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Biography of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
Chapter XV. Personal Opponents


Dr. John Schultz, who, in the early days, had been a leader of the disaffected party in the North-West, and was afterwards elected to the Dominion Parliament as a member for Lisgar, was one of Smith's most pertinacious and exasperating opponents. For some reason he nourished a profound hatred of the Hudson Bay Company, and all its works. Over and over again he introduced into the House matters affecting that company, and was always eager to assail it with the greatest ferocity. This man and Smith many times came into conflict, and crowded galleries witnessed with delight their many duels. Schultz headed the opposition to the Hudson Bay Company and resisted every effort to meet their claims. Those were storms sessions and often we find the subject of our story attacked by Sir Wm. McDougal, whose attempt to enter on his duties as Lieutenant of the North-West had proved so farcical; by Sir John Macdonald, who for a long time had a personal dislike to the man who had spoken and voted against him in the "Pacific Scandal" debate, and always by Dr. Schultz, the tireless enemy of the Hudson Bay Company, not to speak of others, who were not so conspicuous, but were equally hateful. In all these fierce debates he acquitted himself with credit, so that the men of public affairs—the trained warriors of the political battlefield—came to regard with wholesome respect this graduate from the wilds of Labrador, who showed himself so capable in defence and so fertile of resource.

There were several occasions when he took a particularly prominent part in the Parliamentary warfare. One of these occasions was connected with the insurrection of 1870 and, strange as it may appear, the attempt was made to show that he was in sympathy with that movement; that, though Commissioner of the Dominion Government, he had betrayed his trust so far as to conspire with the rebels. His conferences with Riel and his meetings with the disaffected people were distorted into a charge of conniving with them and fanning the flame he was deputed to extinguish. The newspapers retailed these monstrous charges, scurrilous and libellous articles appeared in the press, inuendoes and charges were flung at him across the house. In these sorry proceedings Shultz took a leading part. He went so far as to declare that he had been guilty of incompetence and cowardice in his management of affairs at the time of the disturbance. Mr. Smith expressed his resentment in a memorable speech, which was not only a recital of the facts as they had occurred, but was a powerful attack upon his opponent, which left him without any standing ground whatever. One passage is noteworthy as revealing his fighting quality when he was aroused. "When I went to the North-West as Commissioner from Canada," he said, "I did not go there for payment. To the credit of the late Government, let it he said that they would have paid me liberally, but I said I would not accept, and I did not accept, a single dollar of the public money for my own use. But the insurrection which left me poorer has been a God-send to the honorable member for Lisgar. At the time the tumult arose he had nothing, while to-day he is a comparatively rich man—at the expense of his country. I do not question the propriety of the decision, given by the Commission on Indemnities, in respect of the claim of that honorable member, but if there is one thing more than another that has given dissatisfaction throughout the North-West, it is the large amount awarded to him, while other persons, who had suffered severely, had received a pittance. I do not think it is necessary to say anything further, and if it were not unparliamentary, I would now throw back on the honorable member for Lisgar the imputation of cowardice which he has cast upon me."

Another occasion was connected with the heated debates which preceded the fall of Sir John A. Macdonald, in connection with the charter of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is doubtful if the debating power of the house ever reached a higher level. It may be readily admitted that judged by the canons of oratory, there were many speeches which far excelled that of Donald Smith, but for sheer impressiveness and because of the tumult which followed its delivery, it was unrivalled. It must be remembered that he was regarded as a supporter of the Government, and its members were, therefore, very anxious to secure his allegiance and strong personal influence when the crisis came. He was approached by members of the Government and had a long conference with them on the situation, but refused to acquiesce. Sir John himself called him to a private consultation and by every possible argument tried in vain to win him to his side. The debate on Mackenzie's motion was drawing to a close. The division was at hand. The feeling was intense. The fate of the Government hung in the balance. Sir John nerved himself for a final effort, and in a speech of great power made his appeal to Parliament. At one o'clock on the morning of Nov. 5th, 1873, Mr. Smith rose to speak. It was a memorable occasion. his closing words, "For the honor of the country, no Government should exist which has a shadow of suspicion resting upon it, and for that reason I cannot give it my support," produced a tremendous effect. The house resounded with cries and counter-cries and finally broke up in disorder. Sir John, the Premier, was beside himself with rage, and was only prevented by the intervention of his friends from physically assaulting the man who had turned against him. It was long before the memory of that scene was banished from the mind of the defeated statesman. For many years there rankled in his heart a bitter personal feeling, and not only he, but the whole Conservative party, regarded him with a feeling of animosity and gave vent to that feeling in the grossest language of personal abuse.

Now, after time has moderated those violent passions, all men will agree that he is to be held in honor for the stand he took and the course he pursued is to be taken as evidence of the strength of his character, the sincerity of his purpose and the high ideals which controlled his public life. But for years he was the object of abuse and vilification, as one who had turned traitor to his party. However, he calmly went his way. He was returned to Parliament as a supporter of Alexander Mackenzie, and it shows the character of the man that at the end of five years he was to be found fighting against and helping to defeat the man he had helped to bring to power and was supporting Macdonald for the same reason that he had supported Mackenzie, namely, that it was in the best interests of the country. Rightly or wrongly, he believed that, and his belief determined his action. In 1873 the issue was a moral one—in 1878 it was a fiscal and transportation issue, but in both cases it was a question of what was best for the country. In this election, in one of his speeches, he gave expression to a sentiment which reveals his viewpoint and also the judicial temper of his mind: ''I am disposed to judge of measures more than men. At the same time, if a Government may have made some blunders, I am not disposed to oppose them because of this. We know that success depends not upon absolute perfection, but that with individuals as with Governments, to make the fewest mistakes is the criterion of success." It was that fair and moderate and reasonable attitude which established him in the confidence of the people and which gave special weight to his counsels. Long experience in difficult and dangerous situations had developed the serious mind which looked far beyond the present and took into account the consequences that would follow. When the whole country in 1895 and 1896 was throbbing with a fever of excitement over the Manitoba Coercion Bill, no man did more than he to restrain the dangerous passions of the time.

It will he remembered that in 1870, when Mr. Smith was conferring with the people of the North-West, the Dominion Government had guaranteed to the French-speaking inhabitants of the Province the same rights as to religion, language and education as were enjoyed in Quebec. This arrangement seemed reasonable enough at the time. There were only some 11,000 or 12,000 people in the whole of Manitoba and only about 6,000 of these were French-speaking Catholics. It was not possible to anticipate the great changes which were to take place in a comparatively few years. In twenty-five years there was an entirely different situation: The English-speaking population far outnumbered the French and it was felt that the rights of self-government were being interfered with by a strict adherence to that original agreement. The French and half-breeds insisted on their rights and clamored for their separate schools and separate language. In this attitude they were, as might be expected, supported by the French people of Quebec. The Provincial Government and the Dominion Government became antagonistic, the Province claiming the right to control its own educational policy and the Dominion the right to enforce the original agreement. It looked at one time as if there might be actual physical conflict. The great Conservative leaders, Sir John Macdonald and Sir .John Thompson, were dead. Sir Mackenzie Bowell, the Dominion Premier at the time, was not specially fitted to meet the demands of such a situation. The Manitoba School problem threatened the peace of the whole Dominion and the worst passions, religious and racial, were aroused. From his place in Parliament Donald Smith, now Sir Donald, delivered an address which was a plea for moderation and also a solemn warning. Speaking in a low tone, but with great earnestness and seriousness, he implored the Parliament to refrain from actions that might plunge the whole North-West into the maelstrom of a religious and racial war and retard for many years the development which in that vast country had so auspiciously begun. His speech produced a profound impression, not only in the house, but throughout the whole country. After years of criticism and a strenuous public life, he had come at last into his own and was acknowledged on all sides to be one of the great representative men of of the country.


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