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Biography of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
Chapter VIII. Member of Parliament and Chief Commissioner


The new Governor had his troubles. The flame of rebellion had been subdued, but the embers still remained and there was the possibility of further outbreak. There were two factions which had to be reconciled—the one clamoring for the arrest of the rebel leaders, and the other, the French element, who were anxious, now that the trouble was over, that an amnesty should be granted to all concerned. It was a case requiring great care and deliberation and the mediatorial spirit. Mr. Smith was of great assistance to the Governor in these trying days. It is no secret now that the Dominion Government desired that Riel should be induced to leave the country, as his presence was a menace to the peace of the settlement. A secret arrangement was made with Archbishop Tachè to get the rebel away. A sum of $1,000 was sent to pay expenses, and to this sum, on behalf of the Government, Mr. Smith added $3,000 more, and so for a while the country was freed from his disturbing presence.

Now came the time of the real awakening of the North-West, and no one contributed more to its development than Mr. Smith, who had definitely decided to cast in his lot with that country. Ile had faith in the new country, was familiar with its resources, was able to foresee its splendid future. The young Province was organized into electoral districts, and Mr. Smith was elected local member for the Town of Winnipeg on Dec. 30th, 1870. On March 2nd, 1871, he was elected to represent the division of Selkirk in the Dominion Parliament. The times were crude, the methods rough, but they were the beginnings of political order in that far-off wild land. Mr. Smith was to be henceforth a great political figure. In the short space of fifteen months he had established himself with a reputation for fairness and courage, had won the confidence of the inhabitants and enjoyed a popularity greater than fell to the lot of any man in that great country. No man from Red River westward was better known or more highly respected. lie started off on his political career, the greatness of which no one could imagine, with the good will and good wishes of all those varied classes with which he had had dealings. At this time his official position was three-fold—he was member of the North-West Council, member of the Provincial Legislature, and member of the Dominion Parliament.

On a previous page, we have described how Mr. Smith had been appointed by the discontented officials of the Hudson Bay Company to proceed to London and lay their claims before the company there. The time had now come when he was free to undertake that mission, and therefore the next place we see him is in London, facing the body of English shareholders and displaying there the same qualities which had proved so successful in other difficult situations. He was a born negotiator. It is not necessary to go into details. It is sufficient to say that in spite of the adverse feeling which he encountered, he succeeded in convincing these directors that the claim of their officers in the far west was a true and just claim, and further, that it would be to their own interests to deal generously with the men upon whose loyalty and industry the future welfare of the company depended. As a result of his negotiations, the sum of £107,000 was voted to the officers and a new arrangement was entered into for the future. But a further step was taken. In the new conditions of the North-West and in view of the expected rapid development there, it was felt that a "Chief Commissioner" must be appointed to assume control of the company's affairs in the North-West, and before he left London Mr. Smith was appointed to that office, being the unanimous choice of the directors as the one person fitted to discharge its duties.


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