Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

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


The Hon. Matthew Crooks Cameron, a Conservative, made his mark in public life after Confederation; still his career did not begin with 1867. The son of a Scot, Mr. John M. A. Cameron, of the Canada Company, he was born at Dundas, in the year 1823, and educated at Upper Canada College. Having studied for the legal profession, he was called to the Bar early in 1849. In 1861, Mr. Cameron first entered Parliament, as member for North Ontario, having previously occupied a seat in the Toronto City Council. In the early part of the same year he contested the Mayoralty of the city, but was unsuccessful. Another general election occurred in 1863, when he suffered defeat; but he defeated Mr. Macdougall, who had accepted office, in the following year, and retained his seat until the Union. During this period he was a regular supporter of the Cartier-Macdonald Government, and his name appears in the minority for the second reading of the Militia Bill. He opposed the Macdonald-Sicotte Government while in Parliament. Throughout the debate on Confederation, Mr. Cameron voted with the minority, because he thought that justice was not secured under it towards the province of Upper Canada. So soon, however, as the union was consummated, Mr. Cameron gracefully and at once agreed to unite with Mr. Sandfield Macdonald in forming a Government for Ontario. The office which fell to his lot was the Provincial Secretaryship, and he retained it from July, 1867, until the 25th of July, 1871, when he was transferred to the Crown Lands department. The following December, however, the Cabinet was defeated on the railway subsidy question, and Mr. Cameron left office with his colleagues. During the next four years he was leader of the Opposition, and then retired from public life. Towards the end of 1878, Mr. Cameron was elevated to the Bench, and is now the senior puisne Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench. As a politician, and more especially as a party-leader, the honourable gentleman never seemed altogether at home. His intellect was eminently a logical one, and had been trained in the legal school. He knew nothing of compromises, and was given to the blunt expression of his honest views. There was little pliability in his disposition, and the necessary shifts and expedients resorted to in active political warfare were distasteful to him. As a speaker, he has always been clear and incisive, going straight to the point as finely wrought and well-balanced minds are wont to do. In the Government, he was a hard-working and painstaking head of department, and he has the singular felicity of being able to boast that no one can lay a finger upon any stain or imputation upon his official integrity. On the Bench, Mr. Cameron has more than fulfilled the expectations formed of him. Whether questions of fact or arguments on law are presented to him, there is evidence, not only of lucidity and mastery in dealing with the case, but also of spotless conscientiousness, and an absorbing desire to do justice between man and man. His speeches in public life were, perhaps, too unsympathetic to attract, and his manner and voice were also against him. On the bench, however, where rhetoric is out of place, Mr. Cameron is in his true element, and it may be hoped that many years of public usefulness are yet before him.

There are other Scots still who entered public life shortly before Confederation; but their active careers will more properly occupy attention in the next volume, in which it is proposed to deal with the Lower Provinces and with the Dominion and its component parts after 1867. Meanwhile it is necessary to turn back upon some of the ground traversed and view the affairs of the old Province of Canada as a whole. Concerning the Metcalfe period, enough has already been said since the chief actors were not of Scottish origin. Earl Cathcart, who became Administrator at the retirement of Lord Metcalfe, was the second Earl; but he inherited the title of Baron in Scotland through a long line, the dignity having been conferred in 1447. He was a soldier and the son of a soldier, and had seen as much active service as any man in the army. Entering an ensign in 1799, he fought with Sir Ralph Abercrombie in Holland; subsequently at Naples, Sicily, the Baltic, Walcheren, and Flushing. In 1811-13, he served in the Peninsular war, at Barossa, Salamanca and Vittoria. In 1815, when the war again broke out, he was on Wellington’s cavalry staff and took part in the crowning victory of Waterloo where, as Lord Greenock, his courtesy title, he greatly distinguished himself, led several charges, and had three horses shot under him. During the long peace, he filled several positions of honour and trust, and, in 1845, was appointed commander of the forces in British North America. When Lord Metcalfe resigned, Earl Cathcart succeeded, first as Administrator and then as Governor-General. The Oregon boundary question at that time threatened to cause a rupture between England and the United States, and his lordship at once set about the organization of the Canadian defences; but, when the storm blew over, the necessity for his presence was obviated, and he was relieved. The only political event of importance then was the agitation in Lower Canada for payment of the Rebellion losses, but the matter had not yet come to an issue. Years after, Lord Cathcart once more served his country in arms during the Crimean war. He was emphatically an army reformer, and sensitively concerned for the comfort of the soldier. A few years of leisure were left him, and he passed peacefully away at his country seat in the seventy-sixth year of his age, thankful, as he said, that heaven had permitted the continuance of his sojourn on earth to witness his "dearest and fondly cherished hopes so fully realized."

This volume will appropriately close with a sketch of the life and career of the distinguished nobleman, under whose auspices, and by whose exertions mainly, the principle of responsible government was definitively established in Canada. The reactionary policy of Lord Metcalfe had clearly demonstrated that the concession of so great a boon as free parliamentary rule was in itself of little avail, unless some man thoroughly imbued with its spirit were called upon to preside over its practical operation. So long as theorists in high places could, at pleasure, set at naught its plainest axioms, the security for Canadian liberty must necessarily be precarious. The hour had now come when the controversy was to be settled at once and forever; and with it appeared the man.

James Bruce, eighth Earl of Elgin, and twelfth Earl of Kincardine, was born in London, on July 20th, 1811. [The chief authority here is Walrond: Letters and Journals of James, eighth Earl of Elgin, with a Preface by Dean Stanley. London, 1872. Canadian Portraits, ii., p. 97, Celebrated Canadians, p. 560, and the histories have also been consulted.] His father was the well-known ambassador to Constantinople, whose name was connected with the Elgin marbles, and most undeservedly held up to popular execration in Byron’s Curse of Minerva. The family boasted royal ancestry; for the Earl was the chief representative of the stock of Robert the Bruce. The ancestral seat was Broomhall in Fife-shire, and Lord Elgin’s father and mother were both natives of that county. After a preliminary education in Scotland, James Bruce went to Edinburgh, and subsequently to Christ Church, Oxford. At the University he found himself surrounded by young men who afterwards made a distinguished figure in public life—Lords Canning, and Dalhousie, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Herbert Of Lea, Robert Lowe (Lord Sherbrooke), Lord Cardwell and Lord Selborne, now Lord Chancellor, and Mr. Gladstone. He appears to have lived a retired life at Oxford, having a few friends who highly prized his judgment and always sought his advice. The family estate had been seriously embarrassed by his father’s antiquarian tastes; and he was obliged to make the best of the time at command. One relaxation alone he conceded to himself—and that was in the nature of a discipline—debating at the Union. That he was possessed of rare oratorical gifts we are assured on unimpeachable testimony. [After his death, Mr. Gladstone wrote as follows: "I well remember placing him as to the natural gift of eloquence, at the head of all those I knew either at Eton or at the University.] Had he been either the scion of a wealthy house, or simply a political adventurer, he would have made his way in public life at home. But the burden of a name, linked with encumbered property, weighed heavily upon him; so with conscientious energy he set himself to work to repair the family fortunes. He had intended to compete for double honours, but illness, caused by overwork, compelled him to confine himself to classics, yet he obtained a first class. Having secured a fellowship, he entered at Lincoln’s Inn in 1835, but does not appear to have gone farther in the legal profession. The greater part of his time was spent at Broomhall where, in his father’s absence, he acted as lord of the estate, commanding a troop of yeomanry, presiding at farmers’ dinners, or addressing at the request of Dr. Chalmers, public meetings in favour of church extension. Singularly enough, although a great admirer of Milton’s prose works, he was at this time a staunch Tory, and his first political effort was an address to the electors of Great Britain, published in 1834, in which he strongly urged the claims of the Duke of Wellington and the other Tory leaders.

In 1840, he was returned to the Commons for Southampton, as a Liberal Conservative. [At a banquet given at the borough, he said, "I am a Conservative, not because I am adverse to improvement, not because I am unwilling to repair what is wasted, or to supply what is defective in the political fabric, but because I am satisfied that, in order to improve effectually, you must be resolved most religiously to preserve."] The young member, being in opposition, did not make his maiden speech on the Address, but as seconder of an amendment to it, which was carried. [From this speech two extracts may be made, in order to show the political leanings of the future Governor; "He should at all times be prepared to vote for a free trade, on the principles of reciprocity, due regard being had to the interests which had grown up under our present commercial system." At the same time, speaking of the outcry against monopolies, he said, "In a day when all monopolies are denounced, I must be permitted to say that, to my mind, the monopoly which is the most intolerable and odious is the pretension to the monopoly of public virtue."] In consequence Lord Melbourne resigned, and Sir Robert Peel reigned in his stead. Thus promisingly began young Bruce’s political career; but it was destined to be cut short by circumstances beyond his control. His elder step-brother had died in 1840, and was followed next year by his father, so that he found himself a Scottish earl, yet without a seat in either House of Parliament. No prospect could well be more disheartening to a talented and eloquent young man; yet another opening was made for him in a quarter whence he was to gather laurels during a life all too short for the public interests. When not yet thirty-one years of age, in March, 1842, Lord Stan1ey (the late Lord Derby) nominated him Governor of Jamaica. This voyage ended most disastrously for him, for the steamer struck upon a coral reef and became a total wreck. No lives were lost then; but the shock proved too much for Lady Elgin’s delicate state of health. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to a daughter, and, although rallying for a time, there was no permanent recovery, and she passed away in the summer of 1843.

The duties of Lord Elgin’s new office were sufficiently onerous and perplexing. The respective spheres of the Queen’s representative and the legislature were ill-defined, and the Colonial Office had not yet learned to abstain from dictation to its distant officers. In Jamaica matters were complicated by the emancipation measure. There was the greatest difficulty in making the Assembly understand that it owed something to the freedmen. The legislators, in fact, formed a sort of landed aristocracy, tenacious of their own power, yet by no means disposed to employ it for the elevation of those who had been their slates. They were intent upon discussing constitutional questions at the expense of the weightier social problem which lay before them. The new Governor, whilst endeavouring to conciliate all classes, was anxious that everything should be postponed to "the promotion of the moral well-being of the population, and the restoration of the commercial prosperity of the island." At the outset a difficulty had arisen concerning the tariff adopted by the Legislature. It contravened the new economical principles then in vogue in England, and the Governor was peremptorily ordered to withhold his sanction. He, however, remonstrated with the Colonial Office, and was left unfettered in the matter. The chief aim Lord Elgin proposed to himself was the education of the negroes and their elevation morally and socially. He saw that, sooner or later, they must exercise weight in the electorate, and it was his anxious desire to make them intelligent and industrious men. In order to stimulate agricultural improvement, he offered a prize of £100 for the best essay on sugar-cane cultivation, and promoted the establishment of a Jamaica Agricultural Association. In the cause of religion, then as always, Lord Elgin took a warm interest, not as a mere political institution, but as the very life of any community. To him education, intelligence and ability, without "the motive power," as he termed it, were foredoomed to failure, so he laboured on, with chequered fortunes, mostly of the brighter sort, however, until the spring of 1846, when, after several requests to be allowed to retire, he was permitted to do so, and went to England on leave of absence, not again to return.

On his arrival home, he found the old Conservative party broken up, in consequence of the Free Trade policy of Sir Robert Peel. Lord Stanley had retired, and had been succeeded by Mr. Gladstone. But shortly after, Lord John Russell was Premier, and Earl Grey, Colonial Secretary. The latter knew nothing of him except by reputation, yet, notwithstanding political differences, his lordship first endeavoured to induce him to resume the Governorship of Jamaica, and then nominated him to the higher office of Governor-General of British North America. Lord Elgin accepted the office, not as an opening to fame, but to usefulness, impressed less by the dignity of the position, than by its responsibilities. It may be truly said of him that no servant of the Crown was ever more completely under the abiding influence of a sense of duty—none more completely under the control of conscience. [It may not be amiss to give some idea of Lord Elgin’s elevated views of a Governor’s duty, from a speech at a farewell dinner at Dunfermline. "To watch over the interests of these great offshoots of the British race which plant themselves in distant lands; to aid them in their efforts to extend the domain of civilization, and to fulfil that first behest of a benevolent Creator ‘subdue the earth;’ to abet the generous endeavours to impart to these rising communities the full advantages of British laws, British institutions, and British freedom; to assist them in maintaining unimpaired, it may be in strengthening and confirming those bonds of mutual affection which unite the parent and dependent states. These are duties not to be lightly undertaken, and which may well claim the exercise of all the faculties and energies of an earnest and patriotic mind."] On the seventh of November, 1846, he married Lady Maria Lambton, daughter of Earl Durham, and left for Canada early in the following year. After a stormy passage, he reached Boston on the 25th of January, and arrived at Montreal on the 29th.

The reader is already in possession of the state of affairs at the time of Lord Elgin’s arrival. Lord Metcalfe’s regime was over, and Earl Cathcart had meanwhile chosen the attitude of a calm and impartial ruler. When the new Governor-General arrived, he was well received, and in an address to the citizens of Montreal, clearly laid down his views on the part he was called upon to play in the affairs of the Province. [Turcotte, ii. p. 8.] His genial manners and eloquent gift of utterance, soon made him popular with all classes and both nationalities; but he saw clearly enough the rocks ahead. The Sherwood-Daly ministry was in power, and the Governor-General, true to his settled principles, gave his advisers the fullest confidence. ["The principle on which Lord Elgin undertook to conduct the affairs of the colony were, that he should identify himself with no party, but make himself a mediator and moderator between the influential of all parties; that he should have no Ministers who did not enjoy the confidence of the Assembly, or, in the last resort, of the people; and that he should not refuse his consent to any measures proposed by his Ministry, unless it were of an extreme party character, such as the Assembly, or the people, would be sure to disapprove." – Lord Grey: Colonial Policy, i. p. 207, quoted in Walrond, p. 34.] At all hazards, it was his fixed determination to be true to Responsible Government, and to carry out its maxims in practice at any cost. The parties, however, did not satisfy him, because they were rather sectional than Liberal or Conservative; and the only solution seemed to be division of the Lower Canadian party into two divisions, one of which could ally itself to a corresponding one in Upper Canada. The party titles he regarded as misnomers, whereas it would be better if they became realities instead of nullities, as hitherto. "The sectional element" he wrote to Earl Grey, "would be merged in the political, if the split I refer to were accomplished."

Lord Elgin opened the Session on the second of 1847, in a speech in which he announced various concessions on the part of the Imperial Government. [In a private letter written at this time, Lord Elgin wrote: "I will adhere to my opinion that the real and effectual vindication of Lord Durham’s memory and proceedings, will be the success of a Governor-General of Canada who works out his views of government fairly."] During the debate on the Address, Mr. Baldwin, leader of the Opposition very adroitly moved an amendment, congratulating his Excellency upon his alliance with the Durham family, and expressing a hope that the country would owe to it the establishment of responsible government. After a heated debate extending over three days, the Address was finally carried, but only by a majority of two. The elections of 1847-8 completely overturned the Conservative supremacy. In Lower Canada, only five or six Ministerialists found seats, and, even in Upper Canada, Mr. Baldwin was able once more to boast of a majority. Parliament met on the 25th of February, 1848, and the first trial of strength was made on the Speakership. Sir Allan McNab was again proposed by one of the Ministers, Mr. Morin by Mr. Baldwin. On a division, the former only received nineteen votes, the latter, fifty-four. On the Address, the Opposition leader forced a direct vote of non-confidence, which was, carried on a similar vote. Mr. Sherwood resigned, and the Baldwin-Lafontaine Government succeeded to power. One has only to contrast the resignations of 1843 with the peaceful triumph of 1848 to mark the profound difference between the policy and tactics of Lord Metcalfe and those of his illustrious successor.

During Lord Cathcart’s brief term, as already stated, the question of compensation for losses during the Lower Canadian rebellion came before Parliament. In the sister Province similar claims had been adjusted by general consent, on condition that a companion measure should be passed immediately for Lower Canada. So long as the old Ministers remained in power, they made no difficulty about it. On the contrary, Lord Metcalfe had appointed a commission of enquiry with a view to an equitable settlement of the question: Mr. Draper afterwards introduced a Rebellion Losses Bill which, had the party continued in office, would no doubt have become law. But the change of government naturally altered the attitude of the Conservative party. The Bill referred to had been framed in order to conciliate support from the French party; but so soon as the general election showed clearly enough that that hope was delusive, the new Opposition tacked its sails, and steered in another direction. The original measure had proposed to secure compensation for "certain loyal inhabitants" of the Lower Province who had suffered in 1837-8; the cry was now raised that the Baldwin Administration proposed to reward rebels as well as loyalists. It is clear from Lord Elgin’s private correspondence that he did not altogether approve of the proposed Bill. He called it "a questionable measure, but one that the preceding administration had rendered almost inevitable by certain proceedings adopted by them." The Government measure simply proposed to set apart £90,000 and, by a proviso of the bill, no person who had been found guilty of treason was to be entitled to any indemnity.

Resolutions introduced by Mr Lafontaine were carried by a vote of forty-eight to twenty-three. During the debate some violent, not to say incendiary, language was employed on the side of the Opposition. Mr. Sherwood denounced, on behalf of those who had lost parents and near relations, the proposal to recompense those who had been the cause of murders and bloodshed throughout the country. Sir Allan McNab went further and inveighed against the entire French Canadian race, stigmatizing them as "rebels and aliens." The reply simply was that Government would take care by their instructions to the Commissioners that no rebel should receive any portion of the indemnity, and that, on this condition, there was no valid objection to a measure of justice to which both parties were equally pledged. On that side Mr. Blake ventured to essay reprisals, and, in a scathing address, arraigned the "family compact" at the bar of public opinion. The term "rebels" was retorted by the Solicitor-General, and a rencontre between Sir Allan McNab and him was the consequence. The Bill passed in the Assembly by a vote of forty-seven to eighteen—and in the Council by twenty to fourteen.

It was now that his Excellency became most unmeritedly the victim of heated passion in and without Parliament. The course he had marked out for himself clearly allowed him no alternative. Either he must adhere unflinchingly to the principle of responsible government, or adopt the role of Lord Metcalfe. The Opposition at once commenced an agitation, and sent in petitions, but not to either House of the legislature, for that would now have been useless. They invoked the exercise of the royal prerogative, either in the form of dissolution or a reservation of the bill. [At this time he wrote: "The Tory party are doing what they can by menace, intimidation, and appeals to passion, to drive me to a coup d’etat, and yet the very measure which is at this moment the occasion of so loud an outcry, is nothing more than a strict, logical following out of their own acts." In the same letter, he regretted the introduction of the measure, which was only justifiable in his view by its necessity.] His Excellency listened to these requests calmly, and without committing himself. It was clear that a dissolution was out of the question. The House was only a year old, elected, moreover, when the Opposition party was in power; and therefore what possible pretext could there be for an appeal to the electorate? No constitutional ruler could hesitate for a moment as to the duty which lay before him in this regard. [In order, as far as possible, to allow Lord Elgin to state the case in his own language, we again quote: "If I had dissolved Parliament, I might have produced a rebellion, but most assuredly I should not have procured a change of Ministry. The leaders of the party know that as well as I do, and were it possible to play tricks in such grave concerns, it would have been easy to throw them into utter confusion by merely calling upon them to form a Government. They were aware, however, that I could not, for the sake of discomfiting them, hazard so desperate a policy; so they have played out their game of faction and violence, without fear of consequences."] Some of his Excellency’s friends in England appear to have thought that be might have saved himself some annoyance by reserving the Bill. He declined to do so, first, because a similar measure relating to Upper Canada had not been reserved; but chiefly because he would, by adopting that course, be throwing upon the Imperial Government a responsibility which ought properly to rest upon his own shoulders. "If I pass the bill," he said in his manly way, "whatever mischief ensues may probably be repaired, if the worst comes to the worst, by the sacrifice of me."

As a question of constitutional principle, there was no path open to him but one. He found an overwhelming majority from Lower Canada in its favour, and of the ten members of British descent from that Province, six voted in its favour, and only four against it. Seventeen Upper Canadian representatives were in the majority also as against fourteen. Could the will of the people be more clearly expressed; and, that being the case, what had Downing Street to do with it? On the 25th of April, 1849, therefore, Lord Elgin proceeded to the Council Chamber, and gave his assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, and, by so doing, settled at once and for ever the long-fought contest over responsible government. But the end was not yet. The spirit of mischief hovered in the air. A meeting was improvised, violent speeches were made, and the mob adjourned to the Parliament buildings. The House was in session, but adjourned somewhat precipitately. The windows were demolished with stones, and the building fired. The military appeared upon the ground, to restore order and aid in extinguishing the flames; but, so far as the latter purpose was concerned, their efforts availed nothing. The outrageous act of vandalism was complete, and the legislative halls, as well as the valuable libraries, were entirely consumed. [The scene is graphically described in McMullen’s History, pp., 508-10. When the mob entered, firing stone and brandishing sticks, the members and officials disappeared as soon as possible. One rioter took his seat in the chair, with the air of a superloyal Jack Cade, and cried out, "I dissolve this House." In a few minutes the cry of fire was raised, and attempts were made by Sir Allan McNab and others to save pictures and books, but with indifferent success.] After finishing their barbarous work, the mob marched off with the Speaker’s mace, and continued the work of destruction elsewhere for several days. Mr. Lafontaine’s residence was wrecked, and a similar fate overtook the dwellings or boarding-houses of every prominent supporter of the Government.

When it next met in Bonsecours market, the Assembly passed an address to His Excellency, eulogizing his impartial administration under both the late and the present administrations. He drove into the city from Monklands to the Government House to receive it, and was assailed by the mob with volleys of stones. " When he entered the Government House, he took a two-pound stone with him which he picked up in his carriage, as an evidence of the sorry treatment Her Majesty’s representative had received." [McMullen, p. 511.] His country residence was threatened, therefore some extra precautions were in consequence taken; and for several weeks, he remained at Monklands, determined not to provoke an outbreak by visiting the city. During this time, according to his valued Secretary, Major Campbell, [A Scot, subsequently a Lower Canadian Seignoir, and M.P.P. for Rouville. He was a gentleman of great intelligence, comprehensive views, and elevated character.] he "remained perfectly calm and cool; never for a moment losing his self-possession, nor failing to exercise that clear foresight and sound judgment for which he was so remarkable." He knew that, by a word, he could arouse the French Canadians to his rescue, yet refused to give it. Urged to employ the troops, his answer was, "I am prepared to bear any amount of obloquy that may be cast upon me, but, if I can possibly prevent it, no stain of blood shall rest upon my name." At the same time, while the malcontents were impeaching his personal courage, no one could bend him by an hair’s breadth from his determination. To uproar and force he would yield nothing. He thought it, however, due to the Imperial Government, as well as to himself, at once to place his office at their disposal. He had endeavoured to carry out faithfully the principles of constitutional government; yet, if he were an obstacle to the tranquillity of the Province, and could not hope to hold the balance evenly between parties, he was willing to resign. Lord Grey would not hear of his resignation, and expressed the determination of the Government to uphold him at all hazards.

The minority then attempted to work upon the British Parliament, but were defeated in the Commons by 141, and in the Lords by three of a majority. Meanwhile addresses began to flow in from all parts of the country, amongst them one from the men of Glengarry, to which he replied with fervour. "My heart warms within me," he began, "when I listen to your manly and patriotic address." [One of these addresses, from the county of Glengarry, an ancient settlement of Scottish Loyalists, appears to have touched the Scotsman’s heart within the statesman’s." – Walrond, p. 87, where the reply will be found entire.] For a time, the action of the Imperial Parliament lulled the turbulence of passion; but, towards the end of August, the arrest of some parties concerned in the destruction of the Parliament buildings caused the violent spirit to break out anew. Unhappily, during a fresh attack on Mr. Lafontaine’s house, a young man was shot, and his funeral was made the pretext for another riotous demonstration. The magistrates represented that nothing could save Montreal but the proclamation of martial law. But Lord Elgin said that "he would neither consent to martial law, nor to any measures of increased rigour whatsoever, until a further appeal had been made to the mayor and corporation of the city." The result was a proclamation from the Mayor which finally quieted the malcontents.

His Excellency’s Ministers now represented that the seat of Government should be removed, and the alternate system adopted. Personally, Lord Elgin deprecated the abandonment of Montreal; and he disliked going immediately to Quebec, because it would at once be urged that the Government was under French Canadian influence. It was finally agreed, after reference to the Home Government, that the next Session should be held at Toronto. During the autumn, his lordship visited the west, without military escort, in order as he said, "to contradict the allegation that he required protection." He was received almost everywhere with enthusiasm, except in some of the cities, where his opponents were able to cause slight disturbances. [The writer, then a boy, witnessed one of these emeutes at the corner of Yonge and King streets, Toronto, when stones and rotten eggs were thrown, and a rabble ran hooting with the Governor’s carriage.]

It was natural, at the time, that Lord Elgin’s policy of forbearance should be the subject of angry and impatient criticism. In England, especially, some of the warmest admirers of his general policy censured him for not suppressing the disturbances with a high hand. There seemed to be a lack of "nerve and vigour," whereas, in point of fact, there were the firmest resolution and strength of will. Now that the heated passions of the time have lost all their force, we can see clearly that there was greater courage required in patient submission to unjust reproaches, than would have been shown by any display of force, with its inevitable results. [Writing two years later, his Lordship, in an interesting letter (Walrond, p. 96), expresses entire satisfaction with the retrospect. "I have been told by Americans ‘we thought you were right; but we could not understand why you did not shoot them down.’" And a public man in Canada, out of politics when the letter was written, said "’Yes, I see it all now; you were right – a thousand times right – though I thought otherwise then. I own that I would have reduced Montreal to ashes before I would have endured half of what you did; and he added, ‘I should have been justified too.’ ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘you would have been justified, because your course would have been perfectly defensible; but it would not have been the best course. Mine was a better one.’"]

It is easy to accuse men in high station of pusillanimity, when they are only calm, thoughtful, and self-possessed. Sir Francis Head would not have acted so; and the contrast is a sufficient justification of his constitutional successor. It is harder to conquer by moral agencies than by physical force; but the victory, if it be achieved, is ten-fold more glorious, and Lord Elgin succeeded in the teeth of difficulties which would have turned the heads of most Governors, and appalled not a few of the most courageous of them. In the heat of the struggle, he had said to the men of Glengarry: "I claim to have something of your own spirit: devotion to a cause which I believe to be a just one—courage to confront, if need be, danger, and even obloquy in its pursuit—and an undying faith that God protects the right." His confidence, as the event proved, was not misplaced.

In 1849, the annexation, manifesto appeared, and among the signatories were magistrates, Queen’s counsel and militia officers. Lord Elgin pointed out to Earl Grey, that, whenever any cause of discontent arose, the aggrieved party always proposed union with the neighbouring republic. Whether the British or French party felt ill at ease, or commercial depression came upon the country, the panacea of all ills was sure to be annexation. "A great deal of this talk," he said, "is bravado, however, and a great deal the mere product of thoughtlessness." To put a final stop to these periodical ebullitions of feeling, his Excellency suggested free navigation and a reciprocity treaty with the United States as indispensable measures. At the same time, while contemplating remedial measures, he assented to the dismissal of all servants of the Crown, holding office during pleasure, who had signed the manifesto. At this time, Lord Elgin was raised to the British peerage, and already had a son and heir to receive the honour after him.

From this time forward Lord Elgin’s most strenuous efforts were put forth to secure the two commercial reforms he had at heart. It was only in June, 1849, that the Imperial Navigation Laws were abolished, and the result was an immediate stimulus to Canadian trade. The reciprocity project did not fare so well. It was hardly a national, and in no sense a party question; and, therefore, it was with the greatest difficulty that the American Congress could be induced to entertain it at all. Lord Elgin’s attitude was one of neutrality in an economic point of view. He was a modified free-trader; but he could not disguise from himself the exceptional position of Canada. Heartily in favour of reciprocity, he demurred to absolute free-trade. Knowing that Brother Jonathan was a hard man to deal with, [Speaking of the annexation movement, he wrote: "They (the Canadians) are invited to form a part of a community which is neither suffering nor freetrading, which never makes a bargain without getting at least twice as much as it gives; a community the members of which have been, within the last few weeks, pouring into their multifarious places of worship, to thank God that they are exempt from the ills which afflict other men, from those especially which afflict their despised neighbours, the inhabitants of North America, who have remained faithful to the country which planted them."] he trusted, nevertheless, by prudent negotiation, to secure for Canada a treaty fair to both sides. During over three years, the contracting parties were at work without tangible results. Congress played with the measure, discussed it fitfully, and then allowed it to perish with the rest of the "murdered innocents," when the time for adjournment drew nigh. At length, in 1854, Lord Elgin himself was despatched to Washington, and, within a few weeks, concluded a treaty with Mr. Marcy, the Secretary of State, which was ratified by the Senate, and continued in force until President Lincoln terminated it in 1866, after the necessary twelve months’ notice.

Home politics were early becoming brisk at Toronto. The inevitable Clergy Reserve question had rent the Reform party in two, and a new period of disorganization opened to view. The question of separate schools also rose to the front, and the signs of political tension became more marked. Happily the Governor General was not involved in these controversies. At the same time the regular and easy manner in which vexed questions were discussed up to the point of settlement forms the best possible justification of Lord Elgin’s sagacious course from the first. "The true policy," he had written to the Duke of Newcastle, "in my humble judgment, is to throw the whole weight of responsibility on those who exercise the real power." His guiding principle throughout was "to let the colony have its own way in everything that was not contrary to public morality or to some Imperial interest." [Walrond, p. 134.] During the unhappy course of the Rebellion Losses Bill he had maintained his point, without swerving in the slightest when he was assailed by reproaches and threatened with personal violence. The hour of triumph had at length arrived, and his Excellency, during the remainder of his term, enjoyed its fruits in the regard and esteem of all Canadians. Whatever their opinions had been in the past, they felt that he was all along in the right, and had suffered injustice from those who should have welcomed the boon he proffered, and in a way forced upon them, with the liveliest gratitude. Unhappily the Provinces had passed through bad hands in the early, and even in the later time. Of old, the Governor and his self-appointed Council set the popular will at defiance; more recently the Queen’s representative had figured as a partisan, identifying himself with his advisers on the throne and at the polls. When the Home Government remonstrated, the dominant party quietly ignored its authority; when popular support was lacking, they rushed as suppliants to Downing Street. Imperial interference was resented when it thwarted their views, solicited when it might strengthen their power of resistance to "the well-understood wishes of the people."

Lord Elgin, on the other hand, refused to invoke the power behind him at every emergency. In his view, parliamentary government, on the recognised basis of executive responsibility, must be accepted without reserve or demur. If it were good for England, it was good for the colonies; but it could be of no benefit anywhere unless it had full scope, and were honestly carried out to the letter. With the Clergy Reserves question there could be no constitutional entanglement. The Imperial Parliament had deliberately handed over the subject to the Canadian Legislature by statute, and the only question was what should be done with it. Meanwhile, however, the new Reform party had carried on an agitation in favour of immediate secularization, without regard to the Imperial Act of 1791. They contended that the Provincial Parliament was endowed with full power to deal with the matter, without an appeal to England. [The Governor-General in writing home states that the strong feeling which had arisen came of an inveterate jealousy of Anglican ascendancy, aggravated by the political course of the Family Compact; and this feeling allying itself with the voluntary spirit caught from the Scottish Free Church movement of 1843, took the shape of opposition to every thing in the shape of a public provision for the support of religion, and the cry was raised for the secularization of the Clergy Reserves."]

The Government, however, decided to resort to the latter means; and in 1850, an address to the Crown was adopted, praying that the Imperial Act might be repealed. The motion passed by a vote of forty-six to twenty-three; but the Upper Canadian vote stood eighteen to seventeen. Of the latter, however, a number were in favour of secularization, although they differed from the Government in matters of detail. [Turcotte, ii., p. 143.] In 1851, Lord John Russell introduced a Bill to grant the prayer of the Canadian address; but it was crowded out by more pressing matters of Imperial concern. In 1852, Lord Derby succeeded to office, and refused to take up the question; but, in the following year, it was settled under the Coalition Government of Lord Aberdeen. During this interval there was no pause in the discussion on this side of the water. The new party, which appeared in considerable strength after the elections of 1851, demanded immediate secularization; but they failed to move the Government. At length in 1854, the McNab-Morin Cabinet took up the subject, and introduced a Secularization Bill, which, with due regard to vested rights, devoted the reserves to education and other public purposes. During the same year the Seignorial Tenure was also abolished in Lower Canada, and thus two exciting questions were forever set at rest. Another matter, the constitution of the Legislative Council had early attracted Lord Elgin’s attention. In a letter to Lord Grey, written in March, 1850, he inclined to the opinion that that body should be made elective. But at that time, Mr. Baldwin was determinedly opposed to the project, and the Imperial Government would not yield its sanction. Three years later, in addressing the Duke of Newcastle, he urged "that the position of the second chamber in our body politic is at present wholly unsatisfactory," and shortly after the Colonial Office succeeded in passing a measure conceding to Canada the right to deal with the constitution of the Council. Lord Elgin, however, had left the Province before the measure rendering it elective was actually passed. It may be remarked, in passing, that the three chief opponents of the Bill were Scots, Messrs. George Brown, J. Hillyard Cameron and John (afterwards Judge) Wilson, member for London.

The season for the Governor’s departure had now fully come. He was in the eighth year of his viceroyalty, when the Imperial Government reluctantly agreed to his retirement. During this time, he had passed through a time of storm and a time of peace and general contentment. He had encountered popular rage in the assertion of popular rights, and had conquered by calm persistence and unobtrusive strength of will. Of all our Canadian Governors, he best deserves to be remembered as the ruler who, setting before himself the noblest ideal of free colonial government, realized it in practice without wavering, or doubt. When he left our shores there was no more popular man within its limits. The old passions had lost their fire, and from their dying embers a more genial flame had sprung forth. Lord Elgin was a singular instance of what firm devotion to principle may accomplish against all odds. Gifted with a comprehensive and well-cultured intellect, he was born to rule, and to rule equitably, discerningly, and with inimitable sagacity and forethought. There was in him, not only the intuitive power of genius, but the plodding spirit of routine. He could formulate as well as suggest, devise and fashion as well divine. No statesman was ever less of a dreamer; and yet few have surpassed Lord Elgin in the mysterious power of insight. As a speaker, he had few equals among his contemporaries. The eloquence which impressed Mr. Gladstone at the Union Club was mellowed with the progress of the years. Whether his more elevated utterances were studied or not, there was always, when he spoke, a refreshing feeling that what was said came from the heart as well as the head. The true touch-stone of all rare eloquence is its apparent freedom from restraint, its facility, its copiousness, its spontaneity. When, in the autumn of 1851, his Lordship attended the Boston Railway Jubilee, he was brought into competition with one of the most finished of American orators, Edward Everett. Yet, in the judgment of New Englanders, the Scottish nobleman triumphed. There was no flavour of the lamp in his easy and graceful eloquence. The contrast was so marked between the two eminent speakers as to force itself upon general notice at the moment.

In all that Lord Elgin did there was the same fresh naturalness and Scottish straightforwardness, and he showed clearly by his public course that there is no necessary divorce between these natural endowments and the frankest toleration or the most comprehensive breadth of liberality. Whether in Jamaica, Canada, China or India, his Lordship was always the conscientious servant of the Crown and the people. To learn his duty, wherever he might be placed, was the first aspiration with him; to do it, his firm resolution. Canada, at all events, has reason to remember his residence here with affectionate gratitude. He suffered amongst us, and was strong; rather, perhaps, he suffered because he was at once strong and gentle, firm yet facile and placable. Of all the Scots whose names figure in these volumes, the highest place must, in our humble judgment, be conceded to the Bruce, both for what he did in settling our constitutional system, and for what he abstained from doing when weaker heads and less tender hearts would have been betrayed into violent measures. On the 31st of January, 1847, his Excellency had assumed the reins of government, and he surrendered them into the hands of his successor on the 19th of December, 1854. During this prolonged term, Lord Elgin had effectually won not only the respect but the sincere regard of all classes, and in the last month of his Canadian residence, the retiring Governor-General was entertained at two banquets—one at Quebec, the other at Montreal. At the latter place it was impossible not to recall, or be reminded of other days. Yet the distinguished guest in addressing the Montrealers, chose to dwell rather upon his hospitable reception in 1847, and the glow of pleasure which he felt when first the great commercial metropolis, with the noble scenery in which it is set, burst upon his view. It was impossible to ignore a nearer past not so redolent of fragrant memories, yet he touched upon it with the light and skilful hand of a master "And I shall forget," he said, "but no,—what I might have had to forget, is forgotten already, and, therefore, I cannot tell what I shall forget." After the tempest had come a long season of grateful calm; the bitterness was past, and temporary reverses had been swallowed up in victory. When Lord Elgin left our shores, there was no more popular, or deeply-beloved public man to be found from Gaspé to Sandwich.

When he arrived in England, his Lordship was offered the Chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster—a cabinet office—but declined it, on the ground that he had only recently taken his seat in the Lords. He addressed the House once or twice in defence of the Lord Palmerston Ministry, but for nearly two years lived quietly at Broomhall, attending to his estates, which were in his eyes not so much a property as a trust. In 1856, the affair of the lorcha Arrow occurred. The vessel sailed under the British flag; but it was afterwards contended that it was really a pirate committing depredations under false colours. At all events the period of registry at the consulate had expired, and the Chinese authorities thought themselves justified in boarding the vessel, hauling down the flag, and seizing the Chinese crew. The consequence was not only a quarrel with the Celestial empire, but a Ministerial defeat in England. During the Session of 1857, Mr. Cobden introduced a resolution censuring Lord Palmerston’s Government for "the violent measures resorted to at Canton." The great free-trader was supported by what the jaunty Premier called "a fortuitous concourse of atoms." Conservatives, Peelites and Radicals united in favour of the motion, with some recalcitrant Whigs. Mr. Disraeli, Lord John Russell, Mr. Gladstone and Sir James Graham, went into the lobby with Messrs Cobden and Bright, and the motion was carried by a majority of sixteen. [Molesworth: History of England, vol. iii., p. 84.] Lord Palmerston appealed to the country, and was sustained. Meanwhile Lord Elgin was selected as High Commissioner to Pekin, and left England in the early summer of 1857, to be backed by a naval and military force on the spot. He had no sooner reached there than tidings of the Sepoy rebellion arrived from India. His first step was to send every available soldier to the rescue. The narrative of this mission is of great interest. Lord Elgin penetrated to Pekin, and in June, 1858, concluded the treaty of Tientsin. Having thus settled a perplexing matter in dispute, and enlarged British liberty of trade with China, his Lordship proceeded to Japan, boldly entered the harbour of Yeddo, which was at that time closed against Europeans, and negotiated a treaty there of "peace, friendship, and commerce" with the Tycoon, on the 26th of August, 1858. [A most interesting account of this mission will be found in the Narrative, &c., by Laurence Oliphant, 2 vols. Edinburgh: 1859.] In July of the following year, his Lordship was once more in England, and when, in May of the following year, Lord Palmerston formed a new Ministry, was appointed Postmaster-General. Next year, however, he once more embarked for China, in company with the French ambassador, Baron Gros. They narrowly escaped—the vessel being a total wreck—and all their luggage, papers, &c, were lost. On this occasion Lord Elgin fully accomplished his work in China, and placed the commercial relations with that Empire upon a permanently satisfactory footing.

He had only been a month in England when the Premier offered him the viceroyalty of India, in place of Lord Canning. The position was one which naturally attracted a statesman not so much ambitious as eager to do his country and the world all the service in his power. He bade adieu - for, alas! he never returned—to the shores of Britain on the 28th of January, 1862, and arrived at Calcutta on the 12th of March. With an absorbing desire to fulfil his onerous duties conscientiously and with intelligence, he set out upon an extended tour as soon as the autumn advanced. His constitution was not acclimatized, and he soon felt the effects of his journeyings. In the following year his friends noticed that he had aged much within a few months. Yet on the 12th of October he again was en route. Having surmounted a difficult pass and crossed the famous Twig Bridge on the Chandra, he was suddenly prostrated from exposure and exhaustion, and never altogether rallied. Nevertheless, he continued in the saddle until the 22nd; when another attack overtook him, and he was carried by stages to Dhurmsala. A physician was brought from Calcutta, but his efforts were in vain. Lord Elgin died, after lingering, without pain, as a devout Christian and supremely conscientious man would desire to die, at the post of duty, on the 20th of November, 1863, at the early age of fifty-three years. There, under Eastern skies, rests as noble a heart as ever beat within a Scotsman’s breast. And Scotland has never failed to show her pride in him. As an intimate friend has said, "Whereever else he was honoured, and however few were his visits to his native land, yet Scotland, at least, always delighted to claim him as her own. Always his countrymen were proud to feel that he worthily bore the name most dear to Scottish hearts. Always his unvarying integrity shone to them with the steady light of an unchanging beacon above the stormy discords of the Scottish Church and nation. Whenever he returned to his home in Fifeshire, he was welcomed by all, high and low, as their friend and chief. . . . By that ancestral home, in the vaults of the abbey church of Dunfermline, would have been his natural resting-place. . . . He sleeps far away from his native land, on the heights of Dhurmsala, a fitting grave, let us rejoice to think, for the viceroy of India—overlooking from its lofty eminence, the vast expanse of hill and plain of these mighty provinces—a fitting burial beneath the snow-clad Himalayan range, for one who dwelt, with such serene satisfaction, on all that was grand and beautiful in man and nature—

"Pondering God’s mysteries untold,
And, tranquil as the glacier snows,
He, by these Indian mountains old,
Might well repose." [Walrond, pp. 465-7.]

Lord Elgin stands out of Canadian history since the conquest, as by far the greatest and most conspicuous figure. In comprehensive intellect, and political capacity, no public man can be named, who would not suffer by comparison with him. It is not alone that he divined at once the true policy a wise constitutional ruler should espouse, but that he came to Canada exactly when his abilities were most needed, and adhered to the maxims he had adopted, with unfaltering courage and tenacity. To talents of the highest order, he added the purest disinterestedness in the service of his country, a genial manner, an eloquent utterance, and the warmest affections. That he should have met with rebuffs, where he might have hoped for cordial support and encouragement, was perhaps to be expected at a time when our polity was, unsettled, and all things were in a state of transition. He suffered keenly, no doubt, as sensitive and single-hearted natures always do; but he was also bold, and the suffering was swallowed up in victory. Whatever credit may be due to the Colonial Office of the day, it is quite certain that, neither Lord Grey nor Lord John Russell fully realized the meaning of responsible government, or was prepared to accept it to its amplest extent. With a public servant, less clear-headed and peremptory than Lord Elgin, the old programme of Lord Metcalfe might have once more been rehearsed, and the Province brought to the verge of insurrection. The Governor-General, however, was cast in a different mould. Whatever his party predilections may have been, his neutrality, as the representative of the Crown, remains unimpeachable. To act with either party, so long as it could secure the confidence of Parliament and the people, was to him as sacred a principle as any of those which, in a higher sphere, ruled his life and brought him consolation and hope on the verge of the grave.

The change in colonial policy, really wrought by the pupil and kinsman of Lord Durham, may be best illustrated by a reference to two works, the one by a Whig, the other by a Conservative, statesman of England. [The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell’s Administration. By Earl Grey. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1853; and A Review of "The Colonial Policy," &c., and of subsequent Colonial History. By Sir Charles B. Adderley, K.C.M.G., M. P., &c. London: Edward Stanford, 1869. In 1878, Sir Charles was raised to the peerage as Baron Norton.] Earl Grey was Colonial Secretary during almost the whole of Lord Elgin’s term; Lord Norton served as Under Secretary of the department, for about two years-and-a-half in Lord Derby’s second administration (1866-1868). It will be seen at once, by a comparison of the books, that, whilst there is a difference of opinion as to the merit of introducing the constitutional system, both authors are agreed upon its wisdom and necessity. The Conservative points with satisfaction to the tardiness with which the Whigs acknowledged responsible government. Lord Grey had failed to observe that "the normal current of colonial history is perpetual assertion of the right to self-government." ["The fundamental error in his theory of colonial government, and it was the prevalent theory of the time, seems to me to be the supposition that, in English settlements (I am not speaking of Crown governments, or stations for peace or war), the supreme executive has the task of exercising a political control over the people, which must reverse, in their case, the Constitution which we enjoy at home – a control which distance must make all the more galling, and of which the more benevolent and conscientious its exercise, the more fatal must be the effects upon the vigour and prosperity of its subjects." Adderley, p. 2.] So slow were the Whigs in accepting the new theory, that Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, in his "Government of Dependencies" (1841, p. 160), wrote: "Since the close of the American war it has not been the policy of England to vest any portion of the legislative power of the subordinate government of a dependency in a body elected by the inhabitants. The only partial exception is in the Canadian Provinces." And yet, in 1841, Lord Sydenham was promising to Canada the full measure of constitutional government, just as General Simcoe, nearly fifty years before, had guaranteed a system which should be "the exact image and transcript" of the British constitution.

Lord Norton throughout accepts the doctrine of responsible government, and seems to reproach Earl Grey with having conceded it so tardily and grudgingly. The latter admits that Lord Metcalfe’s course was perilous, but hardly reprobates it with any warmth of expression. His opponent, however, with the new light which had streamed in upon him, denounces the Governor without stint. [After stating the difficulty between Lord Metcalfe and his Ministers, and his triumph at the polls in 1844, Lord Grey remarks that this success was "dearly purchased by the circumstances that the parliamentary opposition was no longer directed against the advisers of the Governor, but against the Governor himself, and the British government of which he was the organ." Vol. i., p. 205. Compare Adderley, p. 28: "Lord Metcalfe became involved in difficulties with his Council, on a question relating to the distribution of patronage." ‘His ministers,’ says Lord Grey, ‘retired, supported by a majority of the Assembly.’ Could the continued absence of constitutional principles from Canadian government be more strikingly described? Lord Metcalfe set up another Ministry, with which, by means of a dissolution in 1844, he brought the legislature into harmony, trampling over the principle of responsibility through the use of its own forms."] Indeed, going farther back than that, Lord Norton contends that responsible government should have been conceded before or immediately after the rebellion, not by any act of Imperial legislation, but by distinct and peremptory instructions from the Colonial Office. It was not the constitution that was at fault at all, but the imperfect, not to say faithless, working of it. There would have been no opening for Lord Metcalfe’s coup d’etat of 1843-4, had this been done once for all. "Lord Metcalfe," he says, in his address "to his accommodating parliament, stated that whilst he recognised the great power and privilege of the people to influence their rulers, he reserved to himself the selecting of the executive— the exact reverse of the maxims of the constitution—the Crown exercises its influence aside, while the legislature controls directly the choice of the executive." Lord Norton demonstrates clearly that a constitutional government could be reduced to a mockery, under Lord Metcalfe’s system; and quotes Lord Stafford’s letter to Charles I.: "By no means abolish parliaments, as a well-governed Parliament is the best instrument for managing a people."

What strikes one as so remarkable in the conduct of the Imperial authorities at the time is, that neither one party nor the other was prepared to concede responsible government without hampering it with conditions fatal to its success. In 1839, Lord John Russell, in a dispatch to Lord Sydenham, professed to see the only way out of the difficulty in an exercise of the Governor’s discretion, "only ignoring the responsibility of his Council when the honour of the Crown absolutely requires it"—that is, adds Lord Norton, "whenever he thinks fit." Thus whilst the English Whigs were willing to concede the shadow, they strove to keep a firm grip upon the substance, of power. Even so late as 1847, in his instructions to Sir John Harvey, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, to be referred to hereafter, the same halting policy was adopted. The Crown representative was told not to change his Council, "until it became perfectly clear that they are unable, with such fair support from yourself as they have a right to expect, to carry on the government of the Province satisfactorily." At the same time he was not to be a party man, but a mediator, and yet not to yield "a blind obedience" to his Council. In short, he was to be an active power in the state, without being conspicuously partizan. Of course it is easy to see that Lord Grey intended to establish responsible government fairly and fully; but he could not free his mind of the notion that the Colonial Governor, as agent of the Colonial office, must occupy a higher position than the monarch whose representative he happens to be.

There can be no doubt that Lord Elgin set out upon his mission as Governor-General impressed with a similar idea. It had been constantly represented to him that he must do some thing, not merely superintend the working of the governmental machine. But, to his infinite credit, he discovered, almost as soon as he was on our shores, that every vestige of the paternal theory of government must be flung to the winds. He found Lord Metcalfe’s advisers still in power; and, although it must have been clear that a dissolution would hurl them from office, he extended to them a full measure of confidence. With the general election, the position of parties underwent a complete change. The work of the electioneering Governor-General was utterly destroyed; and, in a free Parliament, the Reform party could boast of a majority from both sections of the Province. In the orderly course which distinguishes constitutional, from personal and arbitrary rule, without disturbance and without demur, the victors crossed the floor, and took possession of the government. A peaceful revolution followed in the wake of a lawless and turbulent one; so at last and for all time to come, the will of the people became the supreme law. The retiring Ministers had no fault to find with Lord Elgin. Unlike the viceroy who forced them into power by the sinister use of the means at his disposal to establish a party and pack a House, the new Governor-General kept aloof during the struggle, and was concerned only with its results. Up to the moment when the Ministry expired—and it died hard—Lord Elgin accepted it loyally, and supported it with counsel and encouragement.

To the new one he at once transferred his confidence, and supported it with unflinching loyalty - from first to last. When the troublous crisis came upon them, no shadow of doubt crossed his mind. The Rebellion Losses Bill was a legacy left to his advisers by those who had recently retired; and, even had it been otherwise, his present Council had just achieved an overwhelming triumph at the polls, and been placed in power by an imperative mandate from the people. The minority, chafing under defeat, used strong and bitter language, and, without designing it, provoked their unthinking supporters to acts of violence. That the leaders should, for a moment have supposed that Lord Elgin would yield to their clamour, or that the Home Government would mar the work just commenced by the master-hand, proves how vicious and irrational had been the old system, which, even in its death-throes, was yet vigorous enough to threaten rebellion in the name of loyalty. What, in plain language, was their demand? Simply that the Queen’s representative or the Imperial Government should rule Canada, according to the wishes of a portion of its people, represented by only twenty in the House of Assembly. Lord Metcalfe would, no doubt, have met them more than half way; "stumped" the country on their behalf, and employed preroragative to sully the majesty of the Crown, to sacrifice the dignity of his office, and trample upon the liberties of the people. Happily a pilot of another stamp was at the helm of state—one who, while he did not prate of loyalty, when he meant partisanship, was not less faithful to his sovereign and the empire, than he was unswervingly faithful to the most cherished maxims of the constitution.

Those who were witnesses of the struggles of 1844 and of 1847-8, occurring as they did within a brief period of time, must have felt impressively the notable change which had been so wonderfully and felicitously wrought. The constitution was unchanged; but the practical working of it had passed, as if by magic, through a silent, yet complete and radical revolution. The difference lay in the men who represented the Crown. Lord Metcalfe, trained in India, and inflated by extravagant notions both of prerogative and personal importance, had gone far to produce a state of feeling not unlike that which had brought about the events of 1837-8. Lord Elgin might have laid the coping-stone upon the temple of chaos; but his shrewd Scottish intellect and sensitive conscience had marked out for him the plain path of duty, and he resolved to tread it alone, even though it were strewn with thorns. It was his peculiar merit that he possessed a sure and steady grasp of constitutional principle, and that he fixed his vision upon it and shaped his course by it without deflection to one side or the other, from fear, favour or affection. Unlike others on whom has been thrown the burden of a similar crisis, he lived to see the triumphant vindication of his cause, both in what he stoutly dared, and what he humanely forbore to do. Our gallery of Scotsmen in Canada is a brilliant one; but amongst them all, to our mind, the most illustrious figure of all covers the canvas from which beam forth, with perennial attractiveness, the intellectual and nobly sympathetic features of James Bruce, Earl of Elgin.

The late Mr. Ellice, well known as the parliamentary spokesman in England of the Hudson’s Bay Company, is said to have remarked "that there were three periods in the history of our colonial policy. In the first, we left the colonies to govern themselves; but attempted to make them, by commercial regulations, subservient to our interests at home. In the second, tampering with self-government, colonies were lost, and it was sought to bind the rest more firmly by governing them from home. In the third, the principle of self-government recovered itself, leaving, however, the expenses on our hands, which we are only beginning to throw off." Now, so far as Canada is concerned, we begin with the second stage. At the same time, the description requires some modification. In Lower Canada, at the conquest, even the first colonial system was in vogue, and the peculiar circumstances of the case added complexity to the problem. The conquered race were a high spirited and strongly patriotic people, generous and docile. But they had been reared under the patriarchal system of the Bourbons, and had only the vaguest conception of free government.. The military government of General Murray, and the paternal despotism of Sir James Craig were necessary preliminary steps on the way to constitutional rule. The French population had been in leading-strings so long that much care was necessary before the experiment of untrammeled action could be safely tried. Sir Guy Carleton, with a laudable desire to elevate the Lower Canadian people, and to train them for the judicious exercise of political rights, appears to have acted with a generous but somewhat perilous precipitancy. To him belongs the credit of having pressed through the Quebec Act of 1774; but he does not seem to have recognised the difficulties which beset any complete measure of enfranchisement. Adam Lymburner who, no doubt, was to some extent the victim of national prejudices, with a clearer insight, predicted in 1791 the troubles which would flow from conceding plenary authority to the subject race too soon in a Province where they were overwhelmingly in the majority.

It is a common fault with theoretical, let us say philosophical, reformers, that they insist upon applying the same system under all circumstances, irrespective of its suitableness or adaptability. At this moment, men are engaged in reproaching Alexander III. with the atrocious crime of not establishing constitutional government amongst the eighty-five millions of Russians, who, if not as Carlyle called Englishmen, "mostly fools," are, at all events, semi-barbarous, and hardly more qualified for the franchise than the savages of Fiji or Timbuctoo. At the same time, in order to educate a people, as well as a party, some beginning must be made, and, under the circumstances, the Act of 1791 was as promising an effort in that direction as could have been put forth. That the French majority could be kept in a state of political inferiority much longer, was out of the question. That they were not fit, at that time, to exercise, to their fullest extent, the privileges of free citizens, is certain, because after events proved it to demonstration. It is quite possible that some transitional polity might have been adopted to pave the way to a complete enfranchisement. But the statesmen of England, Pitt and Burke especially, were face to face with the French ogre nearer home, and only thought of the French across the ocean as possible enemies, to whom it seemed advisable to throw a sop. Mr. Ellice’s second stage then supervened, and the forms of self-government were conceded, without its essence. The revenues were in the hands of the Crown, and although passionate harangues might be delivered, and violent motions passed, both were absolutely futile. The French people soon discovered that the promised blessings to be reaped from the British constitution but lately conceded to them, were a sham. They had craved for the bread of unshackled liberty and been rewarded with the indigestible stone of prerogative. That the majority entertained the most extravagant conceptions of the sphere of legislation, and the rights of an Assembly, is clear from the pages of Garneau, who can find sympathy with all their bizarrerie, and nothing but reprobation for any expression from the Governor, which tended to assert for the Crown of England any concern in the matter. Monarch and subject had, in the popular view, changed places; the prerogative was to be transferred to a noisy and hot-headed body, in many respects like a Paris Convention during the Terror, and the Crown was its servant. In short, constitutional views were quite as difficult to master amongst the French democrats, as amongst the éléves of an entirely different school, the family compact of Upper Canada. The rebellion in the Lower Province was far less justifiable than the outbreak on the lakes.

The history of Upper Canada begins with the administration of Governor Simcoe. It was the first Governor’s ambition to found a purely British colony, conducted on English principles, and equipped with all the free agencies of constitutional government. Upper Canada was but sparsely settled at that time. A narrow fringe along its magnificent water-front was fairly settled; and, by degrees, the population began to creep along the military highways—called streets, after the Roman fashion—which stretched from York to the east, west, and north. As might have been expected, the colonists were chiefly old U. E. Loyalists, retired soldiers, and trusty civil servants who possessed the General’s confidence. The system of government was simple enough, the chief business of rulers being to distribute the magnificent territory of Ontario among the faithful dependents of the Crown. There were no political crises in those days, because there was no public spirit, and no material for party divergencies.

With the war of 1812, however, the whole aspect of affairs in Upper Canada underwent a radical change. The loyal men who had successfully repelled the invader, had scarcely reverted to the arts of peace, when they found their supremacy challenged by immigrants from Europe and the United States. It was natural that they should feel alarmed at the outlook, and strive with vehemence, and sometimes with gross injustice, to retain a cherished monopoly in possession of land, and in the functions of government. When Gourlay appeared upon the scene, avowedly to promote immigration, and break up the close preserve hedged in with so much care and solicitude, the party, or rather coterie, in power, took the alarm. The enterprising Scot was made a victim to its fears; yet he succeeded in leaving behind him the seeds of political intelligence destined to bear fruit in time to come. The Alien Act was tried in vain, and the urgent remonstrances against emigration from Britain proved to be altogether without effect. New comers continued to flock in, among them republican Americans, who had spied out the latent riches of the young colony, and were eager to take advantage of its nascent development.

It was during this time that Dr. Strachan appeared as the champion of the status quo in church and state. That he and the family compact were partly in the right may be frankly admitted. Between the moment when popular movements are first begun, and that at which their triumph is, in any sense, desirable, there is a long interval. The friends of conservatism are always right in the early portion of a transitional period; but they grow less and less so, as time passes by, and the body politic emerges through adolescence into manhood. The innovators, on the other hand, are invariably premature, impatient, querulous; and unreasonable at the outset; but their course gathers strength with the popular growth. We must not, therefore, judge those who put down the brakes, in the light of recent years. They had a duty to perform, of inestimable importance to the colony, and they performed it conscientiously according to the knowledge they had. If they resisted the needed reforms too long, their fault may be balanced against that of the reckless spirits who began too early.

With the appearance of a third Scot—William Lyon Mackenzie—opened a new era. The Upper Province started into life. Constitutional rights began to take the foremost place, and although the leader rashly committed himself to violent remedies, he effectually accomplished his work. But for the rebellion, Canada would not so soon have been blessed with responsible government. The remedy was drastic enough; yet, as the event proved, it was an effectual one. The people of England were, at last, aroused to the fact that there was a young nation born to her in Canada, high-spirited and independent, loyal at bottom, yet determined to be free. From the report of Lord Durham, from the debates in parliament, from the addresses and dispatches of Lords Sydenham and Elgin, we learn how serious and salutary an impression was made upon the British mind by the apparent fiasco of 1837-8.

It is not going too far to assert that, but for it, the disastrous reaction under Lord Metcalfe would have finally destroyed the growing germs of self-government, and autonomy could only have been secured by a bloodier insurrection, which might have cost the Crown its noblest colonies. The minority from 1841 to 1849 possessed all the advantages of prestige in their favour. At any moment, as the country saw in 1844, it was open to an arbitrary ruler to challenge, and secure, popular support by raising the facile cry of loyalty, and flinging himself, honour, dignity and all, into the breach. With the arrival of Lord Elgin things were changed; and to him was due the definitive establishment for the first time, of the substance, as well as the forms, of the British constitution. How persistent the men were who saw power slipping, beyond hope of recovery, from their hands, may be seen in the events of 1849. In a legislature, fresh from the people, their representatives numbered less than a third of the House; and yet they were determined to resist the majority, to insult the representative of the Queen, and load him with personal insult and obloquy. How they proposed to carry on the government, in defiance of the popular will, has never been made clear to this day. It is only evident that, even at the cost of violence, they were quite willing to overturn the constitution of the country, and revive the personal and oligarchical system which had perished with Lord Metcalfe.

During the seventeen years that followed, the united Province was often torn with political dissensions; but the cardinal principle, which secured to it peace and contentment, was a key to the solution of every problem. Those who have followed these pages thus far, need not be reminded of the conspicuous part Scotsmen have played in public affairs. From 1856 until 1880, Scots have almost always filled the leading posts, so far as the Upper Province is concerned, both in the Government and the Opposition. Of the twelve Ministers who fashioned the Dominion of Canada, seven (including Sir Alexander Campbell and the Hon. James Cockburn, who are of North British blood) were Scottish by birth or origin. When it is considered that Scotsmen form but a small proportion of our Canadian population, have they not contributed more than their share to the public life of the country? And can any one refuse them the tribute for intelligence, vigour and earnestness which, under these circumstances, is their due?


Previous Page | Return to Index Page | Next Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast