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Biography of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
Chapter XVI. Out of Politics


Ten years before this he had been the recipient of the honor of knighthood, which was a recognition of the service he had rendered to the country in connection with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, so he became known as Sir Donald A. Smith. From this time on his life assumed a different phase. It was not less strenuous and urgent, but it was removed from the sphere of political turmoil and controversy.

His long experience in Canadian affairs and his intimate knowledge of the events which had transpired since Confederation and his acquaintance with the men, of all parties, who had taken part in the affairs of state, had made him a sort of counsellor for all. His freedom from hard and fast obligations to any particular political party or creed, strengthened his position. his interest was centred on Canada and anything that would advance the interests of the Dominion was sure of his sympathy and assistance. He had large conceptions as to the future. He believed that what had been accomplished was only a prelude to far greater things. He never wearied of expatiating on the possibilities of development. He loved to think of this land as filled with a happy, prosperous population, which would soon equal in number that of the Old Country. He was a prophet with a prophet's vision and unlike most prophets, his great age and the rapid progress of the times permitted him to see, in part at least, the realization of his splendid dreams. It was this faith in the future of the country, based on his first-hand knowledge of its resources, that inspired in him that bold and almost reckless spirit. Where men of less faith and less knowledge faltered, he pressed fearlessly on.

In 1889 there came to him what was probably the object of his most cherished ambition. He became the head of the Hudson Bay Company. Since 1874 he had had nothing to do with the management of the Company in the North-West, but being one of the largest shareholders, he attended the meetings at London and helped to shape its policy. He could not be expected to lose interest in a concern to which he had devoted the best years of his life. In 1837 he had left Scotland a poor lad, to serve the Company in the lowest position. For thirty years he had been practically buried in the desolate land of Labrador. For many other years he had directed its fortunes as one of its chief officers and had been its advocate on the floor of Parliament—and now he had reached the highest place. The Scotch lad had climbed from the lowest rung to the top of the ladder. That one fact alone makes his story an inspiration and incentive to young men who have their way to make in the world. Surely no youth ever had a more unpromising outlook or was confronted by so many obstacles. His rise to eminence is an object lesson in the value of certain qualities and also illustrates in a striking way the opportunities for advancement which a young country like Canada affords.


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