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The Scot in British North America
Chapter VII. The Dominion from 1867 to 1882. Part B


There were other Scots in the Commons who perhaps should be noticed here; but it is necessary to hasten onward, giving brief references to a few gentlemen who figured in the Local Legislature at this period. Mr. Archibald McKellar, who had been a prominent member of the Opposition in the Ontario Assembly during Mr. Sandfield Macdonald’s Administration, became Commissioner of Agriculture and Public Works in the succeeding Government. He was born in the neighbourhood of Inverary, Argyleshire, in February, 1816, his mother being a McNab. A year after his parents removed to this country, and settled in the County of Elgin, in Ontario. Mr. McKellar was reared a farmer, and, after his marriage, set up for himself on the banks of the Thames, in the County of Kent. In those days counties were grouped together, and as early as 1842, he was elected to the Council of the united Counties of Kent, Lambton and Essex, and served as Reeve of the Township of Raleigh for several years. In 1857 Kent was separated from the other counties, and Mr. McKellar became Reeve of Chatham. A Liberal in politics, he nevertheless cast a Conservative vote in 1841, the only one he is said to have given during his life. In 1857, at a critical juncture in public affairs, Mr. McKellar was elected to represent Kent in the Provincial Assembly. He had three years before contested the seat unsuccessfully, but this time he was firmly established, maintaining himself for ten years, until the Union. In 1867, however, he was defeated by Mr. Rufus Stephenson, the majority against him being nearly a hundred. In the same year he entered the Local Assembly, having been elected by a majority of seventy, as member for Bothwell, a county set off from the eastern side of Kent. In 1871, as already stated, Mr. McKellar was made a member of the Executive Council. Three years after he became Commissioner of Agriculture and Provincial Secretary, Mr. Fraser taking the bureau of Public Works. During his term of office, Mr. McKellar was the author of some public measure of importance to the farming community, especially the Drainage Act. In August, 1875, he became Sheriff of the County of Wentworth, an office he still holds. On his retirement from public life, the hon. gentleman received many flattering letters of respect from his numerous friends, irrespective of party. Mr. McKellar has three sons living, one of whom is Registrar of Kent, the other two farmers "on the old homestead."

Lieut.-Colonel Alexander D. Ferrier was also a member of the first Ontario Legislature His father, originally from Linlithgowshire, died in 1833,Collector of Customs at Quebec, Mr. Ferrier was born at Edinburgh in 1813. Having made his home in the County of Wellington, Ontario; he served in the Municipal Council for some years, and was the County Clerk for many years. From 1838 until the abolition of the court, he was Commissioner of the Court of Requests. During the rebellion, Mr. Ferrier saw active service on the frontier, and was up to 1862 an officer in the sixth Battalion. There, as in other cases, the military instinct was hereditary, as his grandfather had been a Major-General in the British army, and his grand-uncle a Lieutenant in the navy, who had in charge the detachment which drew up the cannon from the river to the plains of Abraham, under Wolfe. At the general election in 1871, Mr. Ferrier dropped out of the list, and resigned his clerkship also. After three years spent in Scotland, he returned to Fergus where, we believe, he still resides, a magistrate of the county, and an elder of the Presbyterian Church, highly respected by all who know him.

Thomas Grahame, J. P., who represented West York in the first Ontario Assembly, is a son of the soil, having been born in Vaughan, in the year 1840. His father, however, came from Dumfries-shire, but subsequently returned to Scotland. Mr. Grahame was educated at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto. He served in the County Council for some years, and was elected in 1867 over two competitors by a pleurality of seventy-three. At the expiration of the term he gave place to Mr. Patterson. The number of Scots in the first two Local Assemblies of Ontario was so large that space will not admit of a detailed account of them and a simple mention of their names must suffice. One gentleman, however, who appeared upon the scene in 1872 deserves special notice.

Mr. James Bethune belonged to the old Highland stock of Glengarry. His father was for many years Sheriff of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, and the son was born in the last of these united Counties in July, 1840. Having been educated in arts at Queen’s College, Kingston, Mr. Bethune entered the University of Toronto in law, and graduated as LL.B. in 1861. The following year he was called to the bar of Ontario, and some years later became a barrister of Quebec. After three years’ practice, Mr. Bethune was appointed County Crown Attorney, but resigned in order to become a candidate for Stormont in the Local Assembly in 1871. He was unsuccessful then; but on the unseating of the sitting member, he secured a return. In 1875, his old opponent, Mr. William Colquhoun, again tried conclusions with him, but was defeated by over a hundred and thirty votes. At the general election of 1879, Mr. Bethune declined to stand, and the Local House lost in him one of its most able and intelligent members. In politics he has always been a Reformer, although by no means a subservient partisan. His character is sternly honest and independent, and whereever he is known he is highly esteemed. As a lawyer Mr. Bethune has been eminently successful; indeed his indefatigable industry and abilities could hardly fail in any walk of life.

The Hon. Christopher Finlay Fraser, Q.C., first entered the Assembly in 1871. The son of a Scottish Highlander, he was born in Brockville, in October, 1839. The family were engaged, during Mr. Fraser’s boyhood in the struggle for existence, but he was a bright, ambitious youth, eager to acquire an education in order that he might push his own fortunes. Early in life he served an apprenticeship to the printing business in the office of the Brockville Recorder, a Reform journal, conducted with spirit by Mr. D. Wylie, a Scot of whom it will be necessary to speak hereafter. In 1859, the interval having been employed in self-improvement, Mr. Fraser entered the office of the Hon. A. N. Richards, Q. C., as a law student, and was called to the bar in 1864. Having always taken a deep interest in Provincial affairs, he became a candidate for Brockville in 1867, but was defeated by Mr. Fitzsimmons; the majority against him, however, was only twenty-six. He had made a strong impression upon the electors, and was content to bide his time. At the general election of 1871, Mr. Fraser applied to another constituency, South Grenville, but again suffered defeat. His successful rival having died early in the following year, this time the tide had changed in his favour. Unfortunately his return was disputed, and Mr. Fraser lost his seat, but only to be returned to the Assembly in October. In November, 1873 he was appointed to the Executive Council as Provincial. Secretary—an office he exchanged for the Commissionership of Public Works in April, 1874, which he still holds. The hon. gentleman is possessed of singular ability and eloquence, and has proved himself a reliable member of the Ontario Legislature. In religion, Mr. Fraser is a Catholic, and was one of the founders of the Catholic League in the Province. In 1879, he had the misfortune to be rejected for South Grenville, the majority against him being one hundred and thirty-seven. He had, however, received a seat for Brockville, having been elected over an opponent by more than a hundred votes. Of late the hon. gentleman’s health has suffered, but he is still equal to the onerous duties of his office.

Mr. John Carnegie, the son of a Scot, sat in the first Ontario Assembly, but suffered defeat in 1871. He was born in the Township of Douro, in the County of Peterborough, and was intimately associated with the interests of agriculture. His majority for West Peterborough in 1867 was only eighteen, and in 1871, he lost the seat by an adverse majority of fifty-three. His successful rival, Mr. Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn, born at Bowmanville, in 1840, is the son of a Lowland Scotsman. He entered the legal profession, having been called to the bar in 1865. For some years he served as a Master in Chancery. Mr. Fairbairn gave place to Mr. Cox at the election of 1875, at which he was not a candidate. Of the other legislators of this period who were either Scots or of Scottish parentage, were Messrs. Christie, of North Wentworth; Craig, of Glengarry; Finlayson, of North Brant; Gibson, of West Huron; Gow, of South Wellington; Graham, of West Hastings; Grange, of Lennox; McCall, of South Norfolk; Macdonald, of South Leeds; McKim, of North Wellington; McLeod, of West Durham; McRae, of North Victoria; Monteith, of North Perth; Oliver, of South Oxford; Sinclair, of North Bruce; Smith, of North Middlesex, and one or two others. The Speaker of the Assembly was Lieut.-Colonel, the Hon. James George Currie, M. P. P. for Welland. His father, Lachlan, settled from Scotland in the County of Linco1n, but he was born at Toronto, in 1827, and educated at Niagara. By profession, Mr. Currie is a lawyer. He is Lieut.-Colonel commanding the 19th Battalion, and served for three or four years Warden of the County. In 1857 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Niagara. In 1862, on the death of the Hon. W. H. Merritt, he was elected by acclamation to the Legislative Council by the Niagara Division, but resigned in 1865.

Mr. Currie was opposed to Confederation, and for a time withdrew from public life. In 1871, however, he opposed the sitting Member for Welland, and was returned to the local House by a majority of about one hundred and thirty. When the House met in December, he was selected as Speaker, but resigned in the spring of 1873.

In a previous chapter, the Frasers of Quebec were mentioned in connection with the conquest of the Province. The Hon. John Fraser de Berry, who sat in the Legislative Council until 1877, or thereabouts, was the Lord of the clan Fraser, and took the name of De Berry from the seigniory he had acquired. He was descended from Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, a Jacobite in the rebellion of 1745. A son of the same name fought under Wolfe, and was wounded severely at the taking of Quebec. He remained in the Province after the capitulation, and received the seigniory of Montmorency with other property. At the time of the American invasion he distinguished himself as captain of the 84th or Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. He was also a Judge in the Province. The Hon. Mr. Fraser’s father, Dr. Simon Fraser, was an officer in the 42nd or Black Watch, and saw active service from 1795 to 1803, having been present when Sir Ralph Abercrombie was slain at Alexandria in 1801. During that memorable action about three-fourths of this gallant Highland Regiment were either killed or wounded. The son was born at St. Martin’s, Quebec, in November, 1816, and married, in 1842, his cousin, Elizabeth Fraser de Berry, and added the name of the seigniory to his own. Being the lineal descendant of the head of the family, he became chief of the clan Fraser, and aided by his pen and influence in its formal organization. From his French connections, Mr. Fraser was made President of the St. Jean Baptiste Society—a striking instance of the fusion of old nationalities which has been previously noted. In 1858, he contested the Montarville Division for the Legislative Council unsuccessfully, but in 1867 was nominated as a life member of that body.

The Hon. Joseph Gibb Robertson, who has been Provincial Treasurer under several Administrations, was born at Stuartfield, Aberdeenshire, on New Year’s Day, 1820. His father was a Congregational minister for thirty years in that place, and for a quarter of a century at Sherbrooke, in Quebec. In 1832, the mother having died, father and son removed to Canada, where the latter received his educational training. In youth, Mr. Robertson was engaged in farming, but subsequently turned his attention to mercantile pursuits at Sherbrooke, and also, for a brief period, at Chicago, as agent for the home establishment. He retired from business some years since. He has always been an active and public spirited worker in the Eastern Townships, and has served for eighteen years as Mayor of the town. He had previously been Secretary-Treasurer of the county from 1847 to 1853. In other capacities, Mr. Robertson has been of essential utility, having presided over insurance, railway, and agricultural corporations. He was first elected to the Provincial Assembly from Sherbrooke at Confederation, and has ever since held his seat there, being usually elected by acclamation. In 1869 he entered Mr. Chauveau’s Cabinet, and has also served in the Ouimet, De Boucherville, and Chapleau Administrations. On the last occasion, there was a contest; but Mr. Robertson triumphed by a majority of over six hundred and fifty. He is chiefly known in connection with the finances of the Province, which he has successfully administered for some years. A journalist has remarked: "It is no easy matter to compass the Treasurer on a matter of business; he is a shrewd, cool-headed Scotchman, who will not be readily led into a trap, as many a man who has had his eye upon the ‘soft thing’ supposed to be at the disposition of Ministers of the Crown, and has attempted to trade upon conjectural weakness, will readily and painfully recollect." Mr. Robertson is a Conservative, respected by all parties for his sterling integrity and business talents. It may be added, that he adheres to the Church his father served so long, and is a staunch advocate of the temperance cause.

The Hon. John J. Ross, M.D., at present Speaker of the Quebec Legislative Council, should be a Scot by descent, although there is no accessible record of the fact. His grandfather, George McIntosh Ross, was a West India merchant, who married a French-Canadian lady, so that the lines of nationality are somewhat blurred. Mr. Ross was born at St. Anne’s, and educated at Quebec College, entering afterwards the medical profession. As a physician and surgeon, he stands high in the Province, and has long been President of the Medical College. He has also taken a deep interest in agriculture. In 1861 he was selected as the representative of Chambly in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and retained his seat until the Union. At the general elections, after confederation, Mr. Ross was sent both to the Commons and the Provincial Assembly. From the former he retired in 1874, and from the latter in 1877, when he was elevated to the Legislative Council. In 1873, the hon. gentleman was called to the Executive Council, and made Speaker of the Upper House, a position he retained for about a year and a ha1f. Again, early in 1876, he was re-appointed, and remained in office until the Government of M. De Boucherville was summarily dismissed by Lieut.-Governor Letellier in March, 1878. Finally, in the autumn of 1879 he once more resumed the office, which he still holds. Dr. Ross, in 1875, was elected Vice-President of the North Shore Railway. A reference to the dates will show that in politics he is a Conservative, having, like Mr. Robertson, served in more than one Administration.

Lieut.-Colonel Alexander Walker Ogilvie only served in the first Quebec Assembly; but he has been recently raised to the Senate in place of the Hon. Mr. Penny, deceased. Mr. Ogilvie’s parents removed to Canada at the beginning of the century. His father was an officer of the Lachine Cavalry, and saw active service during the wars of 1812 and 1837. The son was born near the City of Montreal, in May, 1827. He has long been the senior member of the firm of A. W. Ogilvie & Co., the proprietors of an extensive milling establishment. During a long and active life Mr. Ogilvie has served as Alderman of Montreal, and a Governor of the City Hospital, Lieut.-Colonel of Volunteers, President of the Hochelaga Agricultural Society, of the Working Men’s Benefit Society, and also of the St. Andrew’s Society. In 1867 he was returned to the Local House for Montreal by acclamation, but only sat during one term. The Hon. Mr. Ogilvie delivered his maiden speech at Ottawa, as seconder of the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, in the Senate, in February, 1882.

The number of Scots of the Maritime Provinces who sat in the Local Assemblies was large at this period, especially in Nova Scotia, but the mere enumeration of their names would serve no useful purpose. At the close of the chapter, there will be an opportunity afforded for a few sketches of the more prominent of them. Meanwhile it is necessary to return to the chronicle proper, and trace the course of events at Ottawa during an eventful crisis.

Lord Dufferin arrived, as already stated, early in 1872, and assumed the reins of Government. The term of the first Dominion Parliament was drawing to a close, and the general elections were at hand. A dissolution took place early in the autumn, and the elections terminated in a triumph for the Government. [Stewart: Canada under Lord Dufferin, p. 115; Leggo: History of Lord Dufferin’s Administration, p. 108.] In the new House, Sir John Macdonald could boast of a majority of about forty. His candidate for the Speakership, Mr. James Cockburn, was elected unanimously on the 7th of March, 1873, and Parliament duly opened with éclat by the new Governor-General. During the previous autumn charges of extensive bribery and corruption were freely made on both sides; but for the present, everything appeared placid on the Parliamentary horizon. Nevertheless, a portentous storm was brewing which, in the end, overwhelmed the Government.

In June, 1872, an Act had been passed, which provided for the construction of the Pacific Railway by a Company, "having a subscribed capital of at least ten millions of dollars." The Speech from the Throne delivered by Lord Dufferin announced that such a Company had been formed, under authority given to the Government by statute. The Canada Pacific, under the Presidency of Sir Hugh Allan, had been preferred to the Inter-Oceanic, organized by the Hon. D. L. Macpherson. Attempts were made to amalgamate the two schemes, but the rival Presidents stood in the way, and no arrangement was arrived at. Under these circumstances the Ministers resolved to form an independent company, with Sir Hugh Allan at its head. According to the new President’s original design, capital was to be subscribed from the United States; but to this Sir John Macdonald would by no means agree, if for no other reason, at all events, because it would be directly in the teeth of the statute. Sir Hugh Allan having at length announced that he had cut adrift from his American associates, the charter was awarded to him, and there seemed no obstacle in the way of an early prosecution of the work. Parliament at once ratified the agreement, and apparently all cause for anxiety was over.

On the 2nd of April, Mr. Huntington, M.P., accused the Government of having been parties to a compact whereby certain Americans—whose agent Mr. G.W. McMullen appears to have been a man of straw—agreed with Sir Hugh Allan to advance money to construct the Pacific Railway, the company to be ostensibly a Canadian one, as provided for by Act of Parliament; and further that the Government had consented to give the charter to Sir Hugh Allan’s Company on condition that the latter should aid them by liberal contributions to the election fund necessary for 1872. The hon. gentleman concluded by a motion setting out the alleged facts, and ordering a committee of investigation. This resolution was treated by the Premier as one of non-confidence; and, when put to the vote, it was defeated by a majority of thirty-one. On the 8th, however, Sir John Macdonald himself moved for a Committee, which was duly appointed by the House. Two members belonged to the Opposition, three were supporters of the Government. New difficulties at once arose. It was scarcely likely that so important an enquiry could be conducted during the brief space as the remainder of a Session; and, secondly, the Committee had, no power to take evidence under oath. Mr. Mackenzie pointed out the necessity for some device to overcome these obstacles. The Premier readily consented, although he doubted whether Parliament had the power to exact sworn testimony. He promised, however, in the event of failure to secure the necessary authority, that a Commission should issue with full powers.

The Oaths Bill was passed, but promptly vetoed by the Imperial Government. The Committee had sat in the meantime, but was unable to carry on its inquiry, in the absence of Sir George Cartier and Mr. Abbott. A resolution was adopted at once in the Commons to provide for an adjournment until the 2nd of July, if the House should then be in session. In order, therefore, to give the Committee an opportunity of prosecuting its labours, the House adjourned, instead of being prorogued, until the 13th of August. It was on the 27th of June that an announcement arrived of the disallowance of the Oaths Bill. The Government promptly resolved to appoint the members of the Committee as a Royal Commission; but as Messrs. Blake and Dorion objected, the Committee was virtually dissolved. It had, indeed, met; but as the majority refused to receive unsworn testimony, its work was at an end, and an adjournment resolved upon until the 13th of August. A day or two afterwards the documents in the hands of Mr. Huntington were made public. It would be travelling too far afield to reproduce even a digest of this correspondence, and its general purport only need be stated.

Sir Hugh Allan had been for some time in correspondence with the redoubtable McMullen of Chicago, clearly with a view to securing the aid of American capitalists. He discovered, however, that the Government would not charter any but a Canadian company, yet hoped to get over the difficulty "in some way or other." He spoke of amounts of money he had disbursed already, and of further expediture in prospect. It is not necessary to inquire too curiously how this correspondence was obtained. Perhaps the 1ess said upon that subject the better, since amateur detective service is seldom conducted with much scrupulousness. Sir Hugh Allan, at any rate, admitted that he had disbursed, or would soon disburse, as much as $300,000 for some purpose or other only indistinctly hinted at. To what use this money had been put was the crucial question.

The gallant knight’s own version of the matter appeared in the form of an affidavit sworn to before the Mayor of Montreal. [This document will be found in Stewart, pp. 164-176; and an important review of the whole matter in Lord Dufferin’s dispatch (No. 197) published entire in Leggo, pp. 140-173.] The gist of this important paper may be readily given in a few words. Sir Hugh stated that he had for some time been associated with American promoters, but soon ascertained that the Government would not sanction their association with Canadians in the project. He admitted that he had aided the friends of his scheme during the elections, simply from a natural desire to secure their election. He thought that he had a perfect right to do that and denied that he paid or lent any money on condition that he and his Company should receive the charter.

Even after the lapse of nine years it is hardly possible to disentangle the knot which both parties managed to tie between them. On one side, the then Government have been stigmatized as "contract-sellers" and "charter-mongers "—an implied charge which the entire facts and correspondence certainly do not appear to warrant. There seems no reason to doubt the word of Sir Hugh Allan, when he states that he merely aided his parliamentary supporters, not to secure the control of the enterprise, but to prevent its being jeopardized after he had finally gained the assent of the Government. When the history of 1873 comes to be written in a calm and dispassionate spirit, we are inclined to think that the "Pacific Scandal" will shrink to insignificant proportions. At the same time a valuable lesson was painfully impressed upon our public men—a warning which will probably serve for all time to come.

Long before, indeed ever since the dawn of the railway era, stories of corruption had been told from time to time. In 1873, they culminated in the fall of a powerful administration. It is unnecessary, indeed to our view, it would be most unjust, to predicate conscious guilt on the part of Ministers. They accepted aid in return for an act of policy they had performed from strictly patriotic motives; yet it was not unnatural that the motive for granting the railway charter should be confused in the popular mind with the profit which accrued from it to the party in power. The public sense of morality was wounded by the apparent juxtaposition of two facts which were not logically connected. The storm that ensued was, no doubt, a salutary outbreak, and the political wreck which strewed the shore may serve as a warning to all future ministeria1 pilots who steer too closely to the shoals.

In the incidents of this painful investigation there is little upon which either party can congratulate itself. The informer was admittedly a blackmailer; the letters used were stolen; and the advantage secured from the publication was certainly a triumph obtained at the expense of honour. On the other hand, Ministers lay under the imputation, more or less justified, of using a great public work for party ends, and the money they obtained was unquestionably used in some localities for something more than legitimate election expenses. It is perhaps well that the episode occurred; still its aspects for the time were far from gratifying, and it certainly delayed for years the completion of a noble Canadian enterprise.

The sequel of the business need not delay us long. The Oaths Bill, as already stated, had been disa11owed, and therefore, when Parliament met, pursuant to the motion of adjournment, there was no report forthcoming. On the following day a Royal Commission was appointed, which proceeded to take evidence during the recess. When the Commons met, Mr. Mackenzie had anticipated the issue of the Royal Commission by a motion which affirmed that Parliament alone could investigate charges of corruption against Ministers, and that the appointment of any other tribunal by the Executive would be a breach of privilege. The Governor-General after receiving courteously a protest from the Opposition, prorogued the Houses until October. That he acted constitutionally, there can be no reasonable doubt. The charges had not been proven against his Ministers, and they retained the confidence of the majority in a new Parliament. Consequently it was his duty to act upon their advice. To have done otherwise would have been to assume their guilt before even the initial steps had been taken towards proving it. Responsible government would be a farce, if the Governor-General were to consult the opinions of a minority.

Parliament once more assembled on the 23rd of October. The Commission meanwhile had met and was prepared with its report. Mr. Huntington had refused to attend because he regarded the appointment of that tribunal a violation of the privileges of Parliament. When the Address had been moved and seconded, Mr. Mackenzie, the Opposition leader, presented an amendment affirming that "His Excellency’s advisers have deserved the severest censure of the House" by their course in reference to the investigation of the charges preferred by Mr. Huntington. The debate lasted for six days during which some forty members spoke. It soon became evident that the ministerial phalanx was about to breakup. Some members of it had already thrown down their arms, and others were palpably weakening. Under these circumstances Sir John Macdonald bowed before the storm, and, on the 5th of November, announced his own resignation and that of his colleagues.

The Reform party was now in power both in the Dominion and in the chief Province of Ontario. The month of December 1871 had been marked by the defeat of Mr. Sandfield Macdonald’s Government at Toronto on the question of railway subsidies, and Mr. Blake reigned in his stead. Both he and Mr. Mackenzie were compelled to elect between the two legislatures in 1872, and they naturally withdrew to the larger arena. The blow inflicted by Mr. Costigain’s Act appeared at first a fatal one to Reform interests in Ontario, but the resignation by Vice-Chancellor Mowat of his office, and the assumption of party leadership was the opening of a long term of power for the Liberals, extending over about ten years. On November the 7th, Mr. Mackenzie had succeeded in forming an Administration. It is not necessary to discuss its personnel, since all the Scots who were Ministers have already been noted in other pages.

There can be no doubt that the new Premier had a difficult task before him. The protracted investigation of the year had left public business in a backward state. The problem of Pacific Railway construction had yet to be faced in some manner, since the faith of the Dominion was p1edged in the matter. Yet in spite of their anxiety to go to work, the awkward fact stared Ministers in the face that the existing House of Commons could hardly be considered as properly constituted. If the fact generally admitted were true that large sums of money had been spent to secure the majority, nothing could purify Parliament but a dissolution. The Premier, therefore, advised His Excellency to that effect and the general elections took place generally on the twenty-second of January, 1874. The result was a large majority for the new Government; and nothing remained but to settle down to the work before it. There was, however, another obstacle in the way of satisfactory legislation. A Liberal House of Commons had been secured; but the majority in the Senate remained Conservative although the few vacancies which occurred were filled by Reformers like the Hon. George Brown and the Hon. R. W. Scott. Immediately after his appointment to office Mr. Mackenzie endeavoured to "redress the balance" by an appeal to the Crown for power to name six additional senators under a provision made in the British North America Act, Sec. 26. It was natural, under the circumstances, to suppose that the Colonial Secretary, at that time a Liberal, would at once give his consent. But Lord Kimberley peremptorily declined on the ground that the Crown "could not be advised to take the responsibility of interfering with the constitution of the Senate, except upon an occasion where it had been made apparent that a difference had arisen between the two Houses of so serious and permanent a character that the Government could not be carried on."

It is, perhaps, doubtful whether the addition of half a dozen Liberals would have adjusted satisfactorily the grievance, since the casualties, which occured during their four years’ tenure of office, left the party nevertheless a minority in the Upper House. That Mr. Mackenzie was hampered in his legislative efforts by the adverse attitude of the Senate was made manifest on more occasions than one. The parliamentary Session which opened late in March served to prove the strength of the Ministerial majority; but, as might have been expected, nothing of great importance was effected. One of the Government’s earliest acts naturally was to strengthen the precautions against electoral corruption; and, in addition to that, an attempt was made to secure a reciprocity treaty with the United States, which, although conducted with characteristic ability by the Hon. Mr. Brown, signally failed. Another measure of importance was the establishment of Supreme Court for the Dominion, a tribunal duly constituted in the following year.

With regard to the Pacific Railway, there appears to have been a division in the Cabinet. Mr. Blake had always been opposed to the construction of the work; but he retired from the Government within three months. Mr. Mackenzie impressed with the magnitude of this undertaking, proposed that instead of handing it over to a company, the work should be let out by contract in sections. He further advised that meanwhile advantage should be taken of the water communication between the great lakes and the heart of the continent. Accordingly the first move was made at the mouth of the Kaministiquia river, which debouches into Thunder Bay at the extreme west of Lake Superior—to be followed by other water connections stretching towards Red River.

Simultaneously the Finance Minister was compelled to announce an approaching deficit, and the necessity of increasing the fiscal duties. Meanwhile the troops and militia under Sir Garnet Wolseley had found little difficulty in purifying the North-West of the rebel element. His march resembled rather a dress parade under difficulties of a physical kind, rather than active warfare. The affairs of the North-West, however, although they were naturally a prominent feature of the period now under consideration will be more conveniently reviewed in a subsequent chapter.

From time to time disputes have arisen touching Dominion and Provincial jurisdiction respectively. One of these presented itself in connection with the New Brunswick School Law. In the British North America Act special provisions had been made for the protection of the Catholic minority in Canada West, and of the Protestant minority in Canada East; but no such statutory safeguard was given in the other Provinces. The majority in New Brunswick had made the school tax compulsory, and refused all aid to denominational schools. An effort was made to induce the Dominion Government to disallow the Act, but without success. The decision arrived at was confirmed on appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the School Law went into operation. The new Government proposed in 1875 an address to the Crown praying that Her Majesty would use her influence with the New Brunswick Legislature on behalf of the minority. This step was exceedingly doubtful on constitutional grounds, but probably commended itself to Ministers for party reasons. At all events it proved a futile measure as might have been anticipated. The people of New Brunswick were angry at an interference which was admittedly unjustified by law or general policy, and, therefore maintained their old attitude. There were obviously only two alternatives: either to veto the Act in due course, or, having allowed it, to refrain from any further action upon the subject.

The exercise of the prerogative in such cases is always a matter of delicacy. It is clearly unadvisable to resort to its use, saving under exceptional circumstances, where the subject matter of the measure falls within Provincial jurisdiction. Still, as Mr. Todd has pointed out, the power reserved to the Governor-General in Council has been used in more than one case, not on account of defective jurisdiction, but simply from general considerations of public policy. The Prince Edward Island Land Acts, and more recently the Streams and Rivers Bill of Ontario, are cases in point. Into this constitutional question, something may be said hereafter; it is enough to state that as a general rule the Federal Government will not interfere with Provincial autonomy except for substantial cause. The right of disallowance is unquestionable; yet its employment must necessarily be cautious and infrequent.

The negotiations conducted with British Columbia by Mr. Edgar have already been referred to, and need not occupy farther attention. The scheme ultimately agreed to was marred for the time, by the rejection of the Esquimalt and Nancimo Railway Bill in the Senate. The "better terms" both there and in Manitoba were assented to as usual, and that is all that need be said about the matter. In 1876 the Hon. David Laird was appointed to the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-West Territories, and the Hon. Mr. Cauchon to that of Manitoba in the following year in place of the Hon. Alex. Morris, whose term of office had expired. During 1877, the Fishery Commission finished its labours, and Sir Alexander Galt had the satisfaction of deciding in his country’s favour so far as regarded compensation.

During the same year the movement in favour of protective duties assumed form, and began to attract public favour. There would be little utility in entering here upon the economical question involved; still it may be well to state concisely the issue about to be presented to the electors. The United States, before the abrogation of the reciprocity treaty, partly from necessity, partly from choice, levied exorbitant fiscal duties upon goods imported from abroad. The stimulus given by protection, however, had unquestionably injured Canadian manufactures. The people of the Dominion were dependent upon the Americans for all but the rudest fabrics. A country whose resources were practically unlimited was enabled by the nursing process to outbid native Canadian producers in their own market. Nor did our neighbours depend solely upon import duties. By a skilfully arranged system of drawbacks and bonuses they could throw their goods upon the market here, and, according to the current phrase, "slaughter" it. The result, of course, was the destruction of many industries, which were certainly as well suited to our soil as to that of our neighbours. Capital was attracted abroad, our citizens were driven into exile, and immigrant workmen were absorbed by the United States. Add to these unpleasant signs of the times a serious and wide-spread commercial depression, and there is small reason for surprise at the political reaction soon to take place.

The Government, by wisely retrenching all controllable expenditure, had done its utmost to relieve public burdens; yet it was quite evident that, in view of those undertakings to which the Dominion was pledged, there was a limit to this economical policy. The Minister of Finance had increased the tariff rate without marked success. Year after year, deficit followed deficit, and although the debt was growing heavy, Canada’s credit seemed to be seriously imperilled. It did not much matter which party was in power, a way of escape from pressure must be found. The salient point of difference between the two sides was simply theoretical. The Government, taking its stand on orthodox economical principles, would listen to no modification of the fiscal system which even glanced in the direction of a protective policy. Free trade, subject to the necessities of the revenue, was uncompromisingly the Liberal shibboleth. From the exigencies of the time, it might happen that native industries would be fostered; but any purpose to foster them was distinctly repudiated. Protection was a heresy, except in so far as it was an incident, the contingent result of a high tariff imposed for other reasons. The Liberals contended, and with considerable reason, that it was a mistake to attempt any control of the markets. To buy in the cheapist and sell in the dearest was a cherished maxim; and if our neighbours refused to give Canadians access to their market, it was simply following a mistaken example to refuse them ours. We are not arguing this economical issue, but merely stating it.

The period of depression to which allusion has been made unquestionably predisposed the people, irrespective of party, to favour a protective policy. Manufacturing enterprises and even agriculture—the staple industry of the western part of Canada—were under a cloud; and when, therefore, the Opposition came forward with the National Policy, it was almost certain that the electors would grasp at the gleam of hope it afforded them. This is not the place to discuss whether they were right or wrong; or even whether their expectations have been justified by the event. Such matters have been discussed with ample fulness by others in speech and by pen. Our humbler duty seems to be a record of facts, with such a representation of diverse opinions as may enable the reader to appreciate opponents, from their own standpoints.

When the Houses met in February, 1878, evidences of the coming struggle were apparent. It was not for the first time that the Opposition leader had brought fiscal matters to the fore. In the previous Session, Sir John Macdonald proposed a motion expressing regret that the Government, while increasing taxation, had done so without compensating advantages to Canadian industries. That resolution urged a modification of the tariff with this view. Now, in the last Session of the House, he submitted an amendment to the Address, advocating "a national policy" to benefit and foster all the interests, agricultural, mining, and manufacturing. The House, of course, rejected the motion by the decisive vote of one hundred and fourteen to seventy-seven. There was some wavering in the ranks of the majority, however, and signs of the coming storm were not wanting in the parliamentary atmosphere.

Still the Government firmly maintained its attitude, and appeared to feel confident that the approaching electoral struggle would end in a signal triumph. During the natural unrest on the eve of battle, legislation proceeded slowly. Indeed, there seems nothing of note to record during this last session of the third Dominion Parliament, except a matter which strictly speaking was only of Provincial interest—the dismissal by Lieutenant-Governor Letellier of Quebec, of his administration. The question at issue involved a constitutional problem of no slight importance. The De Boucherville Cabinet at Quebec undoubtedly possessed the confidence of a legislative majority. Nevertheless the Lieutenant-Governor dismissed them, alleging cause for so doing. He claimed that they had treated him with disrespect by submitting to the House measures which involved expenditure and, therefore, required his personal sanction, without. having previously consulted him. Of his right to dismiss his advisers there can be no doubt. The monarch or viceroy is empowered by the principles of the constitution to select his Ministers at pleasure, subject, however, to the necessity of finding a Legislature which will repose confidence in them. [See Todd: Parliamentary Government in the Colonies, pp. 406-25.] Mr. Letellier was relieved of responsibility by Mr. Joly, who formed a new Cabinet, and at once appealed to the people.

The case is only of importance from its issue. Sir John Macdonald contended, with some force, that the Lieutenant-Governor’s act constituted a violent exercise of the prerogative, and that he ought to be dismissed. As Mr. Todd remarks, the matter was treated on both sides as a party question. Consequently in 1878, the Liberal majority of thirty-four rejected the Opposition leader’s motion. In the following year the relative positions of the parties were materially changed, and a resolution censuring Mr. Letellier passed the new House by a majority of eighty-five. His Excellency the Governor-General demurred to the step proposed by his advisers, and urged that it would be wrong to dismiss the Lieutenant-Governor "for acts for which Mr. Joly had declared himself to be responsible to the Provincial Legislature." In short, the Marquis of Lorne objected to the dismissal as "a dangerous precedent." The matter was then referred to England for decision. Mr. Jo1y desired an appeal to the Judicial Committee, but this course the Imperial Government declined to recommend.

The controversy was finally settled by a despatch from the Colonial Office in which Sir M. Hicks-Beach laid down several constitutional maxims. As a general rule, the internal affairs of the Dominion were to be left to the Government and Parliament of Canada. A Lieutenant-Governor had an undoubted right to dismiss his advisers, while maintaining impartiality towards rival political parties. For any action he may take he is directly responsible to the Governor-General; while the latter, as in all cases, must exercise his powers by and with the advice and consent of Ministers. At the same time it was suggested that His Excellency might fairly ask his advisers to reconsider their decision, seeing that the removal of a Lieutenant-Governor, before the expiration of his term of office, was a serious step not to be lightly taken. Sir John Macdonald, a week after, decided to insist upon the removal, and his recommendation was carried into effect. There can be no question that constitutional heresies were broached on both sides. Each party appears to have preferred success for itself to sound doctrine; and consequently the matter in dispute was decided rather from prejudice or bias than by dispassionate reason. Mr. Letellier’s coup d’etat, as it has been called, was clearly prompted by party motives, and his removal proceeded from a similar source. It is much to be regretted that as contested elections are no longer adjudicated upon by Parliamentary majorities, there is not also some tribunal for sitting in judgment upon Lieutenant Governors. Since Mr. Letellier was unquestionably an officer of the Dominion Government, he was liable to be dismissed by it; yet the act would have been more palatable if it had not been so clearly traceable to party feeling. From the dismissal of M. de Boucherville to the removal of the Lieutenant-Governor on account of it, every act on both sides was tainted with partizanship.

Before the termination of this controversy, the general election had taken place on the 17th of September, 1878. There is probably some reason for a belief that the result was a surprise to the Opposition as well as to the Government. The causes already referred to had evidently produced much discontent in the ranks of those who usually supported Mr. Mackenzie. As generally happens—for public movements are seldom altogether the offspring of reason—Ministers were unfairly blamed for much which could not be laid to their account. The weight of commercial depression was seriously felt; and like Enceladus under Etna, the electorate longed to secure ease by turning over upon the other side. Many circumstances served to aid the reaction; and when the lists were in, the Opposition found itself triumphant by a substantial majority of more than eighty. The Province of Ontario, which had hitherto been a Liberal stronghold, contributed more than one-half of this majority. Mr. Mackenzie, in accordance with recent usage in England, did not await the formal meeting of the House of Commons, but handed in his resignation on the 5th of October.

Sir John Macdonald had lost his alter ego, Sir George Cartier, only a few months before he resigned in 1873, and felt his bereavement severely. He at once formed an Administration, however, and assumed his old seat on the Government benches. The Ministers he associated with himself so far as the purposes of his work are concerned, have been noticed in other pages. When the new House assembled early in 1879, there were two matters of supreme importance to engage the attention of legislators. The electorate had given a decisive verdict in favour of the National policy, and it was now a necessary part of the Finance Minister’s duty to formulate that policy and carry it into practical effect in a new tariff. Sir Leonard Tilley did not shrink from the task. He at once laid before the Commons a fresh scale of duties specially framed, not merely to yield increased revenue, but also to protect native industries. The present Government succeeded to office at a fortunate juncture. The turning point between depression and prosperity was reached shortly after they had been comfortably seated; and whether the tariff proposed was to be the cause of an impetus to Canadian progress or not, it was sure, under altered circumstances, to be a concomitant of it.

From the moment when the Finance Minister opened his first Budget until now, both parties have been perpetually disputing as to the amount of credit to be given to the National Policy. Naturally there has been great exaggeration on either hand. The Opposition insists that the tariff has not only been unproductive of good, but wrought positive harm to the Dominion. It is contended that, with the return of prosperity, matters would have righted themselves, without the imposition of new taxes. On the other hand, evidence; more or less admissible, is adduced to show that not only have old industries been revived, but new ones created, because of the new fiscal policy. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to strike a fair balance between statements so hopelessly conflicting in the absence of trustworthy data. That the tide of Canadian prosperity has risen amazingly during the past three years seems beyond dispute; what is the main cause of this, however, can hardly be settled with confidence. The truth, supposing it ascertainable, possibly will be found to lie in medio. It is natural that the party in power should assign an exaggerated importance to the tariff; equally natural that the Opposition should seek some other explanation of obvious facts.

That the National Policy was adopted at a moment eminently favourable to its success is generally admitted. Still, after making all necessary deductions and, placing them to the score of good fortune, it certainly seems that much of the credit must be conceded to it. Whether persistence in it will prove advantageous to the community is another question upon which it would be unwise to enter. Certainly as a temporary measure adopted to secure a firm and solid foundation for active industry, it appears to have been a success. Indeed, were it otherwise, as Mr. Mackenzie has frankly avowed, it would be neither just nor prudent to reverse it abruptly. It is too early even yet to pass a decisive verdict upon the tariff of 1879, and all that can be expected from the present or any future Government is a wise relief from the more galling burdens of taxation when the growing necessities of expenditure, and the more robust vigour of Canadian manufactures will permit. For the present, it is evident that, apart from economic predilections, a larger revenue must be collected, or a serious increase made to the public debt; and now that the Dominion can afford the sacrifice, it is better to make it, rather than suffer when the national back is infirm, and its recuperative power less certain.


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