to fifty-four. The Government resigned, and the Macdonald-Sicotte Cabinet was at once formed. Representation by population was abandoned, and the double majority, in sectional matters, made the cardinal principle in legislation. An account of the new administration has already been given in the sketch of its Premier. It needs only to be remarked here that when Mr. Dorion was substituted for Mr. Sicotte, the double majority principle was definitively given up, and representation by population left an open question. In 1864, Sir John returned to office with Sir E. P. Tache as his chief. Then followed the dead-lock already alluded to, and the formation of the Coalition Cabinet and Confederation. We are not called upon to apportion the relative shares of the men who had the merit of thus extricating the Province from a painful dilemma. The leaders on both sides felt that the time had come when some remedy must be found for the chronic ailments of the body politic. The Conservative leader’s part in the negotiations was an extremely honourable one, and it is certain that his tact, ability and address were never shown to greater advantage than at this period. On July 1st, 1867, the Dominion came into being, and Sir John Macdonald found himself once more Premier, this time of a larger Canada than before. There for the present we may leave him, at the head of public affairs. In a future chapter, his subsequent career, so far as it can fairly be the subject of contemporary review in an impartial spirit, may be traced. The prominent features of his character, however, lie before us even now, at this stage.

Whatever may be said of his political course, it is certain that the Premier possesses some of the best qualities of a statesman of the first rank. Allusion has been made to his wonderful power of adaptability to the needs of the time, as they successively forced themselves upon his notice. No public man in Canada has ever displayed greater acuteness in divining clearly the duty which lay immediately before him. Possessed of an insight into most men and subjects, almost instinctive, he has never been either a fossil Tory or an impracticable Radical. Possessed of no small power of will, and capable of fervent adherence to cherished ideas, Sir John has never failed to yield to the necessities of the case, when once his reason, foresight, or what you will, yielded to the logic of facts. Rigid partisans, who pride themselves on consistency call this flexible temperament by the invidious phrases, pliability or indifference to principle. But that is simply because they fail to occupy the same standpoint, and survey public measures over more contracted areas. After all, the statesmen who have left their mark on the world’s history, have been the least consistent of the tribe; and it may well be doubted whether any public man can hope to rise above mediocrity who looks within to the exclusion of what lies about him. To a greater or less extent, a leader cannot successfully command, unless he is also content to be a follower. He merely guides, shapes and measurably alters the course of the ship of state, but supplies none of its motive power. To recognise what is possible, to seize the changeful currents of progress and pass safely by navigable channels is his function; the impulse comes from without, and he best discharges his duty as a statesman who most clearly divines the possibilities at any crisis of affairs.

It is to Sir John Macdonald’s credit that he has never nailed the rudder, or fastened down the safety-valve. Temperate in his views, he has always been in a position to yield to arguments drawn from clear and pressing exigencies, and with all the failings that may be properly laid to his charge, he has never for a moment been a self-seeker at the expense of his country. Mr. Fennings Taylor quotes from a speech by Sir James Graham, in which he tells the electors of Carlisle that the true test of a public man is whether he has been governed by avarice or ambition at the expense of the people. ["I tell you, not for myself, but for public men, and in the interests of the public, do not pry too closely into the flaws of character of public men; do not hunt too closely into every particular of their conduct, but look to the general tenor of their lives. Try them by this test: Has avarice or ambition misled them from the paths of public duty? Have they gained honours and advantages for themselves at the cost of the public? Try them by that test."] Sir John Macdonald is certainly a poorer man today than he would have been had he never passed the bar of the House. Thoroughly unselfish, he has always devoted himself to the public interest, as he understood it. As a man, there is no better-hearted or more genial friend, or companion now in public life. Apart from political differences, it may safely be affirmed that he has no personal enemy. His speeches are fluent, sometimes tumultuously rapid, and delivered with that sort of impetuous fervour natural to one of his temperament. He can hardly be styled an orator; yet few men are equipped so fully with an almost magical power of steadying waverers, and startling opponents. Endowed with a singularly mobile temperament, he has always known how to adapt his speech to the audience and to the time. Fertile in illustration, fruitful in ready wit and happy retort, Sir John has always proved a formidable rival in debate. Others may have risen to higher levels as mere orators; he has proved himself a match for every competitor in the unstudied point, pith and vigour of his addresses. At times, he has seemed to rise above himself when the occasion called for unusual effort, and proved that it is possible for him to be truly eloquent, whenever his powers have been fully drawn upon, and strung up to the top of their bent. How far these unwonted bursts of oratorical power have been the result of art, adroitly concealed, it is difficult to say. Certainly Sir John has triumphed most decisively when he has carried the House or the people with him by their firm belief in the perfect spontaneity of his eloquence. It is no part of our duty to hold the balance between the Premier and his political opponents; but even the latter will admit that a man who has so triumphantly vindicated his title to be a leader of men during over thirty years must possess abilities of a high and rare order. It may be added that the Dominion could miss none of its public men who would leave so universally recognised a gap in the ranks as Sir John Macdonald. When the time, which one may fairly hope is far distant, when his epitaph must be inscribed by the historian’s pen; when the heated passions of the day are chilled by the dank atmosphere of death, the services of Sir John will be rated at their just value. His title as Knight Commander of the Bath was granted for his services at Confederation, although, perhaps, from habit, we have alluded to him prematurely by the name he now bears. He is also a member of the Imperial Privy Council, a D. C. L. of Oxford, an LL. D. of Queen’s; wears also the insignia of a Spanish Order.


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