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Biography of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
Chapter XXV. An Honored Burial


If Lord Strathcona was not buried in St. Paul's it was because of the wish of his relatives that he should be laid to rest at Highgate. But he was accorded a public funeral in Westminster Abbey and the famous building which for a thousand years had been the hallowed shrine of the mighty men who had made England great was crowded by thousands who had come to do honor to the illustrious dead, while multitudes gathered outside and lined the way from his house in Grosvenor Square.

The gathering represented all the noblest life of the Empire. The King and Queen and the Governor-General of Canada were represented, also other members of the Royal family and the Prime Minister of England. There were present in person the ambassadors of foreign powers, the high commissioners and agents-general from the other portions of the Empire, famous men from the universities, leaders in finance, commerce and philanthropy. The pallbearers were Lord Aberdeen, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Lichfield, Principal George Adam Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Aberdeen University W. I. Griffith, the Duke of Argyll, the Lord Mayor of London, Lewis Harcourt, Colonial Secretary. Sir William Osler and Sir Thomas Skinner. Hardy has anyone been laid to rest amid such an impressive company and with such imposing circumstance. The service was simple yet dignified and stately. The vast congregation joined in singing the hymn which the dead man had repeated a few hours before his passing, "O God of Bethel, by Whose hand." Upon the coffin were wreaths from the Dominion Government, from Alice and Alexander of Teck and one from Queen Alexandra bearing the beautiful inscription ''In sorrowful memory of the Empire's kindest of men and greatest of benefactors."

After the service the body was removed to Highgate and was buried beside the remains of Lady Strathcona, who had died two months before. There in the quiet graveyard of North London this great nation builder sleeps after a long life of strenuous activity. As one thinks of that career, now that it is complete, one can realize more clearly how wonderful it has been. One must be dull indeed who does not feel his imagination kindle as he reflected upon the vicissitudes through which this single life was called to pass. It is difficult, as one turns from the splendor of that stately service in the great Abbey, and from the throng of famous men who gathered to do him honor, to conceive that the subject of this demonstration, seventy-six years before, had left the little town in Scotland, an unknown boy, and in a little ship had sailed away over the ocean to try his fortune in that new land across the sea. No contrast could be greater than that of the raw and diffident lad and the honored statesman who had just been laid to rest. And the result is all the greater when it is remembered that the youthful adventurer who was thus launched upon that life of uncertainty had no advantages apart from himself, he had no fortune, no social position, no knowledge of public life, no education as we understand that term. Moreover, the land to which he was going at that time gave no promise of its marvellous subsequent development. The political leaders of Great Britain had little conception of its value. It is a question if, sometimes, they did not underrate it and deem it more of a liability than an asset. Information about it was meagre and to the general mind it was the wildest and bleakest part of the American continent, the choicest portion of that continent being under the government of the Stars and Stripes. For many years the emigration from the old country turned its main stream to the United States. Canada then caused no thrill of pride or hope in British breasts. It was a great wild country and offered but few opportunities to tempt any but those possessed of the roving and adventurous spirit. Nothing could possibly seem more improbable and even fantastic than that such a youth going to such a place should in the course of time find himself the recipient of the highest imperial honors and be regarded as one worthy to take his place in one of ''the seats of the mighty." The story of Britain's great men contains the record of many remarkable careers, of men rising from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to high position, from small and in surroundings to the place of commanding power and influence. But it is doubtful if any of them can match that, of which this story tells, in its conflicts with difficulties, in its amazing achievements and in its splendid climax. Westminster Abbey has witnessed many imposing funeral services, has been the scene of the last rites of a glorious company of the sons of Britain who have served her well and distinguished themselves in all parts of the Empire, at home and abroad, who have wrought faithfully in building up the wonderful fabric of national greatness, mighty soldiers and sailors, statesmen and orators, poets and philanthropists. It is not claimed for Lord Strathcona that he was the equal of these in the brilliance, either of his gifts or of his attainments, but it is claimed that in devotion to his country, in fidelity to the national ideal, in ungrudging service, in generous philanthropy, in practical usefulness and in unflagging zeal and high enthusiasm for all that made for the advancement and glory of the Empire he was not unworthy of that illustrious company. In the days to come when Canada shall be appraised at her real value, and when her place among the young Dominions shall be fully recognized the work of Strathcona will be appreciated as being of the utmost importance during the critical and formative period of this young nation's life. His public career was passed in the strain and stress of conflict, in the years of anxiety and uncertainty, when great movements had to he carefully guided and no man did more than he, by wise counsel and sound judgment and courageous enterprise, to lay the solid foundations of future prosperity. More than once his native sagacity, his strong will, his clear vision, his powerful personality and his unfailing tact have served his country in a dangerous situation. The new country presented many difficult problems—political, racial, religious and geographical and his share in the solution of those problems was exceeded by none.

Well might the Empire show gratitude for such service rendered. Well might the Imperial Government recognize the greatness of the devoted and loyal subject. Well might the glorious old Abbey gather together in thousands representatives of all classes to pay tribute of respect to the faithful servant. Well might. the King himself do honor to the man, than whom there was no more sturdy supporter of his throne. He loved the British Empire and cherished the Imperial outlook. His interest was broad and extensive, reaching every quarter of the globe where the British flag was acknowledged. But it is safe to say that his main interest centred on the Dominion of Canada—that portion of the King's domain with which his long life had been so closely identified, and which he had done so much to develop. He had seen it grow from an insignificant and troublesome colony to become one of the most important of the Dominions beyond the seas and he had spent his life in fostering that growth. Among those that mourned his death and came to pay their tribute of respect, none could feel his loss so deeply and sincerely as the Canadians. He was their friend, the product of their country, one of its greatest representatives. "Being dead he yet speaketh." And the message he leaves to his countrymen is to carry on the work to which he gave his life and make Canada first in loyalty to the British connection, the home of an industrious and enterprising people, and a co-worker with the mother country in all that makes for the welfare of humanity.


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