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This work is in the Canadian public domain, but may be under copyright in some countries. If you live outside Canada, check your country's copyright laws. If the book is under copyright in your country, do not download or redistribute this file.Title: The Canadian Scene. Sketches : Political and Historical.
This ebook was produced by: Dr Mark Bear Akrigg
In the main the following sketches are reprints of articles which the author has written for different periodicals at various times within the past ten years. A majority of them first appeared in Toronto Saturday Night under the title "Reflections", which gives a clue to the moods in which they were written. It will be obvious to the reader that the author has drawn heavily on the ever-growing mass of Canadian biographical lore. In most instances the originals have been augmented and re-arranged. Two of the longer chapters were written for United States readers unfamiliar with the Canadian scene. The article on "Civil War Spy Operations" was originally contributed to the New York Evening Post, at a time when all America was excited over German spy operations in America; that on "The University of Toronto" was written for Henry Ford's weekly, The Dearborn Independent, which desired to acquaint its readers with certain unique factors in the organization of this Canadian seat of learning.
For the most part the purpose of the writer has been to acquaint Canadians born in this century, like those to whom the book is dedicated, with certain romantic phases of the development of their native land. Perhaps a few of their elders who recall some of the eminent men mentioned in these pages will meet with facts of which they have been unaware.H. C.
How far does a nation succeed in really knowing its public men? No Canadian leader lived on more intimate terms with his countrymen than Sir John A. Macdonald, whose image grows vaster with the passing years. Yet I fancy some of his surviving friends learned much they did not know of him when Correspondence of Sir John A. Macdonald, 1840-1891, edited by Sir Joseph Pope, was published in 1921. The volume necessarily presupposes a running acquaintance with Canadian history, and its great importance lies in its illumination of the characters of the leading men who helped to shape the destinies of Canada as a unified Dominion, and of the vexatious problems with which they had to deal. Not even Sir Joseph's Life leaves such an ineffaceable impression of the intellectual power, political wisdom, and steadfast patriotism of Sir John Macdonald, as do the many confidential communications that here are brought to light. The union in him of political genius, with patience and tolerance, are unmistakably revealed. Though other men had also the vision of a great and unified Dominion, one cannot but feel that only by his tact, vigilance, and fixed aims was Confederation first rendered possible and later extended and made permanent.
The number of those who knew Sir John and participated in his battles is daily diminishing. For millions of Canadians he is but a legendary figure: the theme of comic stories; the arch-embodiment of political cunning; and at times the subject of oratorical rhetoric. From the pages of this Correspondence the real man emerges; he looms larger than any oratory could picture him; more kindly and human than any anecdote could typify him. The several portraits give a sense of his unique personality; noble brow, sensitive mouth, eyes and features that are alert, humorous and wise.
Personally, I saw Sir John but once, and it was the glimpse of a moment. On a summer day less than a year before his death, as I stood on a street corner in Toronto, a covered coupé drove by; and there, framed as in a portrait gallery, was Sir John. It was a perfectly toned picture; for the sun falling through the opposite window lighted the figure and profile. He was smartly attired with grey top hat and grey frock coat, leaning forward with his chin resting on strong and sinewy hands that gripped a cane,—apparently in deep reverie. It was a picture Zorn or Sargent might have desired to paint; and my recollection of it is ineffaceable. And in that glimpse the great leader gave one a sense of detachment from his fellows, almost of isolation.
As I read these letters I find in them that same atmosphere of intellectual detachment. Despite his great personal popularity and countless acquaintances, the man who desired so many and such great things for his country, who found it so hard to get things done, who was so constantly beset by the quarrels and envies of others, reveals himself, as it were, in "splendid isolation".
While the letters of Sir John himself are many, those from other distinguished men to himself are more numerous still; though Sir Joseph Pope says they represent but one per cent of the material at his disposal. "Harry, my boy," once observed Sir John to Colonel H. R. Smith, the late Sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons, "Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one." If what I have heard from old politicians is true, the first named precept was the echo of bitter experience. Sir John did occasionally write letters that he could have wished unwritten, and friends were sometimes put to considerable difficulty in recovering them. Nevertheless he, for the most part, avoided unnecessary correspondence, and abstained from epistolary controversy. Many of the letters he received were apparently "answered" by the simple process of putting them in the filing cabinet. When he did write, his style was witty, sage, and clear.
One fact that cannot fail to impress the reader is the elaborate means Sir John employed to keep himself informed of what was going on above or below the surface, that might affect the fortunes of his country and of his administration. While he encouraged a spirit of partizan devotion in his followers, he was not himself a bitter partizan. His letters reveal a keen sense of the deficiencies of some of his own associates and an appreciation of the abilities of opponents. Yet there is a pervading kindliness in his communications, even when he had reason for annoyance, which bespeaks a fine spirit. The reason some of the "Grits" hated him so much was not because he defeated them so often, but because he laughed at them. That was hard to bear. But he had much to bear from them; for these pages show that no form of libel was deemed too base to be circulated against him for political reasons. He had only to give his assent to some plan, and, no matter how deeply in the interest of Canada, a horde of traducers was immediately busy trying to wreck it. The Globe, under the regime of George Brown, seems to have been a sore offender in this respect; and its articles circulated in the West did not a little to provoke the first Riel rebellion. But Sir John Macdonald as a rule had so much information up his sleeve that he was usually prepared to confute his enemies.
A very interesting phase of this correspondence is the evidence it presents of the elaborate use Sir John made of the press. There are many letters to editors, giving them friendly tips on matters of policy; and even cautions against extreme partizanship. He held that he could be best supported by fair statement, rather than one-sided argument. When, in the late sixties, he resolved to make Sir Francis Hincks, who had been abroad for years as governor of the Windward Islands, Finance Minister, he realized that he would be in hot water with the old Tories. Hincks during his earlier residence in Canada had been a strong Reformer, and consequently Sir John devised an educational campaign in the press to make the appointment acceptable to his own party. Again we find him cautioning a friendly journalist to withhold comment on a public question until George Brown in the Globe had committed himself in the way he hoped he would. On one occasion he drew up a skeleton editorial for the Mail and asked its editor, the late Martin J. Griffin, to develop it. It was a severe criticism of his own supporters because some of them were importuning him for judgeships and senatorships. In it he laid down the dictum that judges should not be appointed on the ground of political service, and that it was improper for a lawyer to urge his own appointment. He also held that appointments to the Senate were a matter of such grave consequence that mere party expediency should not prevail. Most of these precepts have since been honoured rather in the breach than the observance.
It is quite clear that Sir John liked working below the surface; but his diplomacy was far from malevolent. He sought to keep in touch with the best thinkers of the country, and, like his friend Sir Charles Tupper, enjoyed especially happy relations with certain of the Roman Catholic clergy. The correspondence shows that he actively used his influence through the Marquis of Salisbury and the Duke of Norfolk to secure the Cardinal's hat for Mgr. Taschereau, the first Canadian Prince of the Church. Among the bitterest of his letters are those of 1887 censuring C. W. Bunting, editor of the Mail, for alienating the Roman Catholic vote. His tolerance was not shared by Goldwin Smith, his close and intimate friend in the seventies. In one letter, "the Oxford Professor" says the name of priest is perfidy. Goldwin Smith's letters to Sir John are peculiarly interesting. He even then believed that the destiny of Canada lay in union with the United States; but in 1878 he strongly supported Protection with his pen and on the platform. He was particularly indignant because the Globe intimated that his advocacy was due to a desire to foment differences between Canada and free-trade Great Britain. Goldwin Smith at that time seems to have thought that the only way Canada could strengthen herself to meet the United States on equal terms was by Protection.
There were matters which Sir John deemed more important than the policy of protection. One was, to use his own words, "making Canadian confederation from gristle into bones". He worked early and late for his nursling, by diplomacy, by reconciling quarrels and jealousies, by the use of patronage, and by open argument. The other was the necessary complement of Confederation, the linking up of Canada by a chain of railways from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He must have been a happy man, when, on September 14, 1880, after ten years of negotiation, contracts were signed for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In reality his troubles were just beginning; but nevertheless the railroad was finished long before May 1, 1891, the date set for its completion. The initial acts of the great drama of the opening up of the Canadian West give an epical character to these letters. It was a sore struggle for Sir John; but he had strong helpers in his most intimate friends; in Sir John Rose, a great English banker, born in Canada, who had once been a member of his cabinet; in Sir Charles Tupper, a man less tactful than he but of equal vision; and later in George Stephen (Lord Mountstephen) and Donald A. Smith (Lord Strathcona). The drama began with the acquirement of the western territories from the Hudson's Bay Company. It was a deal consummated in London; and interrupted by the first Riel rebellion. Sir John's fear was that this defiance by Riel's "republic" would be treated as an Imperial matter and that "some overwashed Englishman" would be sent out to spoil everything. He was badly served by bungling subordinates; but finally, by force of will and continuous diplomacy, he got things settled in his own way, and despite carping opposition, railroad construction proceeded. Sir John in one letter emphasized his conviction that the United States coveted the Canadian West. In 1884, when the C.P.R. was nearing completion, rumours of Riel's activities were again to the fore. A Toronto promoter named Pew planned to have Riel declare the West an independent territory, and then sell it to the United States for two million dollars, half a million dollars more than Canada had paid for it fifteen years previously. Sir John induced Erastus Wiman to pose as sympathetic, and get full details of the plan. Pew claimed that Edward Blake and Sir Richard Cartwright were with him in the deal, but this Sir John rightly refused to believe, and it stamped the whole scheme as fantastic in his eyes.
Riel's second rising in March, 1885, came at a very unhappy moment for the C.P.R. project. Five million dollars was needed for its completion, but some of Sir John's colleagues, including Sir Mackenzie Bowell, refused to countenance the loan. The tone of Sir Charles Tupper's letters from England clearly indicated a desire to come over and physically chastise them into submission. The loyalty of two men of no eloquence but much wisdom, Sir Frank Smith and Hon. John Henry Pope, saved the day. Now it is almost incredible to think in 1885 the C.P.R. nearly went into liquidation for the lack of five million dollars to complete it. But how real was the danger is shown by the note of bitterness and almost grief in the letters of George Stephen. In this episode the greatness of Sir John, in comparison with opponents and colleagues, proved paramount. Opposition was ever but a spur to his valour.
It is to be feared that comparatively few Canadians realized that in the death of the late R. B. Angus, of Montreal, on September 17th, 1922, the most important surviving historical figure in Canada had passed away. Perhaps it was because, unlike some of his old friends, he had refused titles. Nevertheless, of all Canadians alive on the day before his death, his was the name most conspicuously written in the history of Canada's physical expansion and economic development. Moreover it was a name linked in some slight degree with the early development of the American Northwest also. He was the last survivor of the group which conceived and carried out the project of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he had personally participated in episodes when the fate of Canada as an ocean-to-ocean dominion hung in the balance. It was a group that included men of affairs like James J. Hill, of Minnesota, Lord Strathcona, Lord Mountstephen, Sir William Van Horne, Duncan McIntyre; and statesmen like Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper, Hon. John Henry Pope, and Sir Frank Smith. R. B. Angus was indeed the last leaf on a mighty tree, but for many years he had lived such a quiet life in his own social circle in Montreal, that the younger generation of Canadians was largely unaware of him. Yet he was the patriarch of Canadian finance, and his name appears in all narratives of Canada's formative years—a silent figure it is true, but obviously one of singular potency.
Patriarchal in years—he was born in 1831—patriarchal in historic experience, he was also marvellously patriarchal in appearance. A year before his death I met in Montreal a portrait painter of international renown, who stated that he was visiting that city for the purpose of painting the portrait of Mr. Angus. "Well, you certainly have an ideal subject," I remarked; "it would be a poor dauber who could not make something impressive with a model like that." "He is too ideal," said the painter, "so wonderfully picturesque that it is hard to make the kind of strong individual character study we fellows delight in. The real task comes when you paint a man of achievement who doesn't look the part. Mr. Angus looks the part so completely that it robs a painter of his chance for subtleties." From others I have heard of the tranquillity of his character, which left little scope for anecdotage, though he was a lively companion in the days of his youth, and amazingly vital in mind even in extreme old age.
His place in the life-stories of Lord Strathcona, Lord Mountstephen and James J. Hill recalls with singular fitness Milton's line "He also serves who only stands and waits." His was the unruffled figure among the group of men who lived triple lives in the troubled years when a transcontinental railroad was being pressed through despite foes and obstacles. The Correspondence of Sir John A. Macdonald shows how often Lord Mountstephen was in despair and gave vent to his emotions on paper. There were also times during the construction era when the prospect of sabotage and bloodshed was plainly present in the mind of Van Horne. The quarrels of Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona) often left tangles to be straightened out. Midway during the years of trial, Duncan McIntyre, a Montreal capitalist, who was one of the pioneer directors, withdrew from all participation in the management; James J. Hill had still earlier acquired what is colloquially known as "cold feet" and turned his attention to the construction of the Great Northern Railroad. Angus, who, more than the others, had been the personal associate of Hill, was the man who said nothing but hung on.
Identification with the development of the West had marked the career of Mr. Angus from the early years of his arrival in Canada. He came in 1857, a Scottish bank-clerk of 26, to enter the service of the Bank of Montreal. Those were troubled years in Canadian finance when the Bank was fighting for the retention of its privileges as government financial agent and was at war with the business men of Upper Canada. Its general manager, afterward Senator E. H. King, whom he was to succeed within little more than a decade, was known in his day as "The Napoleon of Finance", though strongly imbued with "rule or ruin" ideas. But good fortune soon took young Mr. Angus away from Canadian strife to witness a more tragic conflict. In 1861, the year of the outbreak of the American civil war, he was sent as agent of the Bank to Chicago, Illinois, the state where the issues had been fought out on the stump in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the city which had witnessed the baptism of Lincoln as a national figure.
For a new-comer from the motherland, Chicago in 1861 was an ideal spot at which to learn of the importance of the prairies and imbibe Stephen A. Douglas's gospel of transcontinental railways as the secret of America's future greatness. Later Mr. Angus served his bank at New York during the war period, returned to Montreal to become local manager, and rose to the post of General Manager in 1869, the year in which the strife among Canadian banks was finally settled by the financial legislation of Sir Francis Hincks. At that time he was probably the only Canadian banker of eminence who had an inkling of what prairie railroad development meant.
The real father of a Pacific railroad on Canadian soil and of Western development generally, was of course Sir John A. Macdonald, who pledged his career and the life of his party to its accomplishment. In 1873, he was defeated on a political scandal arising from his proposals—clear evidence that Canada as then constituted was more or less indifferent as to the main project. To that defeat, Donald Smith, the member for Selkirk, Manitoba, had contributed the casting vote. But inasmuch as the entrance of British Columbia to Confederation had been obtained by a pledge that the road would be constructed, the project could not be allowed to die without incurring a risk, amounting to certainty, that the coast province and probably the prairies as well, would become United States territory. In the mid-seventies the problem of securing men to finance and build such a line seemed insuperable, and it is here that Angus and his friends come into the story.
Donald Smith, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, had been keen for Western railroad development, both east-and-west and north-and-south, and had succeeded in securing the construction of a government line from Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to the Minnesota boundary. He and Hill, who lived at St. Paul, had earlier become mutually interested in a steamboat company with vessels plying on the Red River. Along the Red River valley lay uncompleted sections of the much-looted St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which had gone bankrupt in 1873. Its bondholders lived in Holland. It occurred to Smith and Hill (says Sir William Van Horne's narrative) that they might do something for the country and also for themselves by getting control of this property. They needed a financier, and Smith suggested his cousin, George Stephen, who had become President of the Bank of Montreal. In 1876 occurred a failure of a steel company in Illinois. This involved the Chicago branch of the Bank in a heavy loss and necessitated a journey to Chicago by the President, Mr. Stephen, and the General Manager, Mr. Angus. The law's delays gave them a week of idleness and they tossed a coin as to whether they would use it in a trip to St. Louis or one to St. Paul. The coin favoured St. Paul, whereat Stephen remarked, "I am rather glad of that; it will give us a chance to see the railroad Smith has talked about." That toss of the coin made history.
The outcome of the visit was the purchase of the bonds of the St. Paul and Pacific from the Dutch bond-holders, and, ultimately, to the formation among the new owners of a syndicate to construct the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Stephen had never seen the prairies before, but was deeply impressed with their potential fertility, although in Minnesota the settlers had recently been driven out by a plague of locusts. An association was immediately formed, consisting of George Stephen, Donald A. Smith, James J. Hill, Richard B. Angus, John S. Kennedy (the New York representative of the Amsterdam bond-holders), and Norman W. Kittson, Smith's agent at St. Paul. The immediate plan involved not only the completion of the St. Paul and Pacific, now called the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad, but acquirement by lease of the Canadian Government Railroad from Winnipeg to the boundary. This latter plan met with some opposition, including that of Sir John Macdonald, Leader of the Opposition at Ottawa and still smarting with recollections of Smith's defection in 1873. A still more formidable hazard was a proposal, which for a time found favour with the Prime Minister, Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, to sidetrack Winnipeg altogether and run a line from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean by the Dawson Route, north of Lake Winnipeg. Smith valiantly fought this plan which would have left his railroad without a terminal of value; and the return of Sir John Macdonald to power in September, 1878, greatly clarified the situation.
The Montreal capital involved in the Minnesota enterprise necessitated the presence of a man on the spot, and early in 1879 Mr. Angus retired from the service of the Bank of Montreal, and became General Manager of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad. This enterprise became the parent of two transcontinental railroads—the Great Northern completed to Puget Sound in 1893, and the Canadian Pacific completed to Vancouver several years earlier. Undoubtedly the most momentous step of Mr. Angus's life was taken when, in October, 1880, he, with others, signed the contract to build and operate a railroad from Lake Nipissing to the Pacific. The other signatories were Stephen, McIntyre, Hill, and representatives of three banking firms, John S. Kennedy, New York; Morton, Rose & Co., of London; and Kohn Reinach & Co., of Paris. As it turned out the support of these three banking houses proved a broken reed. The real factors in the construction of the road were the Bank of Montreal and the Macdonald Government. A great coup, as it turned out, was the securing of the services of the Illinois railroader, W. C. Van Horne, with whom Angus came in contact while the latter was General Superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, then the longest system in the United States—about 5,000 miles in all. It was Angus who closed the negotiations with Van Horne and who engaged many of the other early officials of the new road. During the next six years they were to go through many trials together, and more than once Stephen and Angus were face to face with ruin owing to the difficulty of raising capital.
These difficulties are illustrated by a story in Skelton's Life of Laurier, which the author obtained from Van Horne himself. Late in the winter of 1883, Stephen, Angus, McIntyre, Van Horne, and the C.P.R. solicitor, J. J. C. Abbott, paid a midnight visit to Macdonald at Earnscliffe, Ottawa, to convince him of their desperate necessities. Sir John told them they might as well ask for the planet Jupiter as for another loan, in view of the prevailing political agitation against the C.P.R. Dejected and silent, the group drove back to town to await the early train to Montreal, and took shelter in the old Bank of Montreal cottage near the station. Here they found Hon. John Henry Pope, acting Minister of Railways, reading and smoking with a "night cap" of potent Scottish brew at his elbow. Pope listened to their story and departed with the words "Wait till I get back!" Toward three o'clock he returned with an impassive face and took another drink before he broke silence. Then he said: "Well, boys, he'll do it. Stay over till to-morrow. The day the Canadian Pacific busts, the Conservative party busts the day after."
Thus a receivership was averted, not for the first or the last time—and with it the ruin not only of Stephen and Angus, but of most of their friends. Yet despite an experience in middle age of the anxieties that kill, the tough Scottish fibre of Donald Smith, Stephen, and Angus carried each of them through to the hour of triumph, and beyond it to ripe old age; Strathcona to 94, Mount Stephen to 92, and Angus to 91.
Lord Mountstephen, who passed away in England on November 30th, 1921, played a part in the history of Canada which is perhaps not so much appreciated by the younger generation as it should be. While his career was not so romantic as that of his cousin, Lord Strathcona, who, as it were, emerged out of untrodden wilderness to become a great international figure, his powerful mind was even more instrumental in forcing through to completion the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and bringing the vast areas of the Northwest into settlement, production, and civilization. All the secrets revealed in the books of memoirs and correspondence, which are now so rapidly augmenting the materials for Canadian history, help to show the enormous services which George Stephen, as he was originally known, rendered to his adopted country in the years of his vigour.
Even though the greater part of his life was spent first as a financier in Montreal and later as a peer living in wealthy retirement in England, his career did not lack romance. He was born at Forres, a village in Banffshire, Scotland, in 1829, the son of a poor carpenter, and as a lad was a shepherd boy on the hills of his native shire. At the age of twenty-one (1850) he came to Montreal to enter the business of an uncle, William Stephen, who was well established as a cloth merchant. A "gillie" more astute and able has never come to any land. A few years later we find him in control of the Stephen business, and holding an important position as a manufacturer of woollens. At the same time he was investing in the stock of the Bank of Montreal, of which he ultimately became President (1876). In the later sixties he was already the confidential friend and adviser of Sir John Macdonald and the leading statesmen and capitalists of the Confederation era; and even at that time was seized with a vision of the great possibilities of the Canadian Northwest. This interest was no doubt aroused by his relationship to Donald Smith (afterwards Lord Strathcona) who had come out as an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1838 and in thirty years had risen to the post of chief resident commissioner of that great organization. George Stephen's subsequent investments in the St. Paul and Pacific Railway (later known as the St. Paul and Manitoba Railway), out of which grew the Northern Pacific, and which at the time was the sole railroad route to the Canadian West, show his sure belief in the future of the prairies. His close association in that enterprise with a native of Canada, the late James J. Hill, who later built the Northern Pacific Railroad, is also a matter of common knowledge, and his ultimate fame as the chief driving force in the construction of the C.P.R. arose directly from his participation in the St. Paul enterprise.
A large, and probably the most important, part of the Correspondence of Sir John A. Macdonald is composed of the letters which passed between the Prime Minister and the Montreal financier from 1869 to 1891, when Sir John died—a period when both were bending all their energies to the development of the West and the linking of the Pacific with the Atlantic. These letters reveal how great a part Stephen played in that epic. After the purchase of the Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869, it will be remembered that a very serious crisis arose. The half-breeds of the Red River, led by Louis Riel, armed themselves to resist the new regime, and declared an independent republic with headquarters at Fort Garry. In this crisis, Sir John Macdonald turned to George Stephen, "as a Protestant, unconnected with office, and known to be an independent man of business, who might be exceedingly useful," and desired him to accompany certain influential French Canadians to Fort Garry on a mission of conciliation. Stephen's business obligations would not permit him to undertake the journey, but instead he sent his cousin, Donald A. Smith, as one better fitted to undertake the task. Stephen at that time was on friendly terms with Colonel Garnet Wolseley, afterward one of the greatest generals of modern times. He desired that the colonel should accompany Smith, but Sir John vetoed the proposal in these words: "Smith goes to carry the olive branch, and were it known at Red River that he was accompanied by an officer high in rank in military service, he would be looked upon as having the olive branch in one hand and a revolver in the other. We must not make any indications of even thinking of a military force until peaceable means have been exhausted. Should these miserable half-breeds not disband, they must be put down, and then, so far as I can influence matters, I shall be very glad to give Colonel Wolseley the chance of glory and the risk of the scalping knife."
This was in December, 1869, and it will be recalled that later it did become necessary to despatch Wolseley, but the mere rumour of his coming was sufficient to end the existence of Riel's republic. The sending of Smith at Stephen's suggestion was the beginning of a relation between Sir John and the two Scottish cousins, which was later to have developments of inestimable importance. The friendship between Sir John and Donald Smith was broken by a savage quarrel in 1873, but subsequently, after years had elapsed, Stephen became the medium of reconciliation.
Throughout the seventies Sir John Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper were very active in trying to get a company formed to build the Pacific railroad that had been promised British Columbia as a condition of her entry into Confederation. Several schemes were put forward but proved abortive. One of them, in which Sir Hugh Allan was interested, led to the piffling "Pacific Scandal", which, in combination with hard times, defeated the Macdonald government in 1873. As Leader of the Opposition, Sir John hammered away at the plan, and when he returned to power in 1878 he was firmly resolved to build the railroad. At last he secured the friendly interest of Stephen who already had railway interests in Manitoba as above noted, and in 1880 the latter became instrumental in founding the syndicate which undertook to construct an all-Canadian route to the Pacific.
The contract was signed on September 14th, 1880, and although neither Stephen's nor Donald Smith's name appeared in the document, they ultimately took it over and financed it. The signatories on behalf of the Government were Sir John Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper, Hon. John Henry Pope, and Sir David Macpherson. The signers for the syndicate were Duncan McIntyre, afterwards vice-president of the road, Morton, Rose & Co., bankers, of London, and Kohn, Reinach & Co., a firm of German bankers. Sir John Rose, the London banker, was a Canadian and a close and trusted friend of both Sir John and George Stephen. Subsequently Stephen became the first President of the Canadian Pacific Railway thus inaugurated, and continued in that post until 1888. The original terms of the contract were that the road should be completed by 1891, but long ere then the task had been accomplished largely through the energies of Stephen, Donald Smith, and the great practical railroader, William Van Horne.
Judged by hindsight, the terms offered by the Government to the syndicate seem exceedingly generous, but they were not so regarded in that day by capital; and the task of carrying out the contract proved nerve-racking not only for the Government, but for Stephen as chief financial mind of the group. There were times when he gave up hope of ever putting through the project. These distresses and fears find an echo throughout the correspondence. It was a case of enemies abroad and "sedition" at home. Sir John again and again in his letters states his positive conviction that the United States coveted the Canadian West if they could acquire it on easy terms; and a vigilant Opposition headed by Edward Blake was urging the abandonment of the whole enterprise. They did very nearly succeed in killing it. Such opposition naturally affected the status of the C P.R. in the money markets of the world; and it is a matter of common knowledge that Stephen and Smith, who succeeded in placing the Bank of Montreal, of which the former was President, back of the enterprise, were deemed guilty of having plunged its resources in the reckless gamble. Sir John Macdonald on the other hand, who was in honour bound to support to the limit the men who had risked so much for his pet project, was embarrassed by timorous elements in his own cabinet and his own caucus. When the money-markets failed him, Stephen had to turn to the Government for loans, and for the Prime Minister it was sometimes like pulling teeth to get them authorized by his cabinet. He had to remind the impatient Stephen to read Charles Reade's novel, Put Yourself in His Place, but, though there were "spats", mutual confidence helped to solve all difficulties.
One plan, that worried Sir John and others a great deal, was put forward by James J. Hill and the Northern Pacific interests to make connections with Northern Ontario and Quebec via Sault Ste. Marie, by acquiring certain Quebec railway charters. They succeeded in interesting Hon J. A. Chapleau, an eminent French-Canadian politician, and it looked for a time, in 1881, as though Quebec might be swung into line against the Canadian Pacific project. Later, when matters became better advanced, the young government of Manitoba placed many obstacles in the way of the C.P.R. and proposed some ruinous railway projects of its own, which had to be nipped in the bud at the sources of financial supply. Sir John Macdonald's grasp of the extra-territorial possibilities of the C.P.R. and his belief in their future development were prophetic. As early as 1884 we find him writing to Stephen on the advisability of making a deal with Japan for a steamship line and also with regard to securing the British subsidy for a mail service to Hong Kong. This was a year when the Government with great difficulty had forced through a loan of $20,000,000 to the company.
Sometimes there were moments of elation in those anxious years, as when Stephen was able to announce that Major Rogers had found an easy and practicable pass through the Selkirks, and thus quieted a fear that this range of mountains, lying between the Rockies and the Coast Range, could not be penetrated by rail. In August, 1884, Stephen's heart was gladdened by the following telegram from Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the former leader of the Liberal party, who evidently did not sympathize with the tactics of his successor, Blake: "Mount Stephen, B.C. I heartily congratulate you on the wonderful work accomplished. Our trip exceedingly pleasant."
The then newly named mountain must remain a monument to Lord Mountstephen greater than any that could be erected by the hands of man.
But the darkest days for the C.P.R. were yet to come. In the spring of 1885 the second Riel Rebellion broke out, and the Government's western administration was seriously discredited. When Sir David Macpherson had been appointed Minister of the Interior, Sir Charles Tupper had written to Sir John from London, saying that the appointment was excellent if only Macpherson could be induced to regard the West as something more than an annex to Chestnut Park, Toronto, his beautiful private domain. Tupper's fears were in part justified by the events of 1885. It was just at this critical period that the C.P.R. was in bitter need of five million dollars to pay wages and complete construction. It could raise them from only one source—the Government. Members of the cabinet like Sir Mackenzie Bowell and Sir Hector Langevin were opposed to any further advances, and Stephen despondently believed that the road must go into the hands of a receiver. Officers of the C.P.R. in those days have seen him in tears at the thought of the ruin of his hopes and the financial disaster in which his friends would be involved. In a letter written on March 26th, 1885, he asked Sir John to put the Government's refusal in writing, "so as to relieve me personally of the possible charge of having acted with undue haste." He added: "I need not repeat how sorry I am that this should be the result of all our efforts to give Canada a railway to the Pacific Ocean. But I am supported by the conviction that I have done all that could be done to obtain it."
Sir John was busy day and night seeking to save the life of the company and avoid the necessity of a receivership, and two steadfast friends in the cabinet, Sir Frank Smith and Hon. J. H. Pope, were helping; but the political delays were maddening to Stephen, waiting daily for relief like a general in a beleaguered fortress. On April 15th he wrote: "It is impossible for me to continue this struggle for existence any longer. The delay in dealing with the C.P.R. matter, whatever may be the necessity for it, has finished me, and rendered me utterly unfit for further work, and if it is continued, must eventuate in the destruction of the Company."
On April 16th he forwarded a code telegram from Van Horne which read: "Have no means of paying wages; pay car can't be sent out; and unless we get immediate relief we must stop. Please inform Premier and Finance Minister. Do not be surprised, or blame me, if an immediate and most serious catastrophe occurs."
Faced with the possibility of a destructive rising of navvies in addition to the other troubles in the Northwest, the timorous members of the cabinet yielded, and the loan of five millions was granted. Truly it may be said that Canada as a Dominion was saved. But there was still to be met venomous opposition in the House of Commons from politicians who had no faith in the West or the C.P.R., and some of whom were probably quite willing that the United States should have the prairies. In June, 1885, we find Stephen writing to Sir John: "I have read Blake's speech, and without exception, it is the meanest thing of the kind that has ever come under my notice. It is an ill-conditioned, vindictive effort to discredit the Company, without the remotest possibility of benefiting anybody, politically or otherwise.... I am so furious with Blake that I cannot at the moment write coherently about him or his speech. What a miserable creature he must be.... I hope you will express the scorn and contempt which I am sure you must feel for both him and his speech."
But that was not Sir John Macdonald's way. He was just as determined as Stephen, but less given to expressing his inner convictions, and so the C.P.R. was saved. Stephen had earned the baronetcy which came to him on the completion of the line years ahead of schedule; also his peerage, which came later. But there were several "spats" with Sir John before the latter passed away in 1891; one particularly about an entry into Halifax, which the Government, as proprietors of the Intercolonial Railroad, refused to countenance. Sometimes Stephen wrote that he was haunted by a fear that good relations between the Government and the Company might not continue, and that such a"family quarrel" might prove disastrous for Canada. But he never ceased to give the most emphatic expression to his admiration for Sir John as the real creator of the C.P.R., without whose steadfast aid its construction could never have been accomplished. In 1890 he wrote Sir John reminding him of the tenth birthday of the project, to which the great statesman sent this reply:
"What a change that event has made in this Canada of ours. And to think that not until next year was it expected that the infant prodigy would arrive at maturity!
"Your health is now fully recovered from the strain that the vast responsibility thrown upon you in nursing the railway entailed. Mine is very fair, but I feel the weight of 76 years greatly. We can both console ourselves for all the worry we have gone through, by the reflection that we have done great good to our adopted country, and to the great Empire of which it forms a part.... You personally have had an enormous amount of strain, responsibility, and worry, but the enterprise has been a success from the beginning."
Thus in a few words did Sir John tell the whole story, with the shadow of death approaching. The work of Stephen was done. He had won his fight but was destined to live on for three decades and to die of old age in a country place, Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, which had been the home of two Prime Ministers of Great Britain, Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston—a strangely prolonged and quiet end for the shepherd lad of the Banffshire hills whom fortune had made one of the doughtiest of Britain's empire builders.
In scanning the career of Lord Strathcona, who died in January, 1914, it is but natural that the fact which, at the time of his passing, seemed to excite the interest of the world at large was the enormous fortune that he accumulated, and the munificent use that he made of it. But apart from his high position in world-finance, his life had other aspects of more romantic interest. Other men have risen from humble beginnings to almost unlimited financial power, but few have evinced the taste for public affairs, and have taken the hearty enjoyment in public service, that characterized Strathcona. The great capitalist, as a rule, shuns political life, and interests himself in public affairs only when the conservation of his own interests and the stability of the nation's credit are at stake. But Strathcona, or Donald Smith as he was known in his humble beginning, was different. He embodied in the nth degree the eternal Scotsman—particularly the Scotsman of the Highland strain—without whom the British Empire as we know it to-day would have been impossible. In every part of the world the extension of British influence has largely been the work of men such as himself, some of whom have risen to enormous wealth and influence, some of whom have died poor, but all of whom have displayed great executive capacity, combined with a high order of imagination, which characterizes the Highland Scotsman in his finest development.
The debt that Canada owes to Scotland has been eloquently recorded by many writers, and similar obligations exist not alone in Canada but in Australia, New Zealand, and all the overseas Dominions. The same is true of many countries not under the British flag. Throughout the United States, throughout South America, throughout the seven seas, the "Highland brigade" have been the couriers of Empire—of British influence. In common with the other branches of the British people, they have won eminence in the pioneer work of the explorer, the soldier, and the sailor; but, in the task of developing, holding, and extending the territory and the advantages so gained, they have played the paramount part. It was as the Highland Scotsman, par excellence—the man uniting executive genius with a great creative imagination, that Lord Strathcona acted a predominant role in the drama of Canadian development. That he was wily in attaining his own ends and unremitting in his pursuit of them will hardly be denied. The expansive delight that he took in the power that was his was also eminently characteristic of his breed.
On this continent it is the custom, when a man has made a great fortune, to endeavour to find for him beginnings of a squalid character—to exaggerate the poverty in which he was reared. Some years ago, when the late Charles W. Fairbanks was aspiring to Presidential nomination in the United States, he felt himself so handicapped by the lack of a log cabin in his ancestry that he invented one. It was, therefore, to be expected that fabulous accounts of the distressful conditions under which Strathcona was born should get into print. One American newspaper of high standing even said that at his birth his mother had not sufficient clothing for her new-born bairn, a tale associated with the birth of Lincoln.
Such was not the type of youths that the Hudson's Bay Company sent to Canada in the early years of the nineteenth century to conserve its vast interests. They were soundly educated young men, with a knowledge of accounts, and with the executive capacity to govern the trading posts to which they were assigned; they were also intrepid men with the roving impulse upon them, who felt, as no race has felt quite so keenly as the Highland Scotsman, the "call of the wild". Lord Strathcona was himself authority for the statement that before he entered the service of "the Great Company" he had contemplated the study of law. It is possible that if he had not been inspired by the career of his mother's brother, John Stewart, a fur trader, who with Simon Fraser had helped to explore the Fraser River in 1808, he might have remained at home and distinguished himself as a Writer to the Signet. His own addresses show that from the time he was sent to Labrador as a youth of eighteen in 1838, he grasped the possibilities of Canada as a whole. It was his happy lot to play a great part in the development of a wilderness into a wealthy, commercially aggressive and aspiring nation, and there is no doubt that to the outside world he was the living symbol of Canadian development.
It was his grasp of affairs that found him, while yet under fifty, at the head of the Hudson's Bay Company, though a man as yet unknown to fame in the outer world. The great events of the sixties, out of which was born the Dominion of Canada, brought him to the fore as a national figure. These involved the acquirement of the vast territories hitherto governed by the factors of the Hudson's Bay Company, who were at once traders and law-givers. In the negotiations for the transfer he necessarily played an important part. The people of the scantily populated West did not welcome the change. Open rebellion was the result in Manitoba, and the Company did not escape the charge of having connived at Riel's attempt to establish an independent nation on the prairies. It was Donald Smith, the Company's chief factor, who stepped in when Hon. William Macdougall, Colonel de Salaberry and others had failed, and paved the way for a bloodless settlement, and who was deputed by Colonel Garnet Wolseley to restore civil order at Fort Garry. The discretion that the experienced fur-trader showed in handling the French-Canadian half-breed facilitated in a large degree the project of peacefully uniting Canada from ocean to ocean. This was one of the many important steps leading up to the final consummation whereby the West was linked to the East literally by bands of steel.
From that day forward the name of Donald Smith was definitely linked with every episode in the development of the Canadian West. He applied himself to the great problem of transportation, and to his financial influence, which his cousin George Stephen (afterward Lord Mountstephen) persuaded him to exert, was due the fact that a project which many of the ablest men in this country regarded as a fantastic dream, became a living reality. To Macdonald and Tupper, who made the Canadian Pacific Railway a political possibility, and to Strathcona, Stephen and their friends, who staked their all to make it a financial possibility, Canada owes its existence as a cohesive nation.
Yet the early years of Strathcona's political career, which began when he was fifty, could not have been very happy. From 1870 he was one of the small contingent which represented Manitoba in the House of Commons at Ottawa, and, as has been pointed out, it showed an exceptional quality in a financier that he was willing to accept the cares of public life under such conditions. He was the butt for constant attack. He was accused constantly of being member for the Hudson's Bay Company rather than the representative of his constituents. Men like Dr. Schultz, afterwards Governor of Manitoba, did not hesitate to accuse him of sedition. He recognized no considerations of party loyalty, and stood above and beyond party—in a sense "monarch of all he surveyed". It is not recorded that he ever openly quarrelled with anybody, but Macdonald and Tupper assuredly quarrelled with him, and he had to withstand bitter castigation from their lips.
By those who were on the inside of politics he was generally credited with being the man chiefly responsible for the defeat of Sir John Macdonald's ministry in 1873, and he gave his support to Hon. Alexander Mackenzie during the brief regime of the latter as Prime Minister of Canada. Unquestionably he inspired in Mackenzie a vaster conception of the possibilities of the Dominion than was held by the other leaders of his party. Donald Smith's breach with the Conservative party was healed on its return to power in 1878, through the mediation of Sir Charles Tupper, who, in common with him, desired above all things the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Undoubtedly he bitterly resented his defeat in 1880 at the hands of the electors of Winnipeg, whom he rightly thought he had served well. It is doubtful whether he ever had much affection for Winnipeg afterward, but retirement from political life enabled him to pursue his great aim of pressing the C.P.R. forward to completion. His taste for political life, however, was shown when he re-entered Parliament in 1887 as member for Montreal West, and he came forward as a candidate for the Conservative party at a time when many believed that its fortunes were declining. The shift of 1896, whereby he succeeded his friend Sir Charles Tupper as Canadian High Commissioner at London, when the latter became leader of the Conservative party, was happier in the outcome for himself than for Sir Charles; and, moreover, was extremely fortunate in its results for the Dominion of Canada.
Among the many striking elements of Lord Strathcona's character not the least was the fact that he loved money, not for itself, but for what he could do with it. He was one of those rare beings who could, so to speak, breed money, but it was probably the consciousness that money was power that constituted its appeal for him. No man in any country was more princely in his gifts to all charitable, artistic, and educational objects, or more inspired by a sense of patriotism in the bestowal of them. Colossal as was his individuality in many of its aspects, he was nevertheless profoundly human, and dowered with Scottish cunning. He was typical of the unique race from which he sprang, and also of the great land in which he wrought his amazing career. That career is interwoven with the history of the formative period of the greater Canada, and his place in our annals is "fixed as the northern star." It is not only doubtful whether we shall look upon his like again, but whether the changing conditions of this country will in future afford equal scope for another genius of his type. The personality of no Canadian who has since represented this country abroad, has possessed in anything like an equal degree, the glamour of romance. And this glamour has been perpetuated in death, for the ambitious Scottish youth who began his career in the wilds of Labrador lies entombed in the Pantheon of Britain's greatness, Westminster Abbey.
One of the most maligned men in American political history is Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois. Of recent years the votaries of the Lincoln cult have deemed it wisdom to exalt their idol by dispraising the orator who was at one time his political rival. This was far from being the view of Lincoln himself, who, in the national crisis which followed his inauguration in 1861, at once turned to Douglas for aid and counsel. In the opprobrium which has been visited on Douglas for his failure to appreciate the paramount importance of the slavery issue, his enormous services to the development of this continent (which had reactions in Canada) have been forgotten. One American writer of something approaching genius, Edgar Lee Masters, has sought to do justice to Douglas in a novel, Children of the Market Place, which, despite certain structural defects, is a most praiseworthy attempt at historical romance. Mr. Masters is a Kansas lawyer, of middle age, who has been dabbling in verse since 1898. The publication of The Spoon River Anthology in 1915, though it caused a sensation, failed to give him literary status, because of reckless violations of taste which marred its studies of character. Domesday Book, published in the latter part of 1920, awakened critics to the compass of his talent, for in scale and intellectual analysis it approximated to Browning's The Ring and the Book, on which it was obviously modelled. A later volume of verse, The Open Sea, revealed in him a poet with a real message. His prose work, Children of the Market Place, considered as a novel, is a weak performance, for though some of the material is extraordinarily romantic—like the incidental episode of the octoroon girl Zoe, who disappeared and became a noted singer—it is scantily and abruptly treated. Clearly Mr. Masters is not a born romancer, but rather a historical critic, using the form of fiction as a makeshift vehicle for the presentation of his ideas as an analyst of American history.
Nevertheless, Children of the Market Place is, for serious readers, profoundly interesting—more deeply fascinating than most novels by narrators of greater skill. Its survey of the troubled currents of American politics in the three decades rounded by the years 1835 and 1865 is remarkable in its detailed analysis. They were perhaps the most momentous years in the history of the United States. In the thirties, the anti-slavery party, whose activities culminated in the Civil War, first began to show signs of its coming strength; but readers of to-day casually familiar with the outcome of the conflict do not realize the illimitable ramifications of the slavery question, or the causes which brought it to a head. Nor do they understand how intimately the whole controversy was bound up with another great question, that of Western annexation and settlement. The thirty years between 1835 and 1865 were not merely a historical epoch in the slavery controversy, but they were the period of the construction of railways that revolutionized travel, of the start of immigration on a large scale, of the development of manufacturing industries—of many things that have had their fruition in the North America that we know to-day. To show the multiplicity of the issues, Mr. Masters chooses as the protagonist of his tale the great but forgotten leader, Stephen A. Douglas, who had his hand in all these developments. The widespread interest in all that relates to Lincoln has kept alive the name of Douglas, but many know of him only as Lincoln's opponent, and nothing of his many achievements as a statesman. Yet Douglas was justly acclaimed as an apostle of progress at a time when his colleague at the bar of Illinois was utterly unknown. A sturdy fighter, he was a good loser—every inch a man—for he died reconciled to "the rail-splitter," and an active agent in promoting Union policies. His end took place at Chicago on June 3rd, 1861, six weeks before the real fighting of the Civil War began at Bull Run.
Children of the Market Place takes its name from the institution of slavery; and throughout the book there is a suggestion of the sinister effect that the introduction of negro slavery into the British colonies of North America has had on the history of the United States; and especially on the careers of political leaders in the mid-nineteenth century. It wrecked the political career of Douglas and made Lincoln a martyr. The book consists of the supposed memoirs of one James Miles, of Chicago, an Englishman by birth, born on the day of the battle of Waterloo, in 1815. The suppositious date of the narrative is 1900, when nearly all the friends of his youth and middle age are dead. Miles, educated at Eton, is an undergraduate at Oxford in 1833 when he learns that his father, who had long since settled in America, has died leaving him five thousand acres of virgin land in the newly settled state of Illinois. Thither he goes to claim his inheritance, and with wonderful verisimilitude Mr. Masters tells of the journey—the hectic life of lower New York in 1833; the long trip to Buffalo by the Erie Canal; the lake passage to the rough outpost of Chicago, at a time when Cincinnati, with its 30,000 inhabitants, was the only important city of the West. Into the hot and fever smitten interior of Illinois, Miles travels and is stricken with typhoid en route. He is succoured by an ardent youngster from New England, who has come West intent on making his fortune—the future Governor of the State, Stephen A. Douglas. Thus begins a life-long friendship; for Miles, wealthy in land to begin with, prospers exceedingly, becomes the financial backer of Douglas in his upward climb, and identifies himself with his political fortunes to the very end. They go to Chicago together, and Miles writes as the eye-witness of the growth of that great city; but when we leave him in 1900 he is a poor and lonely old man. His fortune has vanished in the financial crises of the seventies. In fact Mr. Masters has made the narrative of Miles as much like a true book of recollections as a fictional work could possibly be. The descriptions of the many early political conventions which Miles is supposed to have attended with Douglas; the pictures of the crude life in the early days of settlement in the middle West; the candid sketches of men and issues, seem actually the writing of a man who has lived through them all.
It is absurd to suppose that so great a cataclysm as the war between the North and the South was a flare-up of a few years incubation. Those who have read Daniel Webster's speech against Hayne delivered in 1829 are aware that even then ill-feeling between the two sections was acute, and the abolitionist movement only served to increase the cleavage. This was the political situation that developed as the years progressed. The South, whose prosperity was based on cotton, of which it regarded negro slavery an indispensable adjunct, had in the early years of the nineteenth century attained to political dominance, which it desired to retain. Cotton had its rivals in iron and coal, which gave birth to the manufacturing industries of the North. Slave labour was valueless either for mining or manufacture, and the steady growth of industrial prosperity in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, meant the growth of a greater power to challenge the political supremacy of the South. In the twenties came the great era of Western settlement, beginning in Ohio and Michigan and spreading on to Illinois.
When Douglas arrived in Illinois in 1833, he was already an orator, crammed with facts and infatuated with the idea of material progress, despite his tender years. He was but twenty, a diminutive lad with an immense head. He at once foresaw that in time the West must be the adjudicator and referee between the North and South. Presently the North and South saw it too.
The South, strongly organized for its own interest, and religiously holding to the idea of slavery as an economic necessity justified by Holy Scripture, was determined that the West should be slave territory, and as each new state was admitted, efforts were made to enforce this policy. The North was convinced that slavery was an economic mistake long before it came to regard it as morally wrong, but in the forties the abolitionist party made progress, and by the mid-fifties there was a considerable body of religious conviction to back the anti-slavery tendencies which marked Northern policy. The idea of the "inevitable conflict", as Lincoln called it, had taken hold of men's minds. Yet in a general sense the negro was a good deal of a political football until the verge of war had been reached, and has remained so to this day.
Now the part that Douglas played in all this controversy is very interesting. He had dreams of material progress for the United States, which made him impatient of the whole slavery controversy. He was the first American Imperialist; and the dimensions of his dreams were not destined to be achieved. His career in Illinois in his early years, and later as a Senator at Washington, was a continued series of political successes. By 1850, when he was but thirty-seven, he was regarded as the real head of the Democratic party, the ablest speaker, and the most far-visioned statesman in the Republic. On all occasions he advocated the forcible annexation of Canada and Cuba. His vision was of a great and wealthy republic extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. He admired and boasted of the Anglo-Saxon spirit of progress, but he denounced Great Britain in and out of season as the chief obstacle to his plans on this continent. He hated the old Whig party because he regarded them as monarchists in disguise, and more intent on the material prosperity of New England than on the growth of the Union—his god. He did great service by his pioneer advocacy of railroads. He was the first important advocate of trans-continental railroads, and founded the Illinois Central Railroad to connect the North and South. In other pages of this book will be found evidence that the Illinois Central, on which two great Canadian railroad chieftains, Sir William Van Horne and Lord Shaughnessy, were trained, was in some degree the ancestor of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The zeal of Douglas for education was also intense, and the University of Chicago owed its inception to him.
Douglas was a strong advocate of the Mexican War of 1845, and among the most important pages of Mr. Masters's book are those which describe the heroic episodes of that forgotten conflict and emphasize the importance of the results—for it gave the United States not only Texas, New Mexico, and California, but all the states intervening between them and the old Oregon territory. Of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty which fixed Canada's western boundary line, Douglas was a bitter opponent, because he wished to drive Britain out of North America. In studying the Imperial aspects of Douglas's career, the injustice that is habitually done to the Canadians of sixty years ago, and to the English political leaders who were sympathetic with the South in the civil war, becomes apparent. How could they be very sympathetic toward the North, many of whose political leaders, taking their cue from Douglas, believed in rounding out the Republic by the forcible annexation of Canada? Had victory over the South come easily, there is little doubt that the attempt would have been made!
It is easy to understand how a materialist like Douglas (as Mr. Masters candidly admits him to have been) was bitterly opposed to those, slave-holders and abolitionists alike, who insisted on making slavery the paramount issue. He was the inventor of the policy of "squatter sovereignty"—that is, the settlers of the new territories should decide for themselves whether slavery should prevail. He was economically opposed to slavery, but had relatives and friends who were slave holders; so he said, "Let the South keep her slaves; let the North exclude slaves; let the Western states do as they please; unity and expansion above all things!" But his policies pleased few; the South considered that it had been robbed of the fruits of victory when it failed to impose slavery on the new territories acquired by the Mexican war; the North, of which the newly formed Republican party was the voice, was strong for Federal authority and could not tolerate "squatter sovereignty". His compromise policies wrecked the Democratic party; and the way for Lincoln's victory in 1860 was paved by that disruption. Douglas, the candidate of the Northern Democratic compromisers, though he polled nearly 1,400,000 votes, obtained only 12 votes in the electoral college. His dream was over, and he was but forty-eight years old.
Yet he was no Achilles who sulked in his tent. At the first cry of secession he sprang to the side of Lincoln, his rival, and at the President's request used his great oratorical powers to rally the border states and the Northwest to the cause of the Union. His campaign was interrupted by his death in June, 1861. When lying stricken and unconscious in his hotel at Chicago, watchers caught the words: "Telegraph to the President and let the column move on." "Stand for the Union." "The West, this great" ... Then death! The famous orator still addressing an imaginary audience. Mr. Masters has done well to vindicate his memory.
To anyone who, like the present writer, is a Canadian in several generations, such an event as that which occurred in May, 1920, when the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of "The Company of Adventurers of England trading in Hudson's Bay" was celebrated at Winnipeg, roused all the instincts of romance that lurk in the corners of most men's minds. Romance radiates in the original title, long ago prosaically abbreviated into "Hudson's Bay Company." The spirit of romance turned to the practical uses of trade and Imperial development has been the motive power of its organization. The fund of material that the annals of the "Great Company" provides for the writer of either history or fiction is bewildering. Mainly, these annals are an Iliad dealing with the exploits of great and enterprising leaders and explorers; treasure hunters in the larger sense, who sought to penetrate and gain knowledge of uncharted wildernesses, and to possess themselves of the riches there held in store. Originally entitled "Adventurers of England", the story of the Company is for the most part made up of biographies of "Adventurers of Scotland".
We must not forget that the man who conceived the idea of founding such a company was Pierre Esprit Radisson, a Frenchman, born in Paris, some say in 1620 (which would make 1920 his tercentenary) though in old age he claimed to have been born in 1636. Radisson settled at Three Rivers, Quebec, in 1651, and in 1661 had the honour of being the first white man to penetrate beyond Lake Superior to Lake Winnipeg. Possibilities of the fur trade that he discerned on this journey led him to attempt to found a company in France, and failing there, to carry his scheme to London. Thus, though the Hudson's Bay route to the West was established by the Company after its formation, the germ of western development came to life through the channels of approach that we use to-day. Though Radisson was the forerunner, the story of the Hudson's Bay Company and of subsequent western development is, in the main, a Scottish epic, illustrating the major part Scottish genius has played in the growth of the British Empire.
In other countries there is just now much discussion about the British Empire. Voluble individuals present in many quarters a conception of the empire as a great conspiracy framed by Tudor statesmen to dominate the world, and steadily carried forward in accordance with a fixed plan. Some individuals of inherently parochial mind, with the cant phrases "distinctive nationality" and "self determination" on their lips, have never risen to the Scotsman's conception of what the genesis and growth of the British Empire signify. It is really the work of English mariners and Scottish landsmen, imbued with an irresistible impulse toward adventure, an inborn and unconquerable determination to break through the confines of insularity. This impulse can be discerned at work in the history of the Hudson's Bay Company for at least 150 years, and when we read the history of other parts of the British Empire, we find that the same impulses and the same Scottish capacity for creating prosperity and evolving sound government have been at work.
The Hudson's Bay Company when at the apex of its power, prior to the acquirement of its rights over the Northwest Territories by the Government of Canada, was a great trust, embracing not only the original company of adventurers, but offshoots which had become rivals, like the old Nor'west Company (of which the famous explorer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, was the head) and the "little company" of fur traders, known for business purposes as the "XY Company". In the first two decades of the nineteenth century the rivalries of these two companies produced a condition akin to civil war in the Red River settlement, and contention as bitter, if less sanguinary, on the marts of Montreal. The complexion of all three companies, if not in ownership, in the personnel which carried out policies, was predominatingly Scottish. In the first fifty years of British rule in Canada we had, therefore, plentiful evidence of that ruthlessness which goes with the spirit of adventure.
Rev. George Bryce, LL.D., founder of Manitoba College, who has written several volumes on the Hudson's Bay Company and allied subjects, even tries to prove that the organization was Scottish in its very inception, by claiming for Scotland its first governor, Prince Rupert, of the Rhine Palatine, and heir presumptive to the throne of Bohemia. Prince Rupert's mother was a Stuart, the daughter of James the First of England and Sixth of Scotland, although his father was a Bavarian. It is assuredly true that Scotsmen of the seventeenth century regarded the prince as one of their own, and a contingent of them went voluntarily to fight on behalf of his father in Bohemia. Rupert, who was a graduate of Oxford and a politician of Liberal ideas, gave Charles the First advice that, if it had been accepted would, perhaps, have saved him both his head and his crown by enabling him to retain the friendship of the Presbyterian party. Strangely enough, his fame has been preserved chiefly in this land which he never saw, through his connection with the Company of English Adventurers. To those who collect old prints he is also immortal as the man who introduced the beautiful art of mezzotint engraving. In England it attained a beauty and richness never equalled elsewhere, and he himself was a skilled practitioner of the craft, as his "Head of John the Baptist" proves.
In the Highlands of Scotland, James, Duke of York, the second governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and afterwards King James the Second, was regarded as lawful sovereign long after the English had driven him from his throne; though before that event John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, the greatest of all British soldiers, had succeeded him as governor of the company. William of Orange was not supposed to be very friendly to the corporation, and this, perhaps, helped to fix a sort of sentimental tradition between it and the "King over the water", which influenced the many Scotsmen who took service in the Canadian wilderness after the rebellion of 1745. The Highland officials, who continued to flock to the service of the Company for a century after the defeat of the Stuart cause at Culloden, made it what it was and also manned the staffs of the rival organization which sprang up.
The first man who may be said to have realized to the full the mission of the Company was the Earl of Selkirk, who, at the dawn of the nineteenth century, acquired a controlling interest in its stock for the express purpose of colonizing the Red River Valley in what is now known as Manitoba. Earlier he had promoted similar enterprises in Upper Canada and Prince Edward Island. Though his Red River colony ended in disaster and tragedy, owing not merely to the ruthless methods of the Nor'west Company, but to the belief that agriculture and fur-trading were incompatible interests, Selkirk had great prophetic and Imperial inspiration.
The real greatness of the Hudson's Bay Company dates from the amalgamation of all interests, which came into effect in 1821, with Sir George Simpson as governor of the northern department. Simpson, the illegitimate scion of a Scottish house, had the singular good fortune to be suddenly promoted from a minor factorship at an obscure post in Athabasca to real empiry. As Governor-in-Chief of Rupert's Land and general superintendent of the Company's affairs in North America, he ruled with wisdom and firmness a domain extending from Labrador beyond the Rockies to Vancouver Island and Alaska (held under lease from Russia). The holding of British Columbia as part of the British domain may be attributed to the ability of his friend and colleague, Sir James Douglas, a native of British Guiana, but of the same clan as Lord Selkirk.
The sympathetic connection between the Hudson's Bay Company and railroad development in Canada cannot be overlooked. Anyone who has read the life story of its great governor, Lord Strathcona, whose career in Canada began in a trading post in Labrador, knows of its intimate connection with the construction of the C.P.R. Less well known is the fact that Sir Edward Watkin, the promoter of the Grand Trunk Railroad, and a man of marvellously progressive spirit, was also prominent in the councils of the great Company, and had much to do with shaping its later policies. Him, at least, England may claim as her own, and he it was who negotiated the sale of the North-west Territories to the young Dominion of Canada, in furtherance of his dream of a transcontinental railroad.
It is to the Hudson's Bay Company that we owe the beginnings of thought as to game preservation on this continent, for its factors tried to induce the Indians not to kill animals recklessly and to look to the future. Necessarily, a company whose chief interest lay in fur-trading could not be expected to be very zealous in promoting settlement, and when, in 1869, the cession of the major portion of its lands, and all its political rights, to the young Canadian federation was effected, it was high time that a new system was adopted. But, as Lord Strathcona has said, "Whatever may have been the faults of the Company, history will record that it explored a vast territory, prepared the way for its settlement and colonization, fulfilled an important part in the history of Canada, had not a little to do with the consolidation of the Dominion and with the development of the western country, and that its work was for the advantage of the Empire as a whole." Lord Strathcona to the day of his death believed that the future of the Empire would be decided on the plains of the Canadian West.
So much for the political and economic phases. Let us not forget the romance of it all. For my own part I absorbed it in early childhood, for some of my forebears were men and women of the outposts, and had handed down tales of adventure in the Northwest in the days when George III was King, and Selkirk was promoting his great experiment. Apart from the historians, the best annalist of outpost life is Robert Michael Ballantyne, 1825-1894, a servant of the company from 1841 (when he was sixteen) until 1847. Ballantyne related his experiences in a series of boy's books that are, or should be, immortal: Dog Crusoe, The Young Fur Traders, The World of Ice, Ungava, and others. The school-boys of 1860 loved those books; so did those boys of 1885; so, I am sure, do those of to-day when they lay hands on them. Nor can I forget one haunting short story for adults by Duncan Campbell Scott, which turned on the practice of the old-time factors of subscribing for the Glasgow Herald, and when the issues arrived in bulk, months later, taking up and reading one copy a day in proper sequence, as though it were the current number of a newspaper published that morning. By so cheating themselves as to time did the men of the outposts beguile their loneliness. "Thus," some will say, "the casuistry of the Scottish mind reveals itself." But in such transcripts of fact do we realize the sacrifices from which empiry is born.
A few years ago George H. Locke, M.A., Public Librarian of the City of Toronto, made a most valuable contribution to the study of Canadian political history in his anthology of historical orations, Builders of the Canadian Commonwealth, with a luminous introduction by A. H. U. Colquhoun, LL.D. Dr. Locke conceived the idea of elucidating many epochal events of Canada's evolution during the past hundred years by reprinting the speeches of public men whose duty it was to grapple with the problems of that evolution as they arose. In a volume of little more than three hundred pages, he has presented a mine of unfamiliar material of importance to all who are interested in the political ideas which have shaped the destinies of this country. As Dr. Colquhoun says: "Strange as it may sound, Dr. Locke has gathered together much information and enlightenment not actually accessible to the average Canadian, and for whom in most cases it is a locked door of knowledge, ... that will be found to produce, in time, far-reaching effects in study and in comprehension of the past."
The reprinted speeches are accompanied by lucid and impartial condensed biographies of the public men who made them, which give perspective to their utterances. As Dr. Colquhoun says: "To read the following pages is to gain some idea of the mental powers, the earnest sincerity, and the eloquence of these Canadian leaders whose voices we shall hear no more. To hear and to read are two vastly different things. As the great French critic declared, there is as much eloquence in the tone of the voice, in the eyes, and in the air of a speaker as in the choice of words." That, of course, is a circumstance that cuts both ways. While it may be difficult to recapture from the printed text the magnetism exercised by Sir John Macdonald, or the gentle glow that exhaled from the personality of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, it is quite possible that some of these speeches read better than they sounded. But in any event, it must evoke pride in those who are Canadians bred in the bone, to realize, through the critical eyes of posterity, the intellectual power and vision of the men whose words are here reprinted.
Dr. Locke's processes of research were exhaustive, but also carefully selective; and it must have been with regret that at times he found himself rejecting speeches of real interest and potency. Allowing full recognition of the fine service he has rendered, I should like to have seen at least one deliverance on the subject of the Pacific railway project, which really did so much to make Canada what she is today. Controversy forty years ago brought forth many such utterances, but it is a paradoxical fact that most of the best oratory was of a pessimistic order. Only in one speech (by Sir Robert Falconer) do we really gain an inkling of what the West has meant in the evolution of the Canada of today. Nor does this volume, which deals largely with the birth of Confederation, seem to me complete, lacking one of the speeches of the late Hon. Alexander Morris, a man who played a great part in educating the public mind on the subject, as he did later in awakening the East to the potentialities of the West. In Hon. Antoine Aimé Dorion's oration in opposition to Confederation, there is an allusion to a speech made in 1852 by a very able and far-seeing statesman, Sir Allan MacNab of Hamilton, Ont., Prime Minister of United Canada, advocating "representation by population", the cry which more than anything else led to Upper Canada's support of Confederation. I do not know whether the speeches of MacNab were preserved, but he was a very able man, and may truly be described as a "builder of the Canadian Commonwealth", entitled to remembrance.
In the main, these orations show how steadfastly Canadian public men have clung to the idea of British connection. At times this sentiment had to be cultivated under very difficult conditions. How much Sir John Macdonald left unsaid in his consistent defence of the principle during times of stress is apparent from a quotation in a speech by Hon. Newton W. Rowell, the last chapter of the volume, which shows that Lord Lyons, British Ambassador to Washington during the "Trent Affair" of the sixties, and his immediate successor, Lord Clarendon, both favoured finding some honourable way of dissolving all connection between England and her North American colonies. There are clear indications in the official life of Benjamin Disraeli, that he, Tory Imperialist though he was, held similar views. It may be accepted as the general view of British statesmen and diplomats of the mid-Victorian period. In an Imperial sense they were less enlightened than their predecessors of the eighteenth century, who, though defeated in the War of the Revolution, were intent on preserving a heritage for the British race and for British institutions on the North American continent. I would not for one moment suggest that British diplomats like Lord Lyons and Lord Clarendon ever deliberately thought of sacrificing our interests as they conceived them, but British support of Canada was, in their eyes, a matter of honour rather than of interest. And it was this fact that sometimes made the task of Canadian statesmen, zealous for the continuance of British connection, doubly difficult.
It is tolerably clear that in 1865 there was in Britain no Imperial statesman of vision equal to that of Sir John Macdonald as he revealed himself in his speech introducing the Act of Confederation before the Legislature of United Canada. He dwelt not only on the advantages to this country but to Great Britain of the proposed arrangement. He declared that the whole colonial system was in a state of transition, and continued: "Instead of looking upon us as a merely dependent colony, England will have in us a friendly nation—a subordinate but still a powerful people—to stand by her in North America in peace or in war. The people of Australia will be such another subordinate nation. And England will have this advantage, if her colonies progress under the new colonial system, as I believe they will, that, though at war with all the rest of the world, she will be able to look to the subordinate nations in alliance with her, and owning allegiance to the same sovereign, who will assist in enabling her to meet the whole world in arms." Fifty years later the prophetic sense of Macdonald was verified on the battlefields of France and Flanders.
There were times when, in support of his ideal, Sir John had to deal with a restive public opinion. Edward Blake's famous "Aurora Speech", delivered in North York in 1874, which charged that Canada's interests had been deliberately sacrificed by the Motherland, was indicative of popular opinion. It will be noted, however, that Blake was careful to assert that the monarchical government of England was a truer application of real republican principles than that of the United States; but he claimed that the government of Canada was a truer application of these principles than either. In this speech Blake seemed opposed to all large combinations, national or imperial. He declared that the United States was too large to be well-governed; and for this reason was emphatically opposed to annexation; but, on the other hand, he seemed dissatisfied with the existing Imperial relation.
The popular sentiment which created this mood in Blake largely arose from the Geneva Award, which pledged Britain to the payment of the "Alabama Claims" and ignored the Fenian Raid claims justly due to Canada, if the "Alabama Claims" were tenable. It was a case of epochal character because it initiated the principle of arbitration in international disputes, but unquestionably it fomented anti-British sentiment in Canada. One of the most remarkable utterances of Macdonald's whole career was made in the House of Commons in 1872 when he defended the Treaty. In view of the circumstances, it is certainly the most courageous speech recorded in Dr. Locke's anthology. To a public in an antagonistic frame of mind he expounded the British point of view; and thus, as was his habit, (though the reverse was charged against him) set his moral convictions above expediency. He told his hearers that England's sacrifices had been made in the interest of peace, and therefore, in the interest of Canada. He did not hesitate to say that Canada's geographical position was a strategical weakness to England in disputes with the United States. "England has got the supremacy of the sea," he said, "she is impregnable at every point but one, and that point is Canada; and if England does call upon us to make a financial sacrifice, does find it for the good of the Empire that we, England's first colony, should sacrifice something, I say that we would be unworthy of our proud position if we were not prepared to do so. I hope to live to see the day, and if I do not, that my son may be spared to see Canada a powerful auxiliary to the Empire; not, as now, a cause of anxiety and a source of danger." Another hope destined to be fulfilled; but where is the political chieftain to-day who dare talk so candidly to the public?
Adherence to British connection at all hazards was not the exclusive political property of Macdonald. It is sounded in the speeches of many others both French and English. It was the traditional policy of the country, the creed even of William Lyon Mackenzie in his less tumultuous moments. In a speech attacking the reigning powers in Upper Canada, which he delivered in 1834, Mackenzie (though later, when half mad with ingrowing desire for power, he raised the flag of revolt) scouted the very idea of independence, and proclaimed the advantage of living "under the wing of an old, a rich and powerful nation, able and willing to protect and encourage our trade and agriculture." "Who," he asked, "would protect Canada's foreign trade; who guard our immense frontiers; who guarantee to us free navigation of the St. Lawrence, but England?"
Of many speeches covering the period of 1840-1865, the fiasco of the Act of Union of 1841, which brought with it not only responsible government, but also the deadlock which resulted in Confederation, is the theme. An address by Hon. Robert Baldwin shows that the bureaucracy did not take kindly to the new system; but as many are aware, the breaking point arose through the provision whereby the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada had a legislative representation precisely equal. In the era of early railroad development, with magnificent virgin soil available to settlers, the population of Upper Canada soon began to outstrip that of Lower Canada, but political representation remained static. In 1859 we find Sir Oliver Mowat demonstrating conclusively the failure of the Legislative Union devised by Lord Durham; and a few years later Macdonald, D'Arcy McGee, George Brown, Tupper, Cartier, and Cartwright, pressing Confederation on the people as the solution of the difficulties of all the British North American colonies.
In the main, Confederation has proven so successful that Canadians of to-day have forgotten that some influential leaders opposed it. The speech of the Quebec "Rouge" leader, Dorion, in opposition to Macdonald and Brown during the parliamentary session of 1865 is a reminder that it had its critics. Dorion feared Confederation as a scheme to swamp French-Canadian influence, and was especially alarmed because the inclusion of the maritime provinces ensured English-speaking preponderance. He also feared that an appointed Senate would be an instrument of tyranny. Singularly enough, the Orange leader in Ontario, John Hilliard Cameron, whose name does not figure in this book, opposed Confederation as a menace to Protestant ascendancy. Perhaps the most cogent and practical address on the great general issues involved is that of Sir George Etienne Cartier, in which he makes dust of these objections. For sheer exalted eloquence the palm must be given to Laurier's speech in the House of Commons in 1891, on the passing of Macdonald, then two days dead. The later orations in the book show how amply the hopes of that statesman and his contemporaries as to Canada's future have been fulfilled. Laurier, in his speech on August 9th, 1914, when Canada was about to enter the war, gave the most eloquent expression to that fulfilment; and Borden, Meighen, and Rowell, in utterances delivered seven years later, revealed the sacrifice and glory it involved. These final utterances give completeness to a volume unique in form and value.
Biographical and documentary material with regard to the career of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911, is probably more complete than in the case of any other Canadian public man. A few years after his accession to power, Sir John Willison wrote a history of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberal Party with the acknowledged collaboration of an able journalist, John S. Maclean, which is remarkably informative as to the origins and growth of Liberalism in Quebec. In 1926 Sir John added chapters covering the later years of Sir Wilfrid's life. After the statesman's death on February 17, 1919, the late Peter McArthur compiled a short volume containing many obituary tributes and much interesting anecdotage. An old friend and supporter, John W. Dafoe, has also published a most interesting little book on Laurier's career.
During his lifetime, Sir Wilfrid had already taken the precaution of selecting an Horatio to absent him from felicity awhile and tell his story, in the person of Professor Oscar Douglas Skelton, then of Queen's University and afterward adviser to the Canadian Department of State. Professor Skelton was placed in possession of many intimate papers which give his book unique interest. Professor Skelton's opus in two volumes was completed in less than three years, and despite the speed of its execution the Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier is a remarkably fine and authoritative performance. Though its two volumes embrace something like a thousand pages, and the task of sifting materials must have been enormous, it bears no evidence of haste or slipshod methods. Its style is lucid and limpid; and though Professor Skelton does not disguise his warm sympathy with Laurier and the opinions and motives which governed most of his actions, nothing that meets one's eye in these volumes would justify the charge of misrepresentation or partizanship. Obviously he had the aim of preserving judicial impartiality without diminishing the exalted fame of the subject of his pen. Authors of political Lives too frequently reduce the importance for posterity of a statesman's victories by belittling his opponents. Professor Skelton, in addition to his other literary virtues, possesses sufficient intellectual detachment to avoid this error. When he does adopt the note of criticism, it is as frequently applied to Laurier's Liberal allies as to his Conservative opponents.
Letters from Sir Wilfrid's pen were not numerous after he became a national figure, because his natural caution led him to prefer the spoken word in his communications. Nevertheless, no point of importance has been left obscure; for Laurier was not a man given to devious ways and his public actions were "sun-clear". Thus Professor Skelton is able to say that his pages "are given to the public with the hope that they may provide his countrymen with the material for a fuller understanding of one who was not only a moving orator, a skilled parliamentarian, a courageous party leader, and a faithful servant of his country, but who was the finest and simplest gentleman, the noblest and most unselfish man, it has ever been my good fortune to know."
A very interesting article could be based on Professor Skelton's footnotes, chiefly consisting of intimate personal expressions from the pen of Sir Wilfrid, which help to illustrate his character and attitude. Professor Skelton does not confine himself to a dry record of Laurier's comings and goings, but gives able character sketches of the men who were from time to time his associates. His summary of Hon. J. Israel Tarte's career would be an especially tempting subject for an article. His account of the C.P.R.'s financial troubles, furnished him by the late Sir William Van Horne, is alive with dramatic interest. One really sensational document, Edward Farrer's confidential report on an abortive bribery conspiracy hatched in Montreal in 1904, sees the light of day for the first time. It is an extraordinary example of the fatuity of intriguing politicians; and incidentally, Sir Robert Borden, of whom Professor Skelton speaks in terms of very high respect, played an honourable part.
In a short essay it is necessary to confine oneself to the career of Laurier as it was known to the people of Canada after he became a national figure, through his selection as leader of the Liberal party, on the retirement of Hon. Edward Blake in the summer of 1887. His early history and what he stood for in the politics of his native province were already revealed in the able first volume of Willison's History of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberal Party; but Professor Skelton's earlier chapters are almost equally illuminative of the "Rouge" tradition which Laurier represented. It can hardly be denied that the Liberal tradition of Quebec is finer, and rests on a stronger foundation, than the Liberal tradition of Ontario. It was more courageous because it combated a dominant church and sought to strengthen a subservient state. Liberal thought in Quebec meant something more than a querulous jealousy of the leaders of civilization and progress, which was what Liberalism too frequently signified in Ontario, until Laurier lent the party the graces of his fine mind and personality. It produced from time to time some very able men, but these naturally gravitated to the Conservative party. It professed a holiness which it clearly did not practice; and in the days of George Brown it fanned the fires of racial hatred whenever it got an opportunity. In short, Ontario Liberalism up to 1887, when Laurier became leader, was very largely a congerie of those forces in the community which were "agin' the government" willy-nilly; and it required all the efforts of a staunch and wily old temperamental Tory like Sir Oliver Mowat to keep the lid on these dissident elements. Edward Blake, Laurier's predecessor, was never at ease with them. The early chieftain, William Lyon Mackenzie, a riotous and malignant person, was more truly representative of its rank and file than either Mowat or Blake ever was. Mowat was quite willing to let Liberals manufacture grievances against the Government at Ottawa, while he was perfecting a very elaborate system of patronage and privilege in the provincial administration.
That Laurier, who if not patrician by birth, was patrician in appearance, bearing and thought,—a Liberal of the type of Lafayette in France, and the second Lord Grey in England,—should have attained the leadership of Ontario Liberalism, and have held it for a longer period and with a greater measure of success than any other man is a remarkable episode in Canada's political history. His party, and probably no other party, will ever know a leader possessing such complete domination over the imagination and respect of so large a percentage of Canadians as did Laurier in 1905. Strangely enough he was among the first to realize that that prestige was disintegrating. There is one letter written early in 1909, more than two years before his fall in 1911, which clearly indicates his belief that the days of his victories were over. Such prescience is extraordinarily rare among political leaders; and this small document completely refutes an old charge that Sir Wilfrid was obsessed by a belief in his own omnipotence.
Another fact which Professor Skelton makes clear is that the leadership was entirely unsought by Laurier. Strangely enough it was the fate of the sanguinary mystic, Louis Riel, author of two risings in the Northwest Territories, which brought about his elevation. It is unquestionable that from boyhood the unity of the French and English speaking races had been Laurier's aim, and the tenets of British Liberalism of the older Whig school his political ideal. The problem of whether Riel should be hanged, which arose after the half-breed rising of 1885, was one of the most difficult that any Canadian government has had to face. The rising had been undoubtedly encouraged by the wobbling and neglect of Sir David McPherson as Minister of the Interior. But that did not alter the fact that Riel was a menace to the West, as evidenced by the fact that the Roman Catholic clergymen of Saskatchewan, almost to a man, favoured his execution. Laurier had the positive conviction that Riel was insane; and that the half-breeds had grievances which justified them taking up arms, since the Government would listen to no argument but force. In truth the Government was too busy over C.P.R. problems to give heed to much else. When the question of hanging Riel arose, all the fires of racial hatred were set alight in both of the central provinces of Canada, and both sides went too far. The moderation and high idealism of Laurier's speeches in the House of Commons revealed his powers, and by moderate men everywhere he was recognized as a leader of superior rank.
Riel's execution cleared the air; and though the Macdonald government's action was upheld by a large majority in Parliament and later sustained at the polls in February, 1887, there was a reaction in favour of the Frenchman who had spoken in tones of moderation. After that defeat Blake was determined to retire from the leadership, and he had so isolated himself from his English-speaking followers that there was no diffidence about accepting his resignation. Obviously he was unfitted for politics by temperament; and was especially handicapped by his austere indifference to associates and followers. But when the question of naming a successor arose there was no one in Ontario to take his place. Finally Blake's own advice was sought and he gave it emphatically:—"There is only one possible choice—Laurier."
The advice came as a surprise, even to Laurier. Professor Skelton says that he had no thought of succeeding to the leadership, and was genuinely averse to accepting the task. "On personal grounds he preferred the quiet life he had been leading, the practice of his profession, the constant browsing in the parliamentary library, the daily warm and pleasant communion with chosen friends, the occasional jousting. On party grounds he doubted, even more than his Ontario friends, the wisdom of choosing a man who was too good a Catholic to suit Ontario and not submissive enough to suit Quebec. If Blake must retire, he was convinced that Sir Richard Cartwright was the man to succeed."
The reasons which led Ontario Liberals to choose him were that Laurier was deemed the man best able to make inroads on Sir John Macdonald's strong personal following in Quebec, which even the Riel affair had not shattered permanently, and because they could not unite under the irascible Cartwright. In Laurier's first campaign as leader, at the general elections of February, 1891, he made an astonishingly good showing. Despite the prestige of the dying Sir John, the latter had a majority of but one in Ontario and Quebec lumped together; and his government was saved by the support of the maritime provinces and the West. If some of Laurier's Ontario followers had not dallied with annexation, and thus given a sinister colour to the reciprocity movement, he would probably have carried the day. With the death of Sir John, four months later, the linch-pin came out of the Conservative party and the victory of 1896 was inevitable, even though the Manitoba School Question had not arisen to give Laurier an opportunity to express those lofty sentiments in favour of unity and moderation which always marked his thought and oratory.
Within five years he had united the forces of Ontario Liberalism and had given it a distinctly improved tone. In 1897, after he had returned from attendance at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, where he had been recognized as a great Imperial figure, it is no exaggeration to say that he had all Canada at his feet. One has been candid in speaking of the short-comings of Ontario Liberalism, but candour compels the admission that the Conservative party also had a horde of undesirable camp-followers,—bigots, agitators, and vulgar grafters. With singular adroitness these had been herded into the Liberal camp in 1896. The more corrupt of them stayed with the party that had the loaves and fishes to bestow. But all could not be rewarded, and the convinced elements of bigotry soon drifted from allegiance to a Roman Catholic leader. This feeling steadily grew; but, on the other hand, Laurier steadily gained prestige among the more enlightened classes of Ontario, and, through his choice of able lieutenants, had firmly entrenched himself in the maritime provinces. It was not until after the elections of 1904, when moral decadence attacked his own cabinet, and charges of "wine, women and graft" assumed serious proportions, that the tide commenced to turn. Professor Skelton tells of Laurier's almost pathetic missionary efforts to reform associates who were sapping the confidence of the better elements of the community. He even imposed pledges on some of them, which were not kept. Then came the fatal return to reciprocity and his fall in 1911. The business elements in the community, that had given him tacit or open support for fifteen years, were estranged and alarmed at the thought of fiscal changes; and the secret and open forces of bigotry were at work. Professor Skelton makes the open charge that Sir Clifford Sifton organized the latter sinister element against his former leader. Sir Wilfrid died in the belief that he was defeated, not by reciprocity, but because of his religious faith,—a bitter thought for an apostle of unity.
It cannot be denied, in justice, that Sir Wilfrid's moderate imperialism and his pro-British sentiments had done something to weaken him in Quebec with the class that corresponds to the Ontario fanatic. Until Canada becomes civilized enough to eliminate creed prejudice, there will always be something gross and disheartening about her politics. The defeat of 1911 was, however, a blessing in disguise. The war was unforeseen, and it is probable that an attempt to grapple with its problems would have carried off Laurier, never a strong man physically, early in the conflict. As it was, he never seemed really to grasp the tremendous issues involved. But Professor Skelton makes it clear that the charge of indifference levelled against him was false, root and branch; and that his objection to conscription was due to the tenacity with which he clung to the dream of his youth, national unity. Even national unity, noble and desirable though it be, must on all occasions submit to the pressure of war necessity. The natural timidity of old age no doubt influenced his attitude, and in opposing conscription he certainly did not discern the political consequences in the world at large of creating an impression that the British Empire was wavering. But, though the fame once so radiant had been overcast by war, Professor Skelton's book enables even opponents to understand Laurier's essential nobility of mind.
Laurier's end came as he would have desired it, if we are to credit the words of the men who knew him well. He had long ago expressed the hope that he would not survive the passing of his mental and physical vigour; and it is well known to his intimates that after 1911 he had become weary of political strife. It is probable that, if he had consulted his own wishes solely, he would have gone into honoured retirement at that time. But partyism, a hard master, kept him in harness until the last. And if it were possible for him to know what has been said of him since his death, he would be happy in the thought that his fine qualities were understood by supporter and opponent alike—were recognized throughout America and beyond the seas. In his case, it is not necessary to invoke the rule that Plutarch ascribes to Solon: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum." Sir Wilfrid was not one of whom any reasonable man would speak evil, however he might differ with his political views. That he was not more infallible than many other political leaders, emphasizes his humanity. Even the bitterness engendered by the emotional excitement of the Great War had flickered out before he passed away, three months after the Armistice.
The position which he achieved was the triumph of a great personality, combined with the highest order of political talent. Unquestionably, he was in his prime a great orator, whose speeches swayed audiences not by demagogic or sectional appeals, but by their persuasive eloquence and moderation. He sounded the note of philosophic wisdom; and approached controversial issues with a sense of detachment that was as marked as his humane warmth and splendid imagery. The impression that he made on the statesmen of Great Britain after he became Prime Minister of Canada did more than anything else to remove that condescending attitude toward "colonials" which prevailed in Downing Street as late as 1895—and in so doing he did not for an instant compromise his ardent Canadianism.
I do not know whether he originated the phrase, "Canada is a hard country to govern", but it was one that was not infrequently on his lips. The possibilities of friction in a country, divided not merely by race and language, but by reactionary and democratic social and religious organizations, are immense, and this country has never lacked a plenitude of secondary politicians of both races who are willing to exploit them. But while Sir Wilfrid, as a keen politician and titular head of a party—whose aim, as that of all political parties must be, was office—could not refuse any votes that came to his mill, his voice was always raised to still prejudice.
It may be truly said of Laurier that his life was, for the most part, a warfare against parish politics, not only in his own province, but elsewhere. Lord Minto's diaries reveal that the mind of the Prime Minister was in a state of intermittent exasperation against parochialism, and that he despaired of its ever being eliminated from Canadian politics. He began his political career as a "Rouge", opposed to reaction. His education had been exceptional. Though his lineage dated from the very earliest days of French occupation in this country, and he was born in a small settlement, he came of scholarly stock, and had learned English from a Scottish resident of St. Lin. His training was crowned by a course at the famous Scottish-Canadian University of McGill, and he was more familiar with the English classics than most of Canada's political agitators for the English language, one and indivisible.
A parochial dispute brought about his defeat at the hands of the Quebec hierarchy in 1877, when he sought election for Arthabaskaville as a member of the Mackenzie administration. It was the good fortune of Canada that the urban constituency of Quebec East at once took him to its bosom, and ever afterward returned him by handsome majorities. Though in 1877 he had been but a few years in politics, and was still in his thirties, Laurier was recognized as the real Liberal leader of the Province of Quebec, whose talents overshadowed those of any man of his race, save perhaps those of the Conservative leader, Chapleau. When he assumed the Dominion leadership in 1887, his party was out-of-hand. Many were grasping at straws; certain leaders whose imaginations were inflamed by the stories of large fortunes made out of politics in the United States, were secret or open advocates of annexation. It was some years before Laurier could set his house in order, and he undoubtedly saved his party from disappearance by driving home the conviction to the public mind that he stood firmly for British connection.
Unless Canada had been persuaded on this point, he could not have achieved his great victory in 1896. In his own Province of Quebec, the efforts of the hierarchy to destroy him on the Manitoba school issue were paralyzed by a circumstance of which the rest of Canada knew little. Times had been hard, and the habitants were incensed against the burden of ecclesiastical tithes. Nevertheless, Laurier had, in 1877, felt the ecclesiastical claws, and proceeded very cautiously until he was assured that he had the bulk of the Canadian community at his back in opposition to coercion in the West. He never craved warfare with the French bishops, whose power he well understood, and it was his last quarrel with them. They themselves learned in 1896 the folly of pursuing crude dictatorial tactics.
The fifteen years of Sir Wilfrid's Premiership were the happiest that Canadian Confederation has known. In office, he proved himself the reverse of that most tedious of all human beings, the fiscal doctrinaire, and dealt with economic conditions as he found them from the standpoint of that enlightened opportunism, which fixes the tariff to meet the general needs of all classes and gives assurance of stability. They were years of trade expansion and prosperity; and Canada found herself in a position of augmented influence not merely in the Empire, but in the world at large. Of these conditions, Sir Wilfrid, as Prime Minister, reaped the logical benefit. It was only when he yielded to the restless spirits within his own party and attempted to interfere with the economic status quo, by the effecting of the Reciprocity Pact of 1911, that disaster came. Professor Skelton says that the unrest to which Sir Wilfrid yielded was largely provoked by muck-raking articles denouncing capital, which were then popular in the cheaper United States magazines. It is said that Sir Wilfrid, who was engrossed with other matters when the reciprocity negotiations were in progress, was alarmed when he learned of the length to which members of his Government had gone in committing him to the Pact, and had originally intended that the whole question should be threshed out in Parliament before the proposals were signed. In reality a much more important error, the only one of serious consequences in his regime, was when he was induced to overrule his own Minister of Railways and extend the National Transcontinental Railway east of Fort William. The end of that quarrel with the Hon. Andrew Blair is not yet. Professor Skelton says that Laurier himself was alive to the danger of excessive railroad building, and tried without success to effect a community of interest between the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway, which would have averted the present colossal railroad debt.
His regime was marked by one signal act which did more than anything else to influence Canada's future position in the Empire. That was the decision to render assistance to Great Britain in the South African war in 1899. It was only arrived at after careful deliberation, and roused enemies in Quebec who have ever since been active. But the superb assistance rendered by Canada to the cause of the Allies in the late war was the logical outcome of the stand Sir Wilfrid took on that issue. The merits or demerits in detail of his naval policy it is not necessary to discuss. Suffice it to say, that in spirit they expressed the same principle of co-partnership with the motherland as a world power.
As has been said, it was Laurier's good fortune that it did not fall to his lot, as a man of seventy-three, to guide the destinies of Canada after the great war broke out in 1914. He was always of frail physique, and as a young man had to give up the practice of law and live in the country to regain his health. Even after he became Prime Minister, there was a time in 1900 when he was so ill in England that some of his associates assumed that he would never return to his native land, and endeavoured to part the garment of leadership among them. To have been confronted with the problem of guiding Canada through the war-period at his advanced years, would undoubtedly have brought about his death sooner than it came. Even as it was, most of us, in looking back, must realize that too much was expected of an aged leader, who, though his bearing was deceptive, was to some extent living in the past.
To have struggled, even with incomplete results, for national unity; to have earned the love and respect of countless Canadians who cared nothing for his political opinions; to have won recognition as one of the greatest orators of his time in any country; to have set the star of Canada higher in the world's estimation than it had ever shone before; to have been honoured in other lands as no Canadian had been prior to his advent to power; to have presided successfully over the destinies of his country during its emergence from adolescence to manhood—these are no small achievements for a French-Canadian boy, born in an obscure settlement in a day when Canada was but a poor and struggling colony. And that is the sum of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's achievement.
Lord Minto, by John Buchan, is an illustration of what a writer of energy and brilliance with a profound sense of human values, can do with material that in ordinary hands would be tedious and prosy. We know how the genius of R. L. Stevenson absolutely failed him when he attempted to write a book on the Samoan controversy. But John Buchan's analytic style, a sober eloquence of phrase, and experience of life make every page of this narrative of old political controversies fascinating. As one closes its pages, one realizes that in his lifetime Canadians did not realize how big a man in mind, judgment, and heart, Lord Minto really was. An uncomfortable feeling of lack of penetration came to some of us a decade or more ago when he died. His record as Governor-General of India in a very difficult period showed that vigour and breadth of his character and mind had been unappreciated, while he dwelt among us.
Mr. Buchan's pages offer us an explanation why his light was to some extent hidden under a bushel during the period (Nov. 1898 to Nov. 1904) that he was Governor-General. He was by heredity a Whig and a stern Constitutionalist. No man who has ever held the Vice-Regal office at Ottawa had quite so full a sense of the obligation to remain behind the scenes in all matters of political controversy. Many people may have thought him a "rubber stamp", but Mr. Buchan's narrative presents facts which show him to have been the reverse; and Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself left it on record that he found him "pretty stiff" at times. Fortunately for the future historian, Lord Minto left copious materials upon which to base a critical biography. During most of his life, he kept a diary in which he recorded his impressions of everything and everybody. His motive for doing so was interesting: he thought it a good means of improving and developing a literary style. While in Canada he also wrote interesting and revealing letters to his younger brothers, all able public men.
It is understood that Mr. Buchan undertook the task from sentimental reasons. The Earls of Minto are the chiefs of the ancient Border clan of Elliot; and Mr. Buchan is the foremost living Border writer. Some of the finest pages in his book are to be found in the "introductory" which gives us a picture of the Elliots and other Border clans as they were in ancient times. Up to the sixteenth century "it was their devilish disposition not to favour an Englishman", as one old chronicler put it. In the reign of Henry VIII the whole crew of Border men were the objects of a most picturesque curse laid on them by the Archbishop of Glasgow at the instance of Cardinal Wolsey, concluding "I condemn them perpetually to the deep pit of hell to remain with Lucifer and all his fellows, and their bodies to the gallows on the Barrow Mure, first to be hangit, syne revin and ruggit with dogs, swine, and other wild beasts abominable to all the world." But the Elliots were a hardy breed and the best talent in the way of cursing could not exorcise them.
The conversion of the Elliots from turbulent moss-troopers into sober men of affairs began early in the seventeenth century after the union of the English and the Scottish crowns under James I. The fortunes of the modern family began with a younger son, Gilbert Elliot, a lawyer, who was mixed up in the Monmouth rebellion of 1685 and sentenced to death and forfeiture, but subsequently pardoned, and in 1705 raised to the bench of the very court that had condemned him to death. The first Earl of Minto was his grandson, born in 1751, a Whig and close associate of Burke. He became Governor-General of India in 1807, and filled the post with marked ability. With him the name of the Earls of Minto became an Imperial one. Of the many able Elliots who intervened between him and Gilbert John, the fourth Earl and subject of this article, suffice it to use Lord Palmerston's phrase, "When in doubt, send an Elliot."
The life of our own Earl of Minto, born in 1845, was in early days restless and adventurous. At that time he bore the title of Lord Melgund. He took his degree at Cambridge with a gown over his riding clothes, and in the late sixties, using the incognito, "Mr. Rollo", was one of the great steeplechase riders of England. In advanced years, while Governor-General of India, he confessed that he would like to have lived the life of a racing trainer; and while Governor-General of Canada he sometimes wished that fate had destined him to be a rancher in Alberta. He entered the Scots Guards and his wandering spirit took him in quest of adventure in many parts of the world. He was in Paris during the Commune, 1871, and later visited the Carlist army in Spain. He was a war correspondent in the Russo-Turkish war in 1878. A little later he was in Afghanistan with his friend, Lord Roberts, and by a narrow chance escaped assassination. He did brave service as an officer of mounted rifles in the Nile campaign of the early eighties. Mounted infantry, indeed, was his lifelong hobby, and whenever he was at home he actively promoted the efficiency of his own volunteer corps, the Border Mounted Rifles. Having visited many parts of the world, he eagerly accepted an invitation to come to Canada in 1883 as Military Secretary to the then Governor-General, Lord Lansdowne. One of his earliest services in this country was to assist in the organization of the Nile Voyageurs for service in Egypt, where the exigencies of Lord Wolseley's campaign demanded river men of the type that great soldier had used in Canada in conveying an expeditionary force for the suppression of the first Riel rebellion. As soon as the Riel Rebellion of 1885 broke out, Lord Melgund was sent to the front as Chief of Staff; and he had lifelong affection for the 90th Regiment of Winnipeg, the first of the volunteer battalions to reach the scene of the disturbances. Canadians of to-day are inclined to regard the 1885 rebellion as trivial because the casualties were small. But in few of the little wars in which the British Empire has been engaged has there been more heroic service than that of the untrained levies from Canadian cities who, with limited transport facilities in the rigours of March weather on the prairies, pacified a vast territory. There was no time for delay; everything had to be improvised; and to a true military expert like Lord Minto the campaign was one that reflected lasting glory on Canadian valour and resource.
Lord Minto had settled down in middle age to the life of a Scottish country gentleman when, in 1898, the summons of Imperial service came once more. Greatly to his own surprise, he was offered the Governor-Generalship of Canada, followed in 1905 by that of the Vice-Regency of India, the highest of all Imperial offices, in which the Viceroy not merely reigns but governs, and exercises a direct personal authority far greater than that of the King himself in Britain. Lord Minto's achievements in India form the most important chapters of Mr. Buchan's book. Taking up the task at the time when affairs had become embarrassed by the quarrels of Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchener, when the rising tide of Indian sedition had become formidable, he combined firmness, liberality, and far-seeing statesmanship in such a degree as to command the admiration of every shade of opinion, native and white. It is singular that the most fervent tribute to his greatness comes from Mrs. Annie Besant. The most significant proof of his abilities as an administrator is that Great Britain has found no successor of equal prestige with the peoples of Hindustan, despite the fact that he made no pretensions to intellectual brilliance but contented himself with the virtues of simplicity, honesty, and tolerance.
It is, however, the Canadian chapters that are the most important to our purpose, and a few errata in the matter of dates does not detract from their profound importance. As we look back, those years 1898 to 1904 were more important in the history of Canada's Imperial relations than any of us realized at the time. They were the years in which Canada took the revolutionary step of participating in the South African war and thus paved the way for participation in the Great War. They were the years of Joseph Chamberlain's effort to cement the Empire in bonds of trade interest. They were the years in which the whole question of national defence (and it should be added of rational defence) was under review; the years of governmental controversies with distinguished soldiers like General Hutton and Lord Dundonald, who had come to Canada as commanders-in-chief of the Canadian militia, under the mistaken impression that the office signified a post of actual authority.
Lord Minto, by personal experience, knew a great deal of the possibilities of the Canadian militia and was interested as a hobby in the problems of national defence. The situation he found when he reached Ottawa in 1898 was briefly this:—Certain elements in the Laurier Government, flushed with recent accession to power, were determined to hamstring the militia, because they thought that it was a Conservative party machine. If it were to be allowed to survive, it was their opinion that appointments should go by political favour, rather than long service and ability. This book furnishes proof that one member of the Laurier cabinet who died unsuspected, Hon. Richard Scott, was to all intents and purposes an enemy of British connection. He carried his antipathies so far that, as Secretary of State, he tried to prevent a state memorial service for the late Queen Victoria, and actually succeeded in inducing Sir Wilfrid Laurier to absent himself after he had promised to attend. In contrast, eminent French-Canadian leaders like Hon. J. Israel Tarte, and Hon. Mr. Parent, then Premier of Quebec, showed their loyalty and breadth of view by co-operating.
During Lord Minto's regime, the Militia Department of Canada was in the hands of a minister who was little better than a buffoon; and partizans like Hon. Sidney Fisher were constantly trying to interfere with the service. The institution of a British Commandant for the Canadian militia had not been abolished, but nothing that might make the position unbearable for a soldier of conscience and efficiency was overlooked. First there was the Hutton episode; and the recall of an able general was asked because he had tried to do his duty. This was hard to bear, for Gen. Hutton was his friend, but Lord Minto stuck strictly to his constitutional position, though his chagrin was known. Later came the Dundonald quarrel, and another recall. Lord Minto was less sympathetic in this case, because he thought Lord Dundonald a bit of a demagogue. These disputes, however, faded into insignificance in comparison with that which arose in connection with Canada's participation in the South African War. Lord Minto's sympathies were divided; he suspected that the war was not a just one, and had a profound personal distrust for Cecil Rhodes. As a Whig constitutionalist, he felt that nothing should be done without the assent of Parliament; but, nevertheless, he regarded it as essential that the Empire should present a united front toward Kruger. As we know, popular sentiment triumphed over constitutional theory; and the pressure of outside events forced the government to take up the whole question of national defence and militia efficiency in a serious way.
For the silent figure at Rideau Hall the instability on such questions of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who had privately confided to Lord Minto his theory that Canada was a series of parochial communities which could not be governed by large theories of statesmanship, was a source of trial. Lord Minto, on what he had reason to assume was authoritative information, would send a despatch to London announcing that the government had decided on a certain course, only to find the Prime Minister reversing the decision in a day or two. Yet he liked Laurier immensely; thought him brilliant, and, personally, more honest than most men. By heredity and training a man of action, he was puzzled to know how to deal with one whose temperament constantly inclined toward inaction. Once, in later years, he told Joseph Chamberlain that Laurier was a great gentleman. "I would rather," said Chamberlain, "do business with a cad who knows his own mind." But Lord Minto could not assent to this; he had no use for a cad under any circumstances.
Two things Lord Minto was able to induce Laurier to do without hesitation and quibble. One was to reform the abuses in the government of the Yukon territory, of which he made a personal investigation. The other was to establish the Dominion Archives Department and preserve invaluable historic documents then in course of destruction. But the outside world knew nothing of how actively and conscientiously the silent sportsman took part in the duties of government. Nor did they know of his profound love for this country, surpassing that of many native-born Canadians, which found emotional expression in his diaries. Certain pages of these diaries are written almost in a spirit of lyrical exaltation. No son, adoptive or native, ever loved Canada more deeply.
The material for a consistent picture of the development of Canadian social and political life, especially in the period between 1850 and 1900, is much more extensive than many readers suppose.
Books of intimate recollections which give vivid pictures of the development of English-speaking settlements from primitive bush clearings to the present era of well-paved roads, garages, and radios, would more than fill the standardized "six-foot shelf". Even in the highly developed pastoral districts of Ontario, in which to-day the farmsteads give a suggestion of mellowed permanence, there are men and women alive who were literally "cradled in a sap trough". Within a few years after the influx to Canada of sterling yeoman settlers of British origin, there came into being a village community in many respects more vital and interesting than that of rural districts in Eastern Canada to-day. Of the numerous books of memoirs which reveal the evolution of English-speaking Canada from its pioneer beginnings, I select two, because the authors, owing to their training as newspaper men, are able to relate their recollections vividly, and because wide experience in national affairs later gave them a sense of values and perspective. The two books I have in mind are Reminiscences of a Raconteur by the late George H. Ham, for many years assistant to the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Reminiscences, Political and Personal by Sir John Willison, long recognized as the most eminent of Canadian journalists and, for the past decade and more, correspondent in this country of the London Times.
In reading Reminiscences of a Raconteur by George H. Ham, who died in April, 1926, in his seventy-ninth year, the title strikes one as inadequate. Its contents are a permanent contribution to the social history of Canada. George Ham reveals himself as much more than a mere teller of funny stories. He shows himself a first hand observer of the development of Canada from the days when Sarnia and Windsor, Ontario, represented its western confines. Glance at the earlier chapters of the book and you will find the revelation that this man, who remained younger in temperament than many half a century his junior, actually stole a ride on the first Grand Trunk train that entered Toronto. It makes one feel how young a country English-speaking Canada is. The wayward youth who stole that ride in 1856 was but nine years of age, for he was born on August 23rd, 1847. Those of us who saw the first trolley car in Canada run on the northern outskirts of Toronto feel rather elderly, but here is George Ham boasting of having ridden on the first railroad train which connected the lake region with the East.
Before touching on other incidents related in his book, it may be worth while saying something about George Ham's position in later life. He was for many years the assistant to the President of the C.P.R., the largest privately owned railroad corporation on earth. Its only competitor in the scale of vastness is the Canadian National railway system. His particular duties as a sort of liaison officer between the corporation he represented and the many august individuals who made the transcontinental tour of Canada after the prairie country and the Rockies began to attract the attention of the world, probably brought him in contact with more distinguished men than any other Canadian. In addition he enjoyed an enormous personal acquaintance with all sorts and conditions among his fellow Canadians, constantly augmented in each passing year. An old-time newspaper man with a gift of racy expression, and a penetrating eye for the humours and ironies of human existence, the accumulation of his reminiscences was enormous. Though the 330 pages of his book are packed with brief commentary and incident, Mr. Ham but skimmed the surface of his experiences and, in the case of almost every topic he deals with, his narrative could be infinitely extended. His chapters have the effect of a pageant, disclosing the emergence of English-speaking Canada from the simple parochial conditions of sixty or seventy years ago to its present highly complex development. And in the narrative a shrewd and kindly personality is constantly revealed.
He was born at Trenton, Ont., one of the early U. E. Loyalist settlements of the Bay of Quinte district. His father was a doctor, who had turned lawyer—a not infrequent transformation in those days,—and in 1849 the elder Ham was appointed a sort of legal Pooh-bah at Whitby, Ont., twenty odd miles east of Toronto. Except for the advent of the telephone and the motor car, and the addition of a government hospital and a high railway embankment, I do not suppose that the Whitby of to-day is much changed from the Whitby of George Ham's school days. Its invitingly hospitable homes, surrounded by trees, have a quality of dignity and peace, a sense of fine traditions, not to be found in the newer towns of Canada. In George Ham's boyhood it was relatively a more important place than it is to-day, and I have heard old Whitbians declare that if only the old Northern Railway, which first connected the Georgian Bay region with Lake Ontario, had adopted their town instead of Toronto as its terminal, it would have been equally important. Anyhow, it was a good town to be reared in, and the account that George Ham gives of his schooldays there and his apprenticeship in the office of the Whitby Chronicle, has that charm which memories of the ever-so-long-ago possess for all who have unconsciously drifted into middle age. He speaks with a great deal of sentiment and respect of the school-master who was chiefly responsible for teaching marksmanship to his youthful ideas. The latter was a young mathematician named William McCabe, who subsequently became one of the most renowned of Canadian actuaries and the founder of the North American Life Assurance Company. Whitby has produced many individuals who have subsequently become famous in a wider field, of whom not the least is the British politician, Sir Hamar Greenwood, Bart.
For all the experiences of Mr. Ham as boy and youth, readers must go to the book itself. The stolen ride on the first train that ran between Whitby and Toronto, was of course the red-letter event of his childhood. Subsequently he varied newspaper work with commercial attempts, like clerking in a general store at the then pioneer settlement of Walkerton, Ont.,—not a very successful experiment. Of the early political campaigns and the protagonists of those conflicts, he tells us much that is entertaining. Especially interesting is his account of the Reform leader, Archibald McKellar. For many readers of to-day the name means nothing; but those who have looked at Wyly Grier's picture of Edward Blake as a young man, which hangs in the Legislative buildings at Toronto, have also seen McKellar's countenance. At Mr. Blake's suggestion (I suppose) the artist included portraits of his old desk-mates in the Ontario Assembly, Archibald McKellar and Alexander Mackenzie. Mr. Ham says that, although he did not call himself by that name, McKellar was the first farmer-leader in this country. Sixty years ago he thundered on the platform the very arguments that agrarian politicians circulate to-day, but he had no desire for independent political action, or to be other than just a plain militant "Grit". Mr. Ham relates a pleasant anecdote of his first meeting with the politician, at a time when he had transferred his services to the Whitby Gazette, and was active in the many campaigns which took place in that famous fighting ground, the old constituency of South Ontario.
"It was in one of these campaigns," he says, "that a nice looking gentleman of middle age called at the Gazette office and politely asked to see the exchanges. I had no idea of his identity, and we soon entered into an interesting conversation. He asked me my honest opinion of the leading politicians, and I, with the supreme wisdom and irrepressible ardour of youth, fell for it. I was a red-hot Tory, and what he didn't learn of the Grits from me wasn't worth knowing. I particularly denounced Archie McKellar, whom I termed the black sheep of the political crew at Toronto, and vehemently proceeded to inform him of all that gentleman's political crimes and misdeeds. He encouraged me to go on with my abusive fulminations, and he went away smiling and told me it was the most pleasant hour he had spent in a long time. I was present at the public meeting that afternoon in my capacity as a reporter—for in those days the editor was generally the whole staff and was sickeningly astounded when, to repeated calls for 'Archie McKellar', my pleasant visitor of the morning arose amidst the loud plaudits of his political supporters. I,—say, let's draw the curtain for a few minutes. After the meeting I met Mr. McKellar and apologized for my seeming rudeness, but he only laughed pleasantly at my discomfiture, and told me he thoroughly enjoyed our morning seance and that he didn't fully realize before how wicked he was until I picturesquely and vividly depicted his deep, dark, criminal political career. We became fast friends, and I soon learned that Archie was not nearly as black as he had been painted, as perhaps none of us are—nor as angelic."
Ham was one of the pioneers of journalism in the Northwest Territories and was an editor in Winnipeg, then devoid of railway communications except through Minnesota, as early as 1875.
After he had been in the West for more than a decade he was sent East as representative of a Winnipeg newspaper in the Press Gallery at Ottawa, and saw much of political leaders of the eighties. Forty years of life had mellowed his partizanship. The political careers of the famous Liberal leaders, Edward Blake and Alexander Mackenzie,—both victims of party ingratitude,—strike him as tragic. Both had rendered great service to the cause of Liberalism, but both were permitted to depart from public life in this country unhonoured. Mackenzie, especially, he regarded with respect, as a man who had sacrificed himself to the public service without just reward.
He speaks of other tragedies also; and one that touched him deeply was the fall of Charles Rykert, a staunch Tory fighter and member for Lincoln in the House of Commons. Rykert was, in 1890, accused by Sir Richard Cartwright of having eight years previously profited to the extent of $75,000 in a timber transaction. "As a matter of fact," says Mr. Ham, "the transaction was fully in accordance with the law as it then stood, and no such profit as that reported was made. Indeed, it is to be doubted that Charlie got enough to pay him for his trouble. However the charge was pressed and it ended Mr. Rykert's political career, for he resigned his seat before the session closed."
A low order of political expediency seems to have inspired the desertion of Rykert by his political friends; but the party was in deep waters, and he was hypocritically denounced by fellow members anxious to advertise their own high ideals to the community at large. These are my words, not Mr. Ham's. But the tale he tells of the ostracism of this loyal fighter, and of the agonized countenance of Rykert when he learned that one supposed friend after another was assailing him, is indeed calculated to arouse a sense of the callous selfishness of partizan politics. Of one of those "unfriendly friends" Rykert sorrowfully said, "And he—he got his share of the campaign funds, and wanted more." The same thing happened in connection with Sir Hector Langevin and the McGreevy scandal. "Of those who may have benefited" says Mr. Ham, "not one came to the assistance of the accused men. Nobody turned a finger in their behalf in their time of trouble."
But his pictures of Canadian politics are not all on the seamy side. He quotes examples of independence and humour in public men. Sir Charles Tupper he especially admired. He relates that when some Portage la Prairie supporters, who were dissatisfied with something or other Sir Charles had done, wired him from Manitoba that they did not see their way clear to support him in that particular measure, they received a curt reply which read, "You had better vote Grit." He also tells a most amusing story of Hon. John Henry Pope, whom, it is now generally known, was the most trusted and steadfast of Sir John Macdonald's advisers in his days of trial. Though Pope was not a polished speaker, his ingenuous sincerity was a great asset. On one occasion he squelched a long and savage attack on himself by the brilliant rhetorician, Sir Richard Cartwright, by slowly rising and saying, "Mr. Speaker, there ain't nothin' to it."
Very interesting also is the varied material dealing with the rise and development of the Canadian West. George Ham knew it intimately from the outset, for he first went to Winnipeg, to follow the newspaper calling, in 1875. He was eye-witness of that amazing outburst of financial madness, the Winnipeg land-boom of 1881-2, when men made imaginary fortunes over-night, and auction sales were held day and night in the rooms of Jim Coolican, Walter Dufour and Joe Wolf. One man he speaks of was a barometer for his friends. "When he claimed to have made $10,000 or $15,000 in a single day everything was lovely. The next day when he could only credit himself with $3000 or $4000 to the good, things were not as well, and when the profits dropped, as some days they did, to a paltry $500 or $600, the country was going to the dogs." And the craze ended even more suddenly than it began. "It was," says Mr. Ham, "the morning after the night before; and a mighty sad one it was." Personally I remember Coolican, above alluded to, as a prematurely aged and impoverished man in Toronto seven or eight years after the Winnipeg boom broke. Legend had it that on one occasion, after a successful day in real estate at Winnipeg, he had filled a bath tub full of champagne and immersed himself in it. But his career as a great spender was over. He could be seen slipping into the cheapest "beaneries" to get a meal within the limits of his purse.
The Reminiscences of a Raconteur covers so wide a field and deals intimately with so many phases of Canadian life that nearly every page illuminates some episode in Canada's development.
It is pleasant to take up Sir John Willison's Reminiscences, Political and Personal, because of the essential spirit of justice which pervades his portraits of the public men who influenced the course of events in Canada during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. If to be a democrat is to hold the conviction that every man who has held public office in the past forty years betrayed his trust, and was indifferent to the interests of "the people"; if to be a patriot is to hold in abhorrence all who differ in opinion with one upon great issues involving national destiny; then Sir John is neither democrat nor patriot. Nevertheless, I, for one, discern the best democracy and the truest patriotism in the spirit that lies back of his pen pictures of men and events. Especially does one note a confidence in the genius of the Canadian people for arriving at solutions, which tend in the long run to shape for us a position of national greatness, within what must be regarded as a noble and beneficent Empire. The pen portraits are not panegyrics; the faults and quiddities of Canadian political leaders, as well as their merits, are clearly limned. With sure analysis, illumined by a sense of humour, Sir John reveals the sources of their power and influence.
The author's own career, laid bare without egotism, is at once unique and typical, possible only in a young country, peopled by good stock. Born on a clearing in the Huron tract, shortly after the Crimean war, his absorption in politics, and his zeal for a participation in public affairs, seems to have been lifelong. We get a picture of him walking four miles to the village of Varna to attend a political meeting in 1872. "I was just fourteen years of age," he says, "and to me, Varna, with two general stores, a shoemaker and a blacksmith, a wagon-maker, a tavern, two churches and an Orange Hall, was a considerable community." We get other pictures of the pioneer days on the shores of Lake Huron: "Rude times, perhaps, but men were neighbourly, limbs were strong, and hearts were sound. How women bore and reared children and did the cooking and choring and making and mending of those days, only God, who pities and strengthens, understands." The country, even in those days, was not without its intellectual pleasures, however, for he tells of another village—Greenwood, in Ontario county—where he lived for a time, which possessed a Mechanics' Institute at which the classics of English literature were available to lads with a zeal for reading. Necessarily, the warfare of politics furnished a real stimulus and recreation to rural communities. With partizans the countryside was assuredly peopled; and if, as one of our new leaders has said, partyism is a public sin, the men and women "who sleep well in their quiet beds of the hillsides" are deeply damned. The depth and breadth of it is almost inconceivable to a city-reared man. Willison himself heard Alexander Mackenzie, while Prime Minister of Canada, say from a public platform: "The heart of the average Tory is deceitful above all thengs and desperately wecked." The laughing insouciance with which Sir John Macdonald met such assaults drove many old Grits to desperation. In the many anecdotes about platform utterances which this book contains, it will be noted that the old timers drove home their points pungently, and with humour. There was less of the "moral infection of clap-trap" which afflicts public speakers and journalists to-day, as with a pestilence.
Young Willison was of the fibre to make his dreams come true. He got away from the farm as soon as he could, and he confesses that no one who knows him will suggest that he would have made a good farmer. His hobby was public affairs, and his chief aspiration to become editor of the Toronto Globe, though in Huron county he must have seemed like a changeling, for his father was a staunch Tory, and his Liberalism was acquired in a wanderjahr that took him through various small towns in Ontario, proof-reading and scribbling for country weeklies. Rejected in an effort to secure a position on the Globe staff, we find him at the age of twenty-five setting type and reading proofs on the London Advertiser, with the privilege of reporting as well. His remuneration under contract for a year was $3 per week. Once in later years he told the late Hon. A. S. Hardy of this, and of expending $2.75 per week for his board. "What in h—ll did you do with the other quarter?" was the response. The London editor, John Cameron, who had driven a hard bargain when he took him into the Advertiser office, proved a real friend, once he had discovered his quality, for when he became editor of the Globe, he took Willison to Toronto with him. In June, 1890, when Cameron returned to London, the apprentice of seven years previously became his successor in the chair of Hon. George Brown. At thirty-two Willison had achieved his dream; he was not only the editor of Canada's most historic newspaper; but from that day onward he has taken a part in affairs, more intimate and influential than that of any journalist in Canada, an adviser whom Liberals by instinct consulted, and whom Conservatives profoundly respected.
By temperament and early experience it was impossible for him to become a very rigid partizan: he was too much given to weighing and analyzing men and issues to indulge in hatreds. In fact, the intellectual independence of the higher order of journalist has ever been the despair of the party leader who tries to make him his bond-servant. In this volume it is clear that it was Sir John's obstinacy in adhering to cautiously formed opinions that led to the severance of relations with political friends.
There are many interesting revelations about the secret diplomacy of politics that do credit to the man and the methods he pursued. It is clear that he did a lasting service to the Liberal party by his course, as its most important journalistic mouthpiece and intimate adviser. At the time he became editor of the Globe, influences were strongly at work to commit that party to political union with the United States or a form of independence, which was but a halfway house to the same goal. The young editor stood first, last, and all the time for British connection, and helped to stifle the ill-begotten nursling of annexation almost at its birth. He was determined that it should never become a political issue at all, and he took long chances with his own position to accomplish that end. And he makes it clear that Sir Wilfrid Laurier was equally sound in this matter of British connection.
Another great service Sir John Willison rendered to Canadian journalism—that of banishing extreme partizanship from the news columns of daily newspapers. Prior to his assumption of the editorship of the Globe, political meetings were dealt with, not from the standpoint of news value, but from that of party interest. Thus a Liberal meeting would be reported at great length; and a Conservative one unfairly abridged, with the more telling statements in the speeches edited out of the report. Willison changed all this; and in time other journals saw the wisdom of following the same policy. In so doing, he lifted the Globe from a hazardous financial position into prosperity. Men who disagreed with the views in its editorial columns, subscribed to the paper because of the fairness and excellence of its news. The spirit of independence he introduced in newspaper work, in time broke the back of interference with editors by political leaders and political emissaries, which had become a widespread abuse. There were partizans who sought his head and did not graciously submit to the new orders of things; but the principle of fair and unbiased reporting based on news values had come to stay.
Nevertheless, Sir John is not harsh toward party leaders. He gives them the credit that is due them, for a sincere desire to arrive at policies which would be acceptable to the whole people and further the interests of Canada. This, of course, is a matter of self-preservation with all politicians. When I first read the Reminiscences, I had hoped for a chapter on the farmer in politics by the Canadian journalist best qualified by experience to write it, but found none. Reading the book, however, one realizes how absurd is the charge that party leaders in the past have ignored the interests of the farmer. It is clear that the farmer's vote has been the prime subject in the thoughts of Canadian political leaders from Confederation until this day. It was the farmers who took the keenest enjoyment in the Berserk partizan warfare of the old days; it was the farmers who most readily forgot party and supported the policy of protection and helped to force it on reluctant and doubtful Conservative leaders. The number of city men by birth and education who have played a part in our affairs is small in comparison with boys from the farm like Sir John Willison. It is clear from these pages that it has always been the countryside—its prejudices as well as its interests—that has been the prime factor in shaping Canadian legislation.
On a sunny autumn afternoon in October, 1923, death came suddenly to John Wilson Bengough, a pioneer Canadian cartoonist, who at one time held a unique position in Canadian journalistic and political life. He had been warned to expect such an event nearly a year before, when it became clear that he was a victim of angina pectoris. At the time death came to him, at his home in Toronto, he was busy drawing a cartoon designed to be one of a series attacking the habit of cigarette smoking. Despite his strong antipathy to many things which seem acceptable and congenial to the average man, few Canadians of his time were more widely known or more generally held in affection. For many, the cheerful and kindly qualities of his temperament softened the angularity of his views.
The late Mr. Bengough was born in Toronto on April 5th, 1851, but reared and educated at Whitby, Ont. His entry into journalism took place in 1871, when he became a reporter on the Toronto Globe, then conducted by Hon. George Brown with a brother, Gordon Brown, as managing editor. Just at that time the greatest and most successful of all campaigns ever conducted by a cartoonist, that of the famous Thomas Nast against the "Tweed Ring" in New York, was in progress in the pages of Harper's Weekly, and it inspired young Bengough to try and develop his natural talent for drawing, and to emulate Nast in the field of Canadian politics. To prepare himself for his task he took lessons at the Ontario School of Art, at the same time practising by making sketches of the men with whom his duties as a reporter brought him in contact. In the early seventies the Browns, like most other newspaper publishers in Canada and the United States, had no perception of the part cartoons and illustrations were destined to play in the daily press of this continent. It was left for Hugh Graham (Lord Atholstan) of the Montreal Star to initiate in America the practice of using newspaper illustrations. This occurred about 1876 and brought to the fore the great illustrator Henri Julien, probably the most gifted artist at any time connected with the press of Canada.
The ambitions and initiative of young Bengough were to find another outlet than the daily press. On May 24, 1873, at the age of twenty-two, he had the courage to embark on the hazardous waters of weekly journalism with the once famous comic paper Grip. The title and the cover were happily conceived. Mr. Bengough was all his life a Dickens enthusiast, and took his title from the raven in Barnaby Rudge. Throughout the eighteen years during which Grip continued to be issued, a raven with a quill in his beak always appeared on the cover. The young editor and cartoonist wrote much of the text and drew most of the illustrations, his weekly stint involving an enormous output of nervous energy. It is said that Grip attracted small attention at first, but the incidence of the "Pacific Scandal", a political issue which came to the fore in 1873, gave Bengough a chance to jump into the arena as "the Canadian Nast", and placed Grip on firm commercial foundations. The scandal seems petty enough in the light of subsequent events; it related to alleged subscriptions to the Conservative campaign fund by capitalists, whom Sir John Macdonald was trying to induce to build the Canadian Pacific railway, in accordance with a promise made to British Columbia at the time of its entrance into Confederation. But at that time five cents looked as large as a dollar does to-day to most Canadians; and no doubt many Grits or Reformers had convinced themselves that Sir John in promoting a Pacific railway, was merely adopting a ruse to raise campaign funds. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, it led to the defeat of the Macdonald government in the autumn of 1873, and it made Grip, for it was admitted that Bengough had contributed much to the Reform victory by his cartoons.
The kindliness of his nature showed itself even in those early days of ardent partizanship. He probably shared the views of the Brown school of Reformers that "John A." was the root of all evil, and the Tories incorrigibly perverse and wicked; but it was his policy to avoid vulgarity, and publish no cartoon that would give pain and offence. Thus, in the succeeding years, Grip found entrance to many homes in Canada irrespective of political leanings. During the seventies and eighties many public figures were made familiar by Bengough's pencil. Sir John A. Macdonald's expressive nose and "actorish" hair were great assets to a cartoonist, and it is a fact that Grip lost its savour and went out of existence shortly after the old statesman's death in 1891. But other public figures of that day were useful material. Old timers recall Bengough's handling of the gnome-like features of Sir Oliver Mowat, and the comic twist he gave the dour, sterling countenance of Hon. Alexander Mackenzie. The face of the former, because of his Caithness ancestry, was of a Norwegian cast; that of Mackenzie pure Scottish granite. Again, the elongated, lath-like figure of Goldwin Smith, who in his earlier years in Canada was active in connection with all public questions, attained a widespread fame under Bengough's hand.
Grip died through outside competition. It could not match the finely produced comic weeklies of the United States, Puck, Judge and Life, or the exquisite finesse of Punch. Bengough, too, as years went on, became more of a propagandist and less of a cartoonist. He lost ground in Canada, where new men of higher technical ability, like Sam Hunter, were coming to the fore, through trying to crowd too much verbal argument into his pictures. It is a test of excellence in a cartoon that it should be accompanied by a minimum of explanatory text. Nevertheless, in addition to being a cartoonist and humorist, Bengough had sound business ideas. For example, in order to make his cuts for Grip economically, he introduced the process of zinc etching into Canada, and founded a company that adopted new processes of picture reproduction as they were developed. Thus he was a pioneer of the modern commercial engraving industry, which has since attained vast dimensions and largely superseded old-fashioned lithography and wood block engraving.
In the thirty odd years following the demise of Grip, Bengough's pencil was active in the advocacy of various causes. Mentally he had a strong appetite for new ideas and "isms". He was one of the early advocates of prohibition and woman's suffrage, and in his last years an opponent of tobacco. Single tax, proportional representation, and many other radical theories won his ardent devotion; and his liking for novelty even led him, for a time at least, to accept the Baconian theory. He had a rooted distrust of accumulated wealth, and of the manufacturing class in general. His angular views influenced his cartoons, but his pleasant, vivacious nature prevented his ever being regarded merely as a "crank".
A very genial phase of his career was the comic lectures or "Chalk Talks" which he began in the early seventies, and which he continued to deliver in many parts of Canada, as well as other countries, for half a century. In fact, when the warning of the fateful malady which carried him off came to him, it was at the close of a lecture in Moncton, N.B., and it is supposed to have been induced by over-work during a previous Western tour.
In a very busy life, Mr. Bengough found time to publish books, and his cartoon history of Canadian politics, for which he made wide investigations and dug out the work of earlier men, is now a precious work of high market value. His reminiscences also throw light on by-gone phases of Canadian life.
One of the most valuable "one-man" collections of paintings in America, from the commercial as well as other standpoints, is the display of Paul Kane's studies of the North American Indians, which is installed in that great treasure-house of priceless things, the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Among the younger generation, too few know the romantic story of Paul Kane, the pioneer of those Canadian artist-travellers, who, since his day, have become very numerous, and have recorded the distinctive beauties of Canadian scenery and wild life in innumerable pictures—good, bad, and indifferent. Paul Kane hardly comes within the category of the great painters, but he was assuredly one of the great illustrators. His canvases constitute the best existing record of the dress, manners, and customs of the redmen of the great North-West before it had been invaded by white civilization, and while the Indians still lived as hunters, trappers, and fishermen, not as Government wards.
Some may be inclined to contest this claim and award the laurel to Catlin. But though Catlin's fame is well established, it is now admitted by ethnologists that complete reliance cannot be placed on his accuracy, whereas there is no question of the exactness and verisimilitude of Paul Kane's pictures. I am told by those better qualified to speak than I, that Catlin was a confirmed "pot boiler". He had undoubtedly obtained copious material during his wanderings among the Indians, but when he returned to the East he painted Indian subjects romantically, as fancy dictated; whereas Kane was nothing if not a hardened realist, and as meticulous in detail as a pre-Raphaelite.
He was a writer as well as a painter and draughtsman, and his Wanderings of an Artist among the Indian Tribes of North America, published in London, England, by Longmans in 1859, is a classic of its kind. Indeed, from Kane's literary remains and from the recorded recollections of those who knew him, a very interesting monograph could be written. He was a wanderer by instinct, like George Borrow, and claimed to have visited every part of the earth at various times—and he was a Celt. Ireland's artists in all fields have made contributions to civilization that almost balance the mischief wrought by her politicians, and Kane was of the former class. Nicholas Flood Davin, one of the earliest writers to celebrate the painter, emphasizes the racial factor in his book, Irishmen in Canada. His father, Michael Kane, a soldier, came to Canada with his wife, a Dublin woman, in the entourage of Governor Simcoe, and after discharge from the army remained in Toronto, then the muddy town of York. In later years he kept a liquor store on the west side of Yonge street, between King and Adelaide streets. Old citizens of Toronto, surviving into the twentieth century, remember the old sign, "Kane, Spirit Store".
Paul Kane was born in muddy York in 1810, and was as a child attracted to the Indians. Davin says: "The child's growing mind could not fail to be influenced by the picturesque Indian figures then still to be seen haunting the Don, while Indian trails ran where King and Yonge streets are to-day." The latter statement is a characteristic flourish. During Kane's boyhood, stores and churches were erected around the spot in question, although the Mississauga Indians, not by any means so handsome as the equestrian types of the plains, lived in wigwams on a cleared piece of land near what was then the mouth of the Don River. I surmise that this would be near what are now the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition—for it was not until many years later that wind and wave opened the eastern gap and gave the Don its later outlet.
It is intimated by J. W. L. Forster, of Toronto, a fellow painter, who has also written of Kane, that the boy learned his craft from a Mr. Drury, an eccentric drawing master, well known in York. It is said that Paul's artistic bias was regarded with distrust by his father as a ne'er-do-well symptom; and the youth was made to turn his talents to practical account. The late W. H. Pearson, a venerable citizen of Toronto who in his old age published his memories, says that, as a young man of twenty-odd, Kane carried on the business of a coach, sign and house painter at 158 King street west. Later he went to Cobourg, Ont., and from there to several American cities, where he followed the same pursuit, and painted pictures as well. By 1841, when he had turned thirty, he had gotten together enough cash to justify his ambition to travel and study in Europe. Still facing parental opposition, he made his way to New Orleans, and sailed for Marseilles. The next four years were spent in short sojournings in the leading cities of France and Italy, where he walked the galleries and improved his craft. At Naples he embarked on a Levantine cruiser to visit Northern Africa and Western Asia. While en route to Jerusalem with a party of explorers, the Arab guides deserted the party. They were obliged to make their way to the coast unaided and endured great hardship. On his return to Toronto in 1844, Kane published his book, Travels, and in its preface announced the project which was to bring him fame, if not fortune—that of painting a series of pictures illustrative of North American Indians and scenery. Thus was the collection, now in the Royal Ontario Museum, conceived.
Kane found a patron in the late Senator George W. Allan, one of the most public-spirited of Torontonians, who gave Allan Gardens to his fellow-citizens. Mr. Allan agreed to finance Kane for a term of years while he was making his observations and sketches and to accept pictures in payment. Probably he had little idea of the value of the investment, though fully seized of the historic import of the project.
Kane left Toronto in the early spring of 1846, and through the interest of Sir George Simpson, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, secured permission to travel to the interior of the continent with the spring brigade of the "Great Company", which in the forties annually left Sault Ste. Marie for north-western waters. Simpson travelled with the artist as far as the Sault, and on arrival it was found that the great train of canoes had left two days previously. An H.B.C. steamer was about to embark for Fort William, and availing himself of it, Kane overtook the brigade at Mountain Portage, forty miles west of the latter trading post. He remained with the brigade until it reached Fort Alexander on the Winnipeg River, where it turned north, en route for Norway House. With a guide or two, Kane made his way across country to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), which he reached on June 13, 1846. In the Red River district he had the good fortune to witness and take part in the annual buffalo hunt by which the tribes of the region secured their winter supplies of pemmican. One of the experiences of his journey westward, taken in easy stages to secure pictures, was a horseback ride from Fort Carlton on the Saskatchewan to Fort Edmonton. He entered the Rockies, via Edmonton, and finally, after long journeyings through lonesome and awe-inspiring mountain passes, reached the Pacific Coast. Wintering there, he made his invaluable studies of the Coast Indians. He was a welcome visitor at the lonely Vancouver Island outpost, Fort Victoria, to which ships and strangers rarely came. The book he wrote a decade or more later had the distinction of being the first which made the beauties and resources of British Columbia known to the world at large.
On July 1st, 1847, he started eastward, through the mountains, with the fur brigade for Edmonton—then, as now, a great centre of the fur trade—and passed five months en route. The winter of 1847-8 was spent in the Edmonton region, and in the summer of 1848 he commenced his long journey east, taking time to record the most beautiful scenery in his course, and to depict the various types of Indians with the most minute fidelity. An exhibition of the fruits of his voyage was given in Toronto on his return. Subsequently the collection was packed up and stored at "Moss Park", the home of Senator Allan, although some of them were reproduced for commercial circulation, and others served as illustrations for the book above named. The Senator continued a good friend, and in 1859 the Wanderings were dedicated to him.
Kane died in 1871, and his patron a quarter of a century later. Gradually the Kane collection slipped out of memory until the widow of Senator Allan offered it for sale to the late Sir Edmund Osler for a handsome figure, and Osler closed the bargain with a view to making it a permanent possession of the people of Ontario. The transfer became noised abroad, and from at least two large American museums, Sir Edmund received offers that would place most men beyond the dreams of avarice. True to his intent, and to save himself further importunity, Sir Edmund deeded the pictures to the Royal Ontario Museum long before its present premises were built, and for some years they hung in the old examination hall of the University of Toronto. They have been an object of pilgrimage with many ethnologists, and historians of the North American Indian. One picture, especially, is invaluable from an archæological standpoint because it is the only record of the ancient method of spinning among the Coast Indians. The canvases depict not only individual types but war dances, buffalo hunts, conjuring feats, councils—all the pursuits and diversions of savage life—with unimpeachable accuracy. As a painter Kane's style was rather formal and mannered, for his was a day preceding that chromatic and tonal analysis which produced "impressionism". and all the atmospheric perfections of the best modern landscape painting.
Sad to relate Paul Kane died a disappointed man, though recognized abroad in his true eminence. The late Sir Daniel Wilson, President of the University of Toronto, who wrote the preface to the Wanderings, said: "My memory of the veteran artist is of a gruff and moody man, embittered by the sparing gratitude of a people to whose information and pleasure he had sacrificed his life. 'Better break stones by the wayside; your work will then be appreciated' was the encouraging comment he gave to young artists." Here we have the unassuagable grievance of the artistic temperament! Perhaps Paul Kane was at times consoled by pre-vision of the posthumous fame that now surrounds his name. At any rate he was one of the earliest prophets of the future of the Canadian West, its climate, fertility, and possibilities.
Turning the pages of an old-fashioned Commonplace Book, dating from the very dawn of the nineteenth century, I came across the heading "Attorney-General", and was surprised to find statements which are almost in accord with the views of a type of political agitator who periodically springs up in many parts of America, and who would exclude lawyers from public office. Often it is suggested that a farmer might act as attorney-general and send for such legal assistance as he needs. In most agrarian administrations in the Canadian provinces, the attorney-general has been "like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear", the sole representative of the legal profession in the government.
It is enough to make any lawyer, who may have aspired to such office, quail to read the words of my old commentator on this historic functionary:
"Attorney- General—an officer of the Crown, armed by the laws of England, or by immemorial usage, with powers, apparently inconsistent with a free constitution, and which it has been the earnest wish of many great and many good men, to see moderated and restrained."
I have known a good many gentlemen who have held the office of Attorney-General in various provinces of Canada, and as a rule found them to be mellow and genial, with a professional savoir faire which evoked no feeling that they should be moderated and restrained. But on looking into the history and prerogatives of the office, I learn that the Attorney-General may, if he wants to, be very formidable and objectionable indeed.
Traditionally, in Great Britain he has precedence in all courts, including the House of Lords, even though he himself is usually a member of the House of Commons. He is a Cabinet minister with a good deal more power than most of his colleagues; for they are supposed to consult with him and take his advice in connection with all legal questions that may arise in their departments. And, above all, he has extraordinary powers in the matter of initiating prosecutions. Consequently, it was very important, for the monarchs and governments of other days, when absolutist ideas were more prevalent than they are now, to have an Attorney-General of like sentiments, who could be relied upon to use his powers to lay by the heels any individual obnoxious to the throne or the administration.
Nominally, the Attorney-General has the same powers for good or evil in the provinces of Canada; but it is only on rare occasions that he makes drastic use of them. We do sometimes get a glimpse of his iron hand, however. Not many years ago a representative of the Attorney-General of Ontario appeared in court and ordered that a suit for the nullification of a marriage should not proceed, and the court perforce obeyed. On another occasion an Attorney-General of an Eastern province initiated a prosecution, on one hour's notice, of a group of real estate dealers residing in Calgary, and they were forthwith arrested and sent two thousand miles away for trial. Such incidents show that any Attorney-General, by virtue of his office, has a long reach and sharp teeth.
The reason why the author of the old Commonplace Book, to which I have alluded, held the opinion that an Attorney-General should be shorn of some of his authority, was that in his time, (circa 1800), such officials were not slow to use it in defiance of public opinion. It was a grievance that, in the filing of informations and carrying on of what were called ex officio prosecutions, he was not directed by the previous enquiry of a grand jury, nor controlled by the established forms of any court, but on his own mere motion could "give a name to, and put any construction he pleased on the conduct, the writings, or even the thoughts, of any person whatever".
His proceedings were commenced at that time without any previous affidavit, and even when acquitted, the defendant found himself without redress and saddled with heavy and ruinous costs. In England during the eighteenth century it is unquestionable that various Attorneys-General made use of their powers to ruin unfriendly journalists; but their acts of oppression seem to have had little effect in suppressing the stream of abusive pamphlets that sprang up around every Governmental act of importance.
The old critic I have quoted made a very acute analysis of the manner in which even well-disposed law officers of this rank could be cajoled into committing acts of tyranny to oblige the Government or the sovereign: "Another circumstance which has attached suspicion to this mode of proceeding," he says, "is that the Attorney-General is a law officer removable at pleasure, and placed in the high road to promotion; a trying situation dangerous to human virtue, which is not always sufficiently powerful to make a man decide in favour of conscience, duty, and honour, against a good place, the solicitations of a minister, or the mandates of his master." Fortunately, owing to the different character of our constitutional system, such dangers do not exist in this country.
In other times, the wide powers vested in the Attorney-General were not without their defenders. Crown lawyers replied to critics that the licentiousness of the press had carried it beyond all bounds of decency and truth; that kings and ministers were constantly exposed by artful seditious writers to hatred and contempt; that in proceedings for libels against the Government, juries were notoriously partial to the accused; and that even in aggravated cases of slander a verdict could not be obtained for the Crown. Therefore, it was held that a judicial and more summary method, free from the inconveniences of popular restraint was, for urgent reasons, absolutely necessary. It is clear that in the eighteenth century royalty was not so popular as it is to-day, and the ministers who pandered to the whims of royalty were even more disliked than their masters. Juries were admittedly influenced by the temper of the times, which regarded with distrust any proceedings by the Attorney-General. A general cry against them echoed throughout Great Britain in the days of George III and his son, the Prince Regent. This, says our critic, "Has been considered by many as a sufficient reason for modifying and restraining them; nothing in general being so likely to counteract the impartial administration of justice as a defendant coming into court, with every appearance of having been rigorously or unfairly proceeded against."
"It is," he adds, "the opinion of several sound lawyers, whom I could easily name, and whose inclinations in favour of the liberty of the subject will never be numbered with their faults—it is their decided opinion, that whenever the Attorney-General commences a prosecution, the defendant, as in other cases, ought to be permitted to show cause, why the information should not be granted. This rational and salutary concession will still leave ample discretionary power in the breast of a court; would deprive many a plausible superficial declaimer against our constitution of a powerful commonplace argument, and refusing it cannot be defended, on any plea of justice, common sense, or good design."
As the nineteenth century progressed, the Attorney-General ceased to be the hated figure he had formerly been, and the office was restored to public esteem by the good behaviour of those who held it. With the gradual extension of the franchise, it became necessary for governments, of which the chief law officer was a member, to avoid acts likely to bring them into public odium, and to refrain from prosecutions which possessed even the colour of unfairness. When the Attorney-General of that day undertook to fasten charges of gross misconduct on Queen Caroline after the accession of George IV in 1820, both he and his sovereign tasted of the public displeasure, despite the fact that the proof of her guilt with an Italian lover of plebeian origin was practically conclusive. After Victoria began to reign, the conduct of the law officers of the Crown in England became so discreet and tactful that the ancient reproach against the office of Attorney-General was wiped out. The men selected for the post by the dozen or more Prime Ministers who have held office in the past eighty years have almost invariably been lawyers of high probity and ability; and sometimes men of great personal popularity. They have been impelled to maintain good behaviour because they have usually represented in Parliament large urban centres which would be quick to resent anything that resembled undue use of their powers, and to visit that resentment both on the individual and his party.
The Attorney-General of to-day, both in Great Britain and Canada, eats out of the public's hand, so to speak.
In this country there is no more hardy perennial as a newspaper topic than "Abolition of patronage,"—which, as that dear friend of my youth, Euclid, would say,—is absurd. The politician who promises to abolish patronage has either never taken the trouble to acquaint himself fully with the English language, or else he is the type of individual, prevalent in most democracies, who regards language as a useful medium wherewith to deceive the multitude. The voluble talker who could really perform such a feat ought also to be clever at levitation, materializing the spirits of the dead, and other marvels which most of us have heard about but never expect to witness. No man, woman, party, corporation, or government, with anything to bestow in the way of a job, a gift, or ordinary business custom, can escape the exercise of patronage. All anyone can do is to try and exercise it as intelligently, honestly, and thriftily as possible, and the best of us never wholly succeed.
Under the circumstances, then, an outcry for the abolition of patronage is not unlike a demand for the abolition of parallelograms. Let us suppose that a political coterie, anxious to display its true reforming zeal, should discover that there was something base and symbolic of the obscene in the form of a parallelogram; and should declare its intention of striking at the very root of this source of moral corruption and national decadence. Let us suppose that a number of newspapers anxious for something to shout about should take up the cry against parallelograms; and create the impression among large numbers of people who had never taken the trouble to find out what a parallelogram was, that the further toleration of this hated geometrical form was inimical to the interests of the people—the people between the plow-handles especially. We should then have a movement not unlike that which periodically arises with regard to patronage. Let us suppose that this coterie should actually try to abolish parallelograms and the analogy would be complete.
Seriously speaking, patronage, though an ineradicable factor in human existence, has a history, in certain aspects, unsavoury. The seven definitions of the word in Webster's International Dictionary awaken memories of human infirmity and often of governmental turpitude. Thus:
A. [In ecclesiastical law the protection or defense of the rights of the church in a benefice carrying with it the right of presentation; now the right of presentation to a church or ecclesiastical benefice; advowson.] Here the horrid head of simony rises; the traffic in sacred things; the sale for cash of ecclesiastical preferments. Certainly patronage in its religious connections had once a bad name, but the time-spirit has changed all that.
B. [Guardianship as of a saint; tutelary care (obsolete).] This is certainly the most beautiful association attaching to the word patronage, but it is doubtful whether it longer sways the popular imagination. Angelic favour is now regarded as too intangible to be counted on.
C. [Special countenance or support, favor, encouragement, or aid given to a person, work or cause; as the patronage of letters, or patronage given to a singer.] Literary men long ago rose against the humiliation involved in the old-fashioned patronage of letters, anent which Dr. Johnson wrote some very warm words to the Earl of Chesterfield. Not so singers and musicians. They like it, whether it be the encouragement of the critic, or the practical generosity of the musical philanthropist. The more of that kind of patronage the better. And in the case of men of letters the British Government has in a measure taken over the functions once performed by noblemen of literary tastes. It does occasionally exercise patronage to assure the poor poet means of subsistence.
D. [Protection or defense. Roman; obsolete.] This is one of the black chapters in the history of patronage. The corrupt acts of powerful Roman patrons in behalf of their clients in the early days of the Republic are said to have provoked a popular rising. Most of us have read the legend of the centurion, Virginius, whose fair daughter was torn from him by a grave abuse of patronage on the part of the cruel decemvir, Appius Claudius. Virginius took a short way of dealing with this kind of patronage by slaying his daughter; but historical critics relegate the tale to the same category as that of Jonah and the whale.
E. [The right or control of nomination to political office; also the offices, contracts, honors, etc., which a public officer may bestow by favor.] And here we jump right from ancient Rome to Canada in the twentieth century. We are up against the ineluctable fact that when an office is vacant someone must be appointed to fill it; and it cannot be filled without the exercise of patronage by somebody or other. Who shall bestow the favour? That is the problem of which no solution can satisfy everybody. It is like trying to abolish the parallelogram.
F. [A cant or colloquial phrase for business custom.] This brings in the individual. We all exercise patronage when we buy anything, not always intelligently; but we certainly expect governments to be wiser than ourselves. In Canada this has been the real source of any corruption that has prevailed in connection with patronage; but it is probable that matters are a good deal better than they used to be. No government can abolish this kind of patronage, but it can take the curse off it.
G. [Condescending favor; patronizing.] Here we are at the end of the string. Condescension is not a vice from which our politicians suffer; so the seventh definition may be dismissed.
It is clear that the word patronage has very wide applications and that it is not likely to be dropped from the English vocabulary yet awhile. Like human nature, it has its roots in both good and evil.
Frankly, I think it must be admitted that Canadians have done a good deal of recent years to modify the evils of patronage. So far as appointments are concerned, few of us could, if put to the test, name one made, even under the old system, whereby party committees had a voice in the decision, that was really disgraceful. The outright cruelty involved in the American phrase, "To the victors belong the spoils", has never found acceptance in Canada. And as for corruption in connection with government purchases, that, too, is to-day more a matter of envious gossip than of actual fact. A government must buy somewhere and it cannot abolish profits in connection with its own purchases. The end to be striven for is to abolish the abuses of patronage; and these have long been light with us. In Great Britain much progress has been made in the same direction. The heyday of wasteful and corrupt patronage really ended a considerable while ago. In the eighteenth century and up to the middle of the nineteenth, the friendly exercise of patronage in England constituted an enormous source of waste; though it had its agreeable features for the governing classes. Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards first Earl of Oxford, enriched himself and his family connections enormously while Prime Minister of England, and few apparently, except the author of The Beggar's Opera, thought the worse of him for it.
A picture of conditions a hundred years ago is to be found in the autobiography of John Robinson Planche, once famous both as dramatist and antiquary. Planche's mother had a staunch patron in Isabella, Duchess of Rutland, and in 1800, when he was four years old, Planche was offered an ensign's commission in the army by the Duke, which his mother declined for him owing to her horror of the military life. "Oh, happy days of England!" says Planche, "when babes were really born with golden spoons in their mouths, and could be made colonels of regiments, commissioners of excise, or masters of the Mint, in their cradles and without competitive examination!"
Planche cites a remarkable example of this "precocity of preferment" that came under his own observation. The wife of a Cabinet Minister had promised to stand god-mother to an infant, and, calling on its parents a day or two before the ceremony, expressed her regret that her Lord had nothing of importance left at his disposal; all he could do for Her Ladyship's godson was to put his name on the pension list as a superannuated general postman. The offer was accepted and though the babe lived to upwards of eighty and amassed great wealth he still remained a superannuated general postman, and drew the pension with much satisfaction. "He died," says Planche, "a few days after one payment was due, and one of his executors came to town to receive the money and announce his decease. On asking the clerk who paid him if it were necessary to produce a certificate of death, he was answered, "Oh, no, not in the least—I will take your word for it. My father paid this pension as long as he lived, and I have paid it myself for the last thirty years. I'm quite sure Mr. ———— must be dead by this time."
Patronage was patronage when George III was King.
In 1923 there was published a very interesting book, Indiscretions of Lady Susan, which at the time was widely commented on in England and America, though it disappointed many because it was not really indiscreet. It is a book with a sentimental interest for Canadians, because its author, Lady Susan Townley, is, in part, of Canadian ancestry, the granddaughter of Sir Allan MacNab of "Dundurn", Hamilton, Ontario, and it is clear that she inherited some of the characteristics of that dominating personage. Prior to her marriage, in 1896, to the distinguished diplomat Sir Walter Beaupré Townley, she was Lady Susan Mary Keppel, a daughter of the late seventh Earl of Albemarle. Though she makes no allusion to the fact, her father at one time held an important position in Canada. Before he succeeded to the Earldom he was known as William Coutts Keppel, Viscount Bury, and in the mid-fifties came to Canada as A.D.C. to the Governor-General, Sir Edmund Head. At that time Canada's Department of Indian Affairs was under the control of the Imperial Government, and its offices part of the Vice-Regal patronage. Early in 1854, Lord Elgin appointed Laurence Oliphant, a man of strange eccentric nature, who subsequently became a famous author, to the post of Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in this country. When Lord Elgin left Canada six months later, Oliphant resigned and Sir Edmund Head, finding a vacancy on his arrival to assume the post of Governor-General, appointed Viscount Bury to the office, despite the fact that he was then but twenty-two years of age. The future Earl of Albemarle filled the post from Dec. 19, 1854, to Jan. 31, 1856, and on the whole did very well under difficult and anomalous circumstances. Four years after his departure for England, Imperial control of Indian Affairs ceased and was invested in the Department of Crown Lands of the two Canadas (now Ontario and Quebec). During his stay in this country Lord Bury married Sophia Mary MacNab, the daughter of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, Bart., Prime Minister of Canada in the MacNab-Taché and MacNab-Morin administrations.
In the first chapter of this book Lady Susan tells much of one of her grandfathers, George Keppel, the sixth Earl of Albemarle, and for Canadians it is interesting to supplement it by a few words about her other grandfather, Sir Allan MacNab, whom she never saw. He was originally a Scottish officer who had retired from the Army with the rank of Colonel and settled in Hamilton nearly a century ago. There he built "Dundurn Castle", one of the historic ornaments of the city, where its ample grounds are now a public park. A stern man of faultless rectitude, he was one of the ablest statesmen of the old "Family Compact" era in Upper Canada. He had a natural inclination for politics and in the Assembly of Upper Canada was a valiant figure, so much hated by William Lyon Mackenzie, himself a ruthless Scot, that anything which MacNab proposed was sure of opposition from the Toronto journalistic gadfly. MacNab had also a knack of ruffling more moderate Liberals, like Hon. Robert Baldwin, and it was on motion of the latter that he was once committed to jail for refusing to answer the Speaker's questions in one of the petty Parliamentary investigations that preceded the rebellion of 1837.
When that crisis came, Colonel MacNab was placed in charge of the defence of law and order in what is now Western Ontario, and did his work so quickly and expeditiously that the rising amounted to nothing in a military sense. His work was not complete, however, for Mackenzie, who had escaped from the Toronto authorities, seized Navy Island on the Niagara River and there declared a Republic of Canada. It was justly feared that he would succeed in obtaining armed aid from the United States. To MacNab was assigned the task of routing him out, and it was he who planned and ordered the seizure and burning of the supply steamer, "Caroline", which was supporting Mackenzie from his commissariat base, Buffalo. This peremptory measure finished Mackenzie's "republic" and gave Canada an international controversy in exchange; for the Governor of New York State, Hon. W. H. Seward (afterward Lincoln's Secretary of State and an avowed advocate of the forcible annexation of Canada) was disposed to make a casus belli of the episode.
The international difficulties created by the burning of the "Caroline" had no detrimental effect on the fortunes of MacNab. He received a baronetcy from the British Government and became the political idol of the "men of the Gore", now the garden spot of Canada, embracing the fruit-growing districts of the Niagara and Lake Erie region. After the Act of Union he became the natural leader of the Tory party in opposition to the Baldwin and Lafontaine coalition. But he was a man of progress nevertheless—one of the first Canadians to see the possibilities of railroad development and to endeavour to promote it; one of the first to recognize the future of the "magnetic telegraph", and a pioneer in endeavours to secure a stable banking system for Canada. Unfortunately his later years were embittered by his unworkable disposition, the infirmities of which were intensified by gout. He died filled with an unconquerable jealousy of his brilliant young successor in Tory leadership, John A. Macdonald, but this not unfamiliar weakness of aged men should not dim the memory of his splendid services in his prime.
At the outset I had not intended to talk so much about Lady Susan's maternal grandfather, but the interesting things she tells us of her paternal grandfather, George Keppel, sixth Earl of Albemarle, set me thinking of MacNab. The lot of Keppel lay in far different channels. He was born in 1799 and was the playmate of Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, who, but for her tragic death in childbirth as a girl-wife, would have become Queen of England instead of the revered Victoria. He was able to relate to his grandchildren delightful memories of that frolicksome princess. So early were boys taken into the army a century ago that he was appointed to a commission in the 14th Foot, then on service in Flanders against Buonoparte, when he had just turned 16. Fourteen of the officers and 300 of the privates of his regiment were under twenty. Yet these boys fought bravely at Waterloo. Six months after they were ordered home to England and found the country so satiated with glory that they received but a cold reception. "If we had been convicts disembarking from a hulk we could hardly have received less consideration," the old Earl used to say. "It's us as pays they chaps" was the remark of a bumpkin as they came ashore, and this sentiment seemed to voice popular opinion. The sixth Earl of Albemarle continued to be much identified with the Court, as are his descendants. He attended the young Queen Victoria when she opened her first Parliament in 1838, and on the occasion of her Coronation and marriage. His son, Lord Bury, of whose Canadian experiences one has spoken, was an amateur artist, and Lady Susan recalls him as always sketching in his leisure moments. Of her mother, Sophia Mary MacNab, she says: "Canadian brides were a novelty in England at that time, and great was the excitement in London society over this marriage. My mother was a beautiful girl, and soon won her place in the affections of her young husband's family; but she must have had her trials to bear, I fancy, for, from being her father's constant companion in Canada, sharing all the interests and anxieties of his high office (her mother had died when she was only fourteen), she found herself suddenly in a strange land, the wife of an eldest son, under the careful chaperonage of a rather severe and very dignified mother-in-law. When her first baby was expected she was treated almost as an invalid, never allowed to go out except in the carriage, and stair-climbing being forbidden her by Lady Albemarle, the bell was rung and a pompous pair of footmen arrived with a carrying-chair whenever she wanted to go upstairs." It is interesting to note that she survived this treatment and lived to bring into the world a very large family of whom Lady Susan was one of the youngest.
As to Lady Susan's own experiences, some American reviewers were at first deeply disappointed to find them quite devoid of Margotisms in the telling. It would have been well if she had printed her last chapter first and then her critics might have discovered that the title "Indiscretions" is ironical. It arose in this way. In 1918, her husband, Sir Walter Townley, then Minister at the Hague, discovered that after long service in many parts of the earth, he was being side-tracked to make way for untrained favourites of Rt. Hon. Lloyd George. He put the case bluntly to a confidential official of the Foreign Office, who told him that the cause was "the indiscretions of Lady Susan". So she has written a plain narrative of her experiences as a diplomat's wife in Lisbon, Rome, Berlin, Peking, Constantinople, Palestine, Washington, Buenos Ayres, Persia, and the Netherlands, to justify herself. There are no very sensational revelations in her book, but plenty of shrewd observation. It is evident that Lady Susan was no cipher wherever she went. Probably because of her family's connection with the British Royal household, she was on more intimate terms with dynastic personages than most diplomats' wives. Her personality made her an intimate even in the palace of the Empress-Dowager of China, who wielded a power exceeding that of any other woman in all history. Glancing through her pages one pauses to reflect on the stupendous changes in the fortunes of royalty that have occurred in the past quarter of a century. Nearly all the royal personages Lady Susan knew are either deposed or dead, several by the assassin's hand. The most intimate pictures that she gives are those of the ex-Kaiser and China's Empress-Dowager. The latter, though certainly villainous, was rather an ingratiating old personage. Wilhelm, the quondam "All Highest", figures as an impulsive, erratic, but not unattractive being, who, imagining himself strong, was unconsciously swayed by others,—the eternal tragedy of the egotist. It was, indeed, a lie spread by Horatio Bottomley to the effect that she, Lady Susan, as the wife of the British Minister of the Hague, had headed a deputation of welcome to the Kaiser when he fled to Holland on Nov. 10th, 1918, that led to a clash between the British Foreign Office and Sir Walter Townley, which ended in the latter's resignation. Townley rightly thought that the Foreign Office should have definitely repudiated the charge, whereas that institution had conceived a rooted prejudice against Lady Susan as "indiscreet".
This was unfair in the extreme. Lady Susan during the war rendered splendid and loyal service; first as one of the deputy postal censors, where her knowledge of foreign countries was invaluable; and later in the supply of news from Holland. At the Hague she had access to all the leading German newspapers, and spent hours every day summarizing German press opinion on the progress of the war. The British Government found these summaries so clear and judicious that they issued them daily to the press of the world. Thus every newspaper reader in America during the last year of the war was unconsciously familiar with the work of Lady Susan as a press correspondent.
It is clear that she was a journalist by instinct; and it is disgusting to read of the manner in which she was hounded by the Hearst press during her residence in Washington, where her husband was Counsellor of British Embassy in 1905 and 1906. It was evidently hard for her to realize that the class of readers to which Hearst caters is never so happy as when it sees a woman of high position who cannot defend herself, insulted and slandered. She made the initial mistake, on coming to America, of treating inquisitive reporters ironically and jocularly. As there is no being in the world who takes himself so seriously as the average Washington correspondent, this was akin to a sin against the Holy Ghost, and she was made to suffer for it. But her memoirs show her a wholesome, candid woman and a credit to her Canadian ancestry.
A considerable number of native sons of the maritime provinces of Canada have risen to eminence in the United States. A most outstanding example was Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1919. Therefore Canada has especial interest in the volume, published in 1922, entitled Letters of Franklin K. Lane. His was in many respects the strongest and most interesting personality among Wilson's advisers during the crucial period of the great war, and it was felt by Democrats that, if the barrier of his Canadian birth could have been overcome, he was his party's "man of destiny". Such hopes would have been unavailing in any event, since he died on May 18, 1921, at Rochester, Minnesota, following an operation for gall stones. Lane was born near Charlottetown, P.E.I., on July 15th, 1864, in a low white farm-house that still stands and is screened by hawthorn trees. He was the eldest of four children of Christopher S. Lane, originally a Presbyterian minister, whom chronic bronchitis had compelled to give up preaching. To support his family the elder Lane became a dentist, and in 1871 ill-health prompted him to remove to Napa, California. Franklin was early compelled to earn his own livelihood, and put himself through the University of California by working as a newspaper reporter. Subsequently he studied law and was called to the bar of California in 1889. Owing to his oratorical ability and brilliant mind he was a success almost from the start. He distinguished himself as corporation counsel of the city of San Francisco, and in 1902, when but thirty-eight, was Democratic candidate for Governor. When, ten years later, it became Woodrow Wilson's duty to select a cabinet representative from the Pacific Coast, Lane was accepted as the most eminent Democrat in that section, and a man especially expert in transportation and development problems.
The elder Lane was of Ulster stock, and his wife pure lowland Scottish. The son's love of her was so deep that he says he was enough of a Catholic to pray to the only saint he has known,—his mother. Though he was regarded as a man of judicial temperament, there was in him a strong undercurrent of emotion. In one letter he whimsically laments that he is not a phlegmatic, stolid Englishman instead of a combination of dreamy Irishman, and dour Calvinistic Scot. This of course involves a conventional delusion. The world is full of mercurial Englishmen, the most constructive dreamers on earth. Undoubtedly there was a strong vein of ideality in Lane and a wide range of sympathies and interests. Though identified with the Democratic party, his real political hero was Theodore Roosevelt, whom he rated with Henry George, and Professor William James, the famous psychologist, as the three most important influences in modern American life. Lane was by temperament the best type of Progressive. Countless folk of both sexes imagine themselves Progressives, when they are merely Mutationists, enamoured of change,—change of religion, change of economic system, change of matrimonial partnerships. California is the chief stamping ground of Mutationists. What makes most self-styled Progressives so fatuous and such a drawback to real progress is the fact that very few of them have a background of culture, and consequently no power of self-criticism. But Lane was a man of real culture, with the faculty of self-criticism,—consequently his public services, like those of Roosevelt, were essentially practical.
The Canadian reader of his letters is interested chiefly in his self-revelations and in the part he played in the Great War. The latter was not so great as he would like to have made it. In the early stages of the conflict he was absorbed in the manifold details of the Department of the Interior. Later he became a member of the Committee of National Defence; but it was the policy of Woodrow Wilson to restrict the activities of that body as far as possible; and after the United States became a belligerent, to exclude his cabinet advisers from his counsels. For a man of action like Lane this was hard to bear, though it is rather clear that he, like most other Western Americans, failed to understand the war during its early stages. Though Pro-British in feeling, he shared the feeling of irritation at British control of the seas, which restricted American trade with Germany. He did not grasp the fact that the Allied naval policy was dictated by the primary law of self-preservation. He could only see "stubbornness", where the Allies visualized disaster. But early in 1915 the "Lusitania" episode cured him.
Shortly after the long course of official letter-writing in connection with that atrocity began, he wrote: "I shall have a few words to say upon the German note next Tuesday (the regular day for cabinet meetings). They will be short and somewhat ugly Anglo-Saxon words, utterly undiplomatic, and I hope some of them will be used." He seems to have thought that Woodrow Wilson could be induced to speak out, and held that the Germans thought the administration was bluffing because the tone of the United States communication was polite. "We have talked Princetonian English to a water-front bully," he said. At this time the late William Jennings Bryan's career as Secretary of State had come to an inglorious end, and Lane was spoken of as his successor, but he overheard the remark, "Oh, my God, that would never do, never do; born in Canada!" "So you see I am cut out from all these great honours. Is this visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children?" he comments.
When, early in 1917, Germany, satisfied that the United States would never go to war, went to the length of ordering American shipping off the seas, Lane was happy because the inevitable crisis had come at last, though utterly distrustful of the President's capacity for action. On February 9th he resolved to write personal notes of the progress of events to his brother, George W. Lane, with a view to future publication, and it is to this resolve we owe the best pages in his Letters. Wilson held that nothing should be done just then,—and that they should delay until the Germans committed an "overt act". The American lives that would be lost seem to have been of small concern in his eyes. The President said he was "passionately" determined not to overstep the slightest punctilio of honour in dealing with Germany, and emphatically refused to stop the German crews known to be gutting interned German ships in American harbours. This was madness. Within a year Lane and other public officials were straining every effort to supply ships to save the Allies from starvation, and the interned ships purposely rendered useless would have been invaluable. While the President was trying to find excuses for procrastination, Lane set about the business of mobilizing national industries for war. But he raged inwardly that the Army and Navy were "standpat", and the task of moving them to action was seemingly hopeless. "No wonder the Kaiser sizes us up as cowards," he wrote. A tempestuous scene occurred at a cabinet meeting of Feb. 25, 1917. The President accused four of his advisers, Messrs. Lane, Houston, Redfield, and McAdoo of appealing to the code Duello and trying to force him into war. He was savagely abusive of his son-in-law, Mr. McAdoo. "He comes out right but he is slower than a glacier and things are mighty disagreeable, whenever anything has to be done. I don't know whether the President is an internationalist or a pacifist, but he seems to be very mildly national—his patriotism is covered over with a film of philosophic humanitarianism, that certainly does not make for 'punch' at such a time as this", was Lane's comment on this crisis.
As everyone knows, the President was at last forced into action, but even after he had declared war, the vices of inaction and deadlock continued to paralyze the hand of Uncle Sam. Once Lane exclaims: "Politics, politics, curse of the country! It has gotten into the whole war programme", and we learn of deplorable feuds within the cabinet. Mr. McAdoo left on his desk for an entire week a joint message from Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando stating that Britain, France, and Italy were threatened with starvation, without drawing anyone's attention to it. The poltroonery, or worse, of Josephus Daniels, who wished to keep the U. S. Navy in harbour because it might be endangered, was especially disgusting to Lane. The latter fully realized that unless the submarine menace were checked, and losses met by more and more ships, Germany would win; and finally took his own measures to better the situation. By publishing the facts as to the submarine danger, through private channels which were his as an old time newspaper man, he so roused public sentiment that the cabinet was forced to act. In this campaign he made especial use of the New York World, where he enjoyed confidential relations with one of the ablest of modern editors, the late Frank Cobb. The most extraordinary revelation in the book is that, even after the United States had been at war for a year, the President ignored the existence of the conflict at cabinet meetings; nothing was talked of that would "interest a nation, a family, or a child." But the pressure which the President's friends had unceasingly exerted was beginning to tell, and on March 16, 1918, Lane was able to write: "We do things fast here, but I never realized before how slow we are in getting started. It takes a long time for us to get a new stride. I did not think that this was true industrially. I have known it was true politically for a long time, because this (the United States) was the most backward and conservative of all the democracies. We take up new machinery of government so slowly. But industrially it is also true. When told to change step we shift and stumble and halt and hesitate and go through all kinds of awkward misses. This has been true as to ships and aeroplanes and guns, big and little, and uniforms. Whatever the government has itself done, has been tied by endless red tape."
Long before the war ended, Lane had already begun to lay plans for the repatriation of American soldiers and he was far-seeing as to the coming industrial crisis; but the slowness of political action was apparent even here. By the end of 1919 he had decided for private reasons to resign, but waited until President Wilson's recovery from illness. Later, while in retirement, he could not help sympathizing with Woodrow Wilson in the hour of President Harding's inauguration in March, 1921. "Not all the devices of Tumulty (the President's ever-devoted secretary) for keeping alive delusions of grandeur could offset those headlines," he says.
An operation, which proved fatal, took place on May 6th, 1921, and Lane died on May 18th. In his room in the Mayo Hospital at Rochester, Minnesota, was found a manuscript written on the previous day in which he speculated on the hereafter. The following sentences are significant: "For my heart's content in that new land, I think I'd rather loaf with Lincoln along a river bank. I know I could understand him. I would not have to learn who were his friends and who were his enemies, what theories he was committed to, and what against. We could just talk and open our minds, and tell our doubts and swap the longings of our hearts that others never heard of. He wouldn't try to master me nor to make me feel how small I was."
During the Great War the people of both Canada and the United States were brought to a sharp consciousness of what spy operations, long a theme of popular romance, really meant. The excitements of that period, and the attempts, some abortive and some successful, to destroy lines of communication and munition plants in America recalled to a few of the older generation a period in the latter part of 1864, when Toronto and Montreal were hotbeds of conspiracies against the Northern States, originated by officers of the Confederate army who had been detailed for that purpose by Mr. Seddon, the Southern Secretary for War. The plots of these men, mostly youthful soldiers, whose daredevil characteristics had been tested on the battlefield, finally assumed such serious proportions as to alarm the people of the North and to imperil cordial relations between the United States and Canada. Piracy, robbery, murder, incendiarism, were the charges on which a number of them finally faced trial in the Canadian and American courts, and one or two lost their lives because of deeds plotted and financed on Canadian soil.
The most complete account of their proceedings is to be found in a book published in 1906 by John W. Headley, of Louisville, Ky., entitled Confederate Operations in Canada and New York. The law reports of the extradition proceedings against Bennett G. Burley (afterwards famous as Bennett Burleigh, the British war correspondent) for piracy and robbery on Lake Erie, and against Lieut. Bennett H. Young for robbery and murder in connection with a raid on St. Albans, Vt., led by him, also give many details. The Memoirs of a Great Detective, published in England twenty years ago by the late John W. Murray, Chief of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for Ontario, and who at the time of the Civil War was attached to the American secret service, also throw a romantic glamour over the campaign of "frightfulness" which the Confederacy had adopted as a last resort.
These attempts, the most sensational of which was the plot to burn the business section of the city of New York on the night of November 25, 1864, were chiefly frustrated by a secret service agent of remarkable abilities. Godfrey P. Hyams, who lived in Toronto in the guise of a Confederate officer and was the confidant of Col. Jacob Thompson, who, in company with C. C. Clay, Jr., served as Commissioner of the Confederacy to Canada. Hyams managed to check most of the projects without revealing his identity as a spy until it was necessary for him to give evidence in the Canadian courts.
Mr. Headley in his book is frank in his statements as to the various plots in which he, in company with Col. Richard Martin, Capt. Cole, Capt. Hines, Capt. Kennedy, Acting Master Burley, Acting Master Beall, Lieut. Bennett Young, and may others were engaged. Owing to the sympathy of a large section of the Canadian public with the South—a sympathy caused by the "Trent" affair—and the fact that Canada was at that time filled with refugees from Northern prison camps, the conspirators were able, at first, to plot almost openly. Col. Thompson, who received his orders to come to Canada as Commissioner in April, 1864, made his headquarters at the Queen's Hotel, a hostelry which is still standing, then overlooking Toronto Bay. His aides, who made their way to Canada, via Halifax or Chicago, from time to time, lived quietly in boarding houses, going and coming on their missions with little or no risk until the situation became intolerable to the Canadian Government.
In a report to Judah P. Benjamin dated at Toronto on December 3, 1864, Col. Thompson gives a plain, unvarnished narrative of what had been attempted during his seven months of service in Toronto, and the calmness with which he outlines operations of a most desperate, criminal character is rather appalling. All the officers who were afterward apprehended urged in justification of their deeds the burning of Atlanta, Georgia, and the devastation of large tracts of Southern territory by Northern generals. The Confederate Government had been careful to give all their agents commissions as army or naval officers, so that in the event of detection they could fall back on the plea that they were engaged in legitimate belligerent operations. They were also instructed to avoid enlisting Canadians in their enterprises, so that they could not be charged with breach of the existing neutrality laws.
The first task that Col. Thompson set himself on his arrival in Canada was to endeavour to provoke an armed rising in the north-western states with a demand for an immediate peace.
There existed at that time an organization headed chiefly by Irishmen, known as "The Sons of Liberty", which was strongly sympathetic towards the South. Through this society, it was believed that by a bold stroke the States of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio could be seized, the States of Kentucky and Missouri lifted from their prostrate condition, and the war ended in sixty days. It is singularly suggestive of what happened in the United States during the late European war, that Col. Thompson first thought it wise to organize a series of peace meetings at Chicago, Peoria, and other places to prepare the public mind for a rising, and he sent agents and money from Toronto for that purpose.
Arrangements were first suggested for a rising at various cities on the day of the opening of the Democratic Convention at Chicago in July, 1864. Chicago was regarded as a pivotal point because 8,000 Confederate prisoners were confined at Camp Douglas, and it was thought they could be released and armed. Disagreements led to the postponement of the rising until Election day, in November.
Then the first of the series of misfortunes happened which were to wreck all the plans of the Confederate conspirators. On November 7 and succeeding days the ringleaders and the emissaries of Col. Thompson were arrested and taken to Cincinnati for trial by a military court. Some were found guilty of sedition and given comparatively light sentences, others were freed. But "The Sons of Liberty" were hopelessly disorganized, and hopes of a seizure of the north-western states were at an end.
Col. Thompson, however, still pinned his hopes to secret organization, and helped to finance a new society, known as the "Order of the Star", which was pledged to offer armed resistance in case of another draft, but before it could accomplish anything the nest of conspirators at Toronto had been broken up.
He and his staff, while engaged in promoting pacifist political movements in the United States, had also turned their attention to a more practical matter, the destruction of American shipping on Lake Erie and the release of 3,000 Confederate prisoners on Johnson's Island, a prison camp opposite Sandusky, Ohio. Officers entrusted with this work were Capt. Cole, Acting Master Beall, Acting Master Burley, and Lieut. S. B. Davis. It was arranged that Cole should go to Sandusky and worm his way into the friendship of the officers of the United States gun-boat "Michigan", on guard at Johnson's Island. He arranged a party for its officers at Sandusky for the night of September 19, 1864, at which he intended to drug their wine.
On the same night Burley, Beall, and Davis, who had gone to Detroit and raised a small band of followers, boarded a passenger steamer, the "Philo Parsons", which ran between Detroit and Sandusky. At Middle Bass Island, where she stopped for wood, they whipped out their revolvers, drove the passengers ashore, seized by force another small steamer, the "Island Queen", and proceeded to Johnson's Island, intent on seizing the "Michigan" while the officers were ashore and her crew asleep. When they reached the "Michigan", they found her lighted up and ready for attack.
Cole was under arrest at Sandusky, having been apprehended by Murray, the young secret service man, who forty years later wrote the story, and who had, under the direction of Hyams, gained Cole's confidence. Cole insisted on his belligerent rights, and finally became a prisoner of war. Burley and his companions beached the "Parsons" on Canadian soil and escaped in various directions. He and Davis were finally arrested by the Canadian authorities, after lying in hiding in various villages, and extradition proceedings against them on charges of robbery and piracy proved a cause célèbre in Canadian legal annals. The charges were fought on every technical point, and the Canadian courts ordered the return of the men to the United States. Representations by Mr. Mason, one of the protagonists of the "Trent" affair, and later Confederate agent in London, that they were officers engaged on a legitimate belligerent enterprise led, however, to an order for their release from the British Colonial Secretary.
New proceedings were taken, and were in progress when the war ended. Burley was ultimately released, and became famous as a war correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph. Of him it may be remarked that one of his first services to the South after he came from Scotland was somewhat like the alleged exploits of the German agent, Capt. Fay, in the late war, for on one occasion he swam across the Potomac and attached an infernal machine to a Northern gunboat. It was Beall's misfortune that he escaped the Canadian authorities. Three months later he was caught, in company with others, in the act of trying to wreck a train at Dunkirk, near Buffalo. He was taken to Fort Lafayette, New York, tried on both counts, convicted, and hanged.
The only Confederate operation on Canadian soil which produced important results was the raid on St. Albans, Vt., of which neither Col. Thompson nor the spy, Hyams, knew until after the event. Young was only twenty-one years old, and an escaped prisoner from one of the Northern camps. He planned the raid at Montreal; in co-operation with C. C. Clay, Col. Thompson's fellow commissioner. In the old St. Lawrence Hall, a famous hotel in that day, he raised a band of thirty escaped prisoners, and provided them with Confederate uniforms. Disguised with long overcoats, they left Montreal in pairs, and assembled in St. Albans, a town of five thousand inhabitants, near the international boundary line, on October 18, 1864. At three o'clock in the afternoon they formed ranks in the public square, threw off their coats to show their uniforms, and proceeded to take possession of the banks and fire the leading business establishments. It took the population some time to rally, but they did so, and several were killed on both sides. The raiders were chased over the Canadian border, and Young and others were arrested. Their extradition was asked for on charges of murder, robbery, and incendiarism, and the proceedings were fought at every point by numerous counsel engaged by the Confederacy. After a brilliant defence by J. J. C. Abbot, afterward for a brief period Prime Minister of Canada, Young was acquitted on the ground that he was a commissioned officer engaged on a legitimate belligerent enterprise for his country. This decision did much to increase the bad feeling between the United States and Canada that already existed.
The most diabolical and, in the outcome, the most ludicrous of all the plots that were hatched in Toronto was the attempt to burn the business section of the city of New York in November, 1864. Various projects to release Confederate prisoners in the camps of the North had proved untenable, and the young men on Col. Thompson's staff were chafing at inactivity. These are the words in which the Commissioner reports the matter to Mr. Benjamin:
"Having nothing else on hand, Col. Richard Martin expressed a wish to organize a corps to burn New York city. He was allowed to do so, and a most daring attempt has been made to fire that city, but their reliance on the Greek fire has proved a misfortune. It cannot be relied on as an agent in such work."
According to Headley's narrative the date first fixed for the burning of New York was election night, November 8, and the party which left Toronto a few days before consisted of himself, Col. Martin, Capt. Robert Cobb Kennedy, of Louisiana; Lieuts Ashbrook and Harrington, of Kentucky; John Price, of Maryland; James Chenault, of Kentucky, and one other whom he does not remember. They were informed that on election night there would be a rising in Chicago, and that a Capt. Churchill had made arrangements to fire Cincinnati, and Dr. Luke Blackburn was to perform similar service in Boston. The agents in New York whom they were instructed to meet were Capt. Longmire, of Missouri; James A. McMasters, editor of the Freeman's Journal, and Henry McDonald, who kept a music-store at 73 Franklin Avenue.
The only people in Canada who knew of the project, save this party, were Col. Thompson, G. Hyams, and W. Larry McDonald, a brother of the music merchant. When they reached New York they found that Longmire's arrangements for supplying "Greek fire" were incomplete, and the conflagration had to be postponed until November 25. They loafed about New York, went to hear Artemus Ward, the humorist, lecture, and Henry Ward Beecher preach.
As days went on both McMasters and Longmire weakened. The latter fled from the city, but gave Headley and his companions the address of a house on Washington Place, where the "Greek fire" was to be procured. Headley went to get it and a valise full of bottles containing a liquid that looked like water, but gave forth a phosphorescent smell was handed to him. They had been informed that it would burn any substance with extreme rapidity and could not be extinguished by water.
Capt. Kennedy, who was later captured and hanged, seems to have been the daredevil of the crowd. He remarked as the party assembled at their rendezvous at 6 p.m, on November 25: "We'll make a spoon or spoil a horn." The plan followed by the conspirators was that of engaging rooms at different hotels which they had kept for them, and which they visited from time to time and where they were to start the fires. At seven o'clock they started on their routes, going to the various hostelries, throwing the "Greek fire" into the bedding of their rooms, and hastening away before the blaze could be discovered. Nineteen hotels in all were set on fire in this way. Headley fired the Astor House, the City Hotel, the Everett House, and the United States Hotel. Col. Martin fired the Hoffmann, the Fifth Avenue, the St. Denis, and two others. The establishments other than those mentioned in which blazes were started were the St. James, La Farge, St. Nicholas, Metropolitan, Howard, Tammany, Brandreth's, Gramercy Park, Hanford, New England, Belmont, Lovejoy's.
Kennedy, after he had attempted to fire the hotels on his list, went to Barnum's Museum while it was crowded with sight-seers and set fire to one of the stairways, and the party then made attempts to fire the shipping on the North River. Harrington tried to fire the Metropolitan Theatre, and Ashbrook made a similar attempt in Niblo's Garden. Then the conspirators mingled with the throng on the streets to hear their work discussed. But it soon became apparent that they had been fooled by the chemist who supplied the incendiary liquid. Far from being inextinguishable, the fires had in every instance been put out with little difficulty. Next day the gang loafed about New York under the very noses of the police and were surprised when they purchased copies of the Evening Post the next afternoon to find that it gave minute particulars about every one of them. Hyams, it was later shown, had, a month previously, sent an emissary from Toronto with their names and descriptions. The story was treated as ridiculous, and though on their arrival they had been shadowed, the detectives had given up the pursuit when nothing occurred on election night and reported that the party were harmless youths.
Even after the event no watch was placed on outgoing trains. At nine p.m. on Saturday, November 26, twenty-four hours after their crimes, they boarded the New York Central train due to leave at 11 p.m. and after a very nervous two hours, left New York unmolested. They arrived at Albany on Sunday morning and found that no trains left for Suspension Bridge until evening. They spent the day in various hotels, left Albany unsuspected, and were on Canadian soil next morning. Henry McDonald and an accessory in New York, a man named Horton, who edited the Day Book, were arrested, but later released.
Kennedy was the only man who faced trial on the actual charge. A month later he and Ashbrook went on a spying expedition to Michigan. They were betrayed once more by Hyams to the authorities. Officers came on board a train near Detroit to arrest them and apprehended Kennedy. Ashbrook escaped by diving out of a window into a snow bank. Kennedy was tried in Fort Lafayette and gave drunkenness as his excuse for firing Barnum's Museum. In his confession he said he had exceeded his orders in endangering the lives of women and children. Appeals for mercy in influential quarters failed, and he was hanged. The early close of the war saved the lives of the others.
Col. Thompson, in his report to Mr. Benjamin, speaks of agents who claim to have accomplished feats of incendiarism at St. Louis, New Orleans, Louisville, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Cairo, Ill., but suggests that not one dollar of remuneration should be paid until the parties had adduced proof. The agents directly under him were unsalaried, but were reimbursed for expenses out of the half million dollars or more of gold placed at the disposal of himself and Mr. Clay.
After the failure to burn New York it became tolerably clear that there was a traitor in the camp, and who he was became certain when Hyams testified at Montreal and Toronto, against Young, Burley, and their fellow prisoners. The Northern authorities were so incensed that Major-Gen. Dix issued an order directing his troops to pursue into Canada any suspects, an order which was a few days later revoked on representations by the British Ambassador.
The Canadian authorities had now become madly anxious to get rid of their dangerous visitors, and the day of departure was at hand. The last exploit engineered on Canadian soil was a plan to wreck a train at Dunkirk, N.Y., which it was supposed would convey seven Confederate officers from Sandusky to Fort Lafayette. The affair was clumsily managed, but all the conspirators, save Beall, who had been mixed up in the "Philo Parsons" affair, and Anderson, who had been with the New York party, again escaped to Canada. Anderson saved his neck by turning State's evidence and may in reality have been a Northern secret service man, as Longmire was also suspected of being.
Beall, despite his plea that he was an officer concerned in a legitimate belligerent enterprise, was hanged. After the war, Col. Martin, the leader of the New York expedition, was arrested and confined in irons at Fort Lafayette for seven months, when President Johnson granted him an unconditional pardon in the summer of 1866. By January of 1865, all the conspirators, save the prisoners awaiting extradition, and Col. Thompson, who stayed to finance their defence, had departed from Canada, greatly to the relief of the much harassed legal authorities.
Collectors of Lincolniana must be embarrassed for library space by the great number of books and casual writings,—some sane and illuminative, some exaggerated and hysterical,—which increasingly celebrate the career of the "Emancipator". In the unabated enthusiasm for his memory, common to all English speaking countries to-day, it is not generally realized that the reverence in which the name of Lincoln is held is largely posthumous; that during his lifetime his genius for statesmanship was not recognized by great numbers of educated people, and those who did recognize it were especially contemned by American politicians as a class, not merely among his opponents, but in the inner circles of his own party. Men who had sat in his cabinet, not merely endeavoured to prevent his nomination for a second term as President, but as late as August, 1864, eight months before his assassination, the pundits of the Republican party brought the strongest pressure on him to withdraw his candidacy and hand over the nomination to General Fremont. The charge against him was that of inefficiency and half-heartedness in the conduct of the Civil War—a type of allegation with which many of us became too familiar in the recent conflict. That Lincoln was a great statesman was recognized almost immediately after the assassin's bullet had done its work, not merely in his own country but in Great Britain; but unquestionably the last year of his life was rendered sorrowful by the distrust and treachery of supposed friends.
That Lincoln was nobler than many of his associates Canadian statesmen of the Civil War period had reason to know, and it is worth while recalling an episode of "secret diplomacy" in which he proved his good-will to this country. The facts are to be found in Lord Newton's monograph, Lord Lyons: A Record of Diplomacy. Lord Lyons, it will be remembered, was British Ambassador to Washington throughout the Civil War, and later served in a similar capacity at Paris throughout the Franco-Prussian War. Of the greatness of his services during the former incumbency, little is remembered. Suffice it to say that on his arrival in Washington, in 1859, he found matters between the North and South rapidly approaching a crisis, and what was more alarming still from the standpoint of a British diplomat, a movement among influential politicians to unify the country by provoking a war with Great Britain and forcibly annexing Canada. The leader of this movement was William Henry Seward of New York, the favourite of Eastern Republicans for the Presidential nomination at the convention which nominated Lincoln in 1860. In his canvass for this honour, Seward had publicly advocated the annexation of Canada as a compensation for any loss which might be occasioned to the Union by the defection of the South, and he did not abandon his ideas after he had accepted the portfolio of Secretary of State in Lincoln's Cabinet early in 1861. No doubt he and his friends had some curious idea that many Canadians would welcome such a step, and as Lord Lyons put it in a letter to Sir Edmund Head, the Canadian Governor, "The people calculate here (I am afraid not without reason) upon being effectively aided in an inroad upon Canada by the Irish Secret Societies which have been formed, especially in the State of New York, nominally for the purpose of invading Ireland."
The short-sightedness of this agitation was presently apparent, for the possibility of the North being involved in a war with Great Britain encouraged the South in its purpose of cutting loose from the Union. Seward and his followers were presently obliged to use their influence with editors friendly to them to "call off the dogs of war". Nevertheless the project of securing Canada and her resources as an offset to defeat by the South continued alluring.
The policy advocated by Lord Lyons after he had become aware of the policies of Mr. Seward (who was a baiter, not merely of Great Britain, but of all European powers, notably France) was that of placing Canada in a state of complete defence, but he had another difficulty to encounter, in that many British statesmen, concerned with domestic reforms, were more or less favourable to abandoning self-governing colonies altogether. On May 21, 1861, Lord Lyons wrote from Washington to the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lord John Russell, "One of the great difficulties I have to contend with in my endeavour to keep this Government within such bounds as may render the maintenance of peace possible is the persuasion which prevails, even with sensible men, that no outrage will compel England to make war with the North. Such men, although seeing the inexpediency and impropriety of Mr. Seward's treatment of European powers, still do not think it worth while to risk their own mob popularity by declaring against it. If they thought there was really any danger they would no doubt do a great deal to avert it." In this connection he especially mentions Charles Summer of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, as a man likely to prove an influence for peace.
Seward was a man who knew little, and cared less, about international law, and as has been stated, his policies had helped to whet the Southern resolution for war. The ignominious defeat of the Northern forces at Bull Run in July, 1861, brought some Northerners to their senses, and but increased the belief of others that the annexation of Canada would be a desirable solution. Such was the state of the public mind when the "Trent" affair occurred in November of that year. A Northern commander, Capt. Wilkes, fired a shot across the bows of the British ship "Trent", boarded her, and made prisoner the Confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell, men of the highest eminence in the South, who had formerly been members of the United States Senate. How the dying Prince Consort averted war by altering the wording of a peremptory despatch is well known—though the intervention is usually credited to Queen Victoria—and the cause of peace was also skilfully aided by the delaying tactics of Lord Lyons. Ultimately Capt. Wilkes' action was repudiated and Mason and Slidell sent to England.
It may be imagined how much anxiety the "Trent" affair, coming after two years' advocacy of forcible annexation, caused to Canadian statesmen. There was no thought of yielding passively, and the British Government had at last awakened to the necessity of defending its subjects in this country. It was then that Sir John A. Macdonald decided on the wise course of "putting it up to Lincoln", and that the good-will of the "rail-splitter" was revealed. Mr. (afterward Sir) Alexander T. Galt, the Canadian Minister of Finance, happened to be in Washington in November, 1861, and was instructed to call on Lincoln and ascertain his views. The President at once disclaimed, on behalf of himself and his cabinet, all thought of aggression against Canada. One of Seward's acts had been to embark on a breach of the treaty of Ghent, which forbade the establishment of fortifications along the Great Lakes. This, Lincoln said, he had opposed but had been over-ruled, and added, "We must do something to satisfy the people". About the Mason and Slidell case he said, "Oh, that will be gotten along with."
Lincoln also entrusted Galt with a singular confidence, which illustrates his despondency over the military situation as it was in the autumn of 1861. He volunteered the observation that if he could not within a reasonable period get hold of Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and keep Maryland, he should tell the American people to give up the contest, for it would be "too big" for them. Fortunately the North developed a great deal more resolution and unity than seemed apparent to Lincoln at that time.
The news that Mr. Galt brought to Canada was reassuring in a measure, but precautions for defence were proceeded with because the impression produced on the Canadian emissary was that Lincoln, while absolutely honest and sincere, was far from being the master of his own cabinet. That this impression was ill-founded was presently apparent, however, for in the "Trent" negotiations, Lord Lyons found not only Lincoln an earnest supporter of a peaceful solution, but even Seward, the main cause of apprehension, a convert to the Presidential view. If Lincoln had yielded to the desires of those who had over-ruled him in connection with fortifications on the Great Lakes, undoubtedly Canada would have been a scene of conflict. The calibre of the men he had to deal with is shown by the fact that his Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, while campaigning in 1863 with a view to seizing the Presidency, talked of "taking Old Mother England by the hair and giving her a good shaking", which, of course, meant invasion of Canada. Canadians, proud of their own institutions, may well give thanks that Lincoln was in the White House in the troublous early sixties.
Whitman societies are as numerous to-day as were Browning societies thirty years ago, and are by no means confined to the United States. When the centenary of the mighty Walt occurred on May 31st, 1919, retrospective references to him were published on all sides, but none, so far as I am aware, made allusion to his close affiliations with Canada. This circumstance was largely due to his long personal friendship with the famous Canadian alienist, the late Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, of London, Ont., who, in 1882, wrote the first authorized biography of Whitman, and who was for many years his intimate correspondent and devotee. It is not generally known that Whitman not only visited Canada, but wrote his impressions of this country. His Journal in Canada was published in full in 1897, five years after his death; and extracts from it were contained in the volume of prose notes known as Specimen Days in America, published in 1887. These make his affection for those parts of Canada which he knew (Ontario and Quebec) abundantly clear. Had he lived to visit the Western provinces and the Canadian Rockies, his admiration would have been even greater, for no man who ever lived had a deeper relish for both ordinary human character and the magnificence of Nature. It is possible, too, that one of his longer excursions in blank verse, "By Blue Ontario's Shore", was of Canadian origin, though I have not delved deeply enough into the history of his works to speak definitely on this point.
Let me be frank and say that, though I have been dipping into his writings off and on for a good many years, I have never been able to make up my mind about Whitman. I cannot decide whether his impatience of literary forms and exact expression was due to the surge of tremendous emotions or to ordinary laziness. If I remember rightly, the latter view was that of his contemporary, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Some years ago a noted American journalist—I think it was William Henry Hurlbert—upset the serenity of a Whitman celebration by calling him a "literary troglodyte". After all, a man had sooner be called that than a "literary eunuch", a phrase Goldwin Smith applied to Ruskin. Whitman's gusto of approach to every sensation that constitutes human existence stamps him as an original in whom interest will not die. The paradox of his fame lies in the fact that, though no man who ever lived was a greater enthusiast for democracy, his works make no popular appeal. His public in his lifetime and since his death was, and has remained, exclusively literary. He is lauded by select æsthetic coteries; is a writer's writer, and nothing more. The public of Whitman is much more limited than even that of an elegant and meticulous artist like Oscar Wilde. The poems which have most general appeal owe their popularity in part to the strong general love for Lincoln's memory, which they so eloquently voice, and also to the fact that he is really saying something potent and true. Others of his poems seem to be a welter of words in which, seemingly, he had not found a clue to his own thoughts.
In truth, the men who have written most appreciatively of Whitman, strike one as being more interested in the man than in his work—a tribute to what must have been a wonderful personality. The memory of that personality Dr. Bucke did most to preserve. He was not only one of Whitman's literary executors, with Thomas Biggs Harned and the latter's brother-in-law, Horace Traubel, of Philadelphia, but the Life, published in 1882, is, in the opinion of the distinguished British critic, Ernest Rhys, "invaluable". So great was the impression that Whitman made upon the Canadian, that the latter took to dressing and wearing a beard like him, so that in his lifetime, Dr. Bucke, though eighteen years the junior of his idol, might have passed for Whitman. To the poet's personality the great Lincoln himself paid an involuntary tribute when he said, "Well, he looks like a man." Had Lincoln not been assassinated, it would possibly have made a difference in the career and fame of Whitman.
In the first place, his two most memorable poems, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed and O Captain! My Captain!, would not have been written, and in the second, he would probably not have been the victim of the outburst of Puritanism which, in 1868, led to his dismissal from the American Civil Service. When in 1855 Leaves of Grass was first published, it fell absolutely flat. Subsequently, in the American civil war, Whitman wrecked his health by unselfish service as a hospital nurse and orderly, and was rewarded by a small post in the Government service. Then it was discovered that in certain poems in Leaves of Grass Whitman had infringed the prerogative of the writers of the Old Testament by dealing frankly with certain natural functions. The "past" of the sick and impoverished patriot was unearthed, and American Puritanism decided that, though certain aberrations might be pardoned in the books attributed to Moses, they were intolerable in a modern American poet. If Lincoln had lived, the demand for his dismissal would hardly have succeeded, but in 1868 Whitman had no friends powerful enough to cope with the "uplifters" of the carpet-bag era. Nevertheless, the episode served to direct attention to his seemingly still-born book of verse, and to win him permanent literary friendships.
Whitman's career for the next twenty-four years was one of idleness, broken by fits of literary production, and at the age of sixty-one he spent a summer in Canada as the guest of Dr. Bucke, who then gathered much of the material for his Life. He was charmed from the moment his train began slowly to cross the old suspension bridge over the Niagara gorge, which, he says, "gave me Niagara, its superb severity of action, and colour and majestic grouping, in one short indescribable show. The Falls were in plain view about a mile off, but very distinct, and no roar—hardly a murmur. The river tumbling green and white far below me; the dark high banks, the plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars, in shadow; and tempering and arching, all the immense materiality, a clear sky overhead, with a few white clouds, limpid, spiritual, silent." Passages like these convince one that Whitman's real talent was as a writer of prose rather than of poetry. With eloquence as exact and fine he wrote of the St. Lawrence, the Saguenay, and Capes Eternity and Trinity; and was struck by the simple democracy of all types of Canadians.
His host, Dr. Bucke, was then Superintendent of the London Insane Asylum; and Whitman wrote a brief impressive note on his emotions on taking part in a religious service in the chapel with the insane: "O! the looks that came from those faces. There were two or three I shall probably never forget. Nothing at all markedly repulsive or hideous—strangely enough, I did not see one such. Our common humanity, mine and yours, everywhere:
'The same old blood—the same red, running blood.'
Yet, behind most, an inferr'd arrière of such storms, such wrecks, such mysteries, fires, love, wrong, greed for wealth, religious problems, crosses—mirrored from those crazed faces (yet now temporarily so calm, like still waters); all the woes and sad happenings of life and death—now from everyone the same devotional element radiating—was it not, indeed, the peace of God that passeth all understanding, strange as it may sound?"
There are some to whom the fact that the Canadian most deeply interested in Whitman was an eminent alienist will seem significant and appropriate. For instance, Professor Maurice Hutton, of the University of Toronto, in alluding recently to the manner in which Gilbert and Sullivan had ended "Wilde-mania" in England with Patience, said it was a pity there had not been someone in America at the same time to end "Whitmania". Dr. Bucke's literary efforts were by no means limited to his work as biographer and editor of Whitman. He wrote extensively on mental evolution, maintaining the theory that the human mind has been gradually evolved by a species of growth extending over millions of years. In 1894 his paper, Cosmic Consciousness, caused much discussion; and in 1897 he was President of the Psychical Branch of the British Medical Association. He was unquestionably a great authority on mental diseases; and as such was sometimes briefed as an expert witness for the defence in murder cases. Once, at least, his logic almost proved fatal to the prisoner whom he was trying to free, for under suave pressure by a Crown prosecutor he admitted his conviction that the judge, jury, and everyone in the courtroom were probably insane. The verdict of "guilty" was arrived at in record time, and the prisoner would have been hanged had it not been for the exercise of executive clemency. Yet Dr. Bucke would certainly have made an exception in favour of the sanity of Whitman; though many of his literary contemporary critics regarded him as a madman.
One of the most stupendous economic events that has come to pass within the present century has been the birth and growth of the Ontario Hydro-Electric Development System, the greatest institution of its kind in the world, and also the first experiment in public ownership of such vast proportions. Its importance from every point of view is not yet realized in Canada. But it has of late years become a subject of political controversy in several states of the American union, and in both countries a great deal of "information", largely false or misleading, has been circulated.
The meaning of this development may be briefly stated in the following words: It is as though a source of energy as vast as the entire soft coal deposits of Pennsylvania had by some miraculous process been transferred to Canadian soil and by another miracle made not only clean but inexhaustible as the widow's cruse. Some day a full and accurate history of the Ontario Hydro-Electric System will be written. In the meantime the following notes, written at the time of Sir Adam Beck's death in August, 1925, may serve to correct certain false impressions on the subject.
To allege, as has been asserted in a widely circulated posthumous brochure by a professor of political economy, who died shortly after Sir Adam Beck, that the origins and perpetuation of "Hydro" were merely a political "fake", is to propagate the most fantastic of fables. "Hydro" came into being as a direct result of the economic and industrial needs of Ontario, and was actually forced upon politicians against their will by the more enlightened manufacturers and municipal leaders of the province.
The memories of communities are proverbially short. There has been so much confusion in the statements concerning the origins of Ontario Hydro-Electric development published since the death of that truly great Canadian, Sir Adam Beck, that it is worth while recalling the facts relating to its inception. If ever a man needed to be saved from his friends as well as enemies it was Sir Adam. In his later years the more vociferous of them helped to embarrass his policies and to embitter his life by surrounding him with an atmosphere of suspicion. In certain quarters his death was made the occasion, not of tributes to himself so much as of assaults on living men. After the death of Napoleon it was said of Marshal Marmont that he used the grave of his former leader as an ambush to shoot at those whom he disliked, and the same process has begun since the death of the late Chairman of the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission. Some of the most belated converts to government control of electrical developments at Niagara Falls were the first to seize the occasion of Sir Adam Beck's death to suggest that they had fought an almost single-handed and lonesome battle in behalf of bringing the "white coal" of Niagara to the factories and homes of Ontario.
The present writer, as a newspaper reporter, was identified with the early campaign for developing the power resources of Niagara Falls for the benefit of the people within the widest possible zone of distribution, and can speak from first-hand knowledge of the difficulties overcome,—the chief of which were public indifference and skepticism. It is almost unbelievable to-day, but nevertheless true, that twenty-five years ago a majority of the business men of Ontario were of the opinion that electric energy would never be a serious competitor with steam power as a source of energy for industrial purposes. Its importance in connection with traction and lighting utilities was of course established, but even these were, at the dawn of this century, operated on a coal basis.
The idea of utilizing Niagara Falls as a source of electric energy originated in Buffalo, and a corporation was formed to develop power on the American side of the cataract by Col. Rankin of that city. Col. Rankin, who was far-sighted enough to see that development on the Canadian side would one day become necessary for his plans, took steps to incorporate the Canadian Niagara Power Company, and obtained a concession for development on our territory. This was in the early nineties, and for several years Buffalo interests kept their Canadian concession locked up, awaiting future developments. Subsequently another Buffalo corporation, known as the Ontario Power Company, headed by the late Banker R. Paine, obtained a concession to develop power on the Canadian side by a simpler and more economical system, but was debarred from going ahead by lack of capital. When Arthur Sturgis Hardy became Premier of Ontario in 1896, he was confronted with a situation whereby cities like Buffalo and Niagara Falls, N.Y., were enjoying the benefits of hydro-electric development, while possibilities on the Canadian side of the river were lying idle, awaiting the mandate of American concessionaires. The only development on the Canadian side was a small plant for the operation of the Niagara Falls and River Railway, constructed by the late W. T. Jennings, at one time City Engineer of Toronto. At the instance of William Manley German, who at that time represented the riding of Welland in the Ontario Legislature, Premier Hardy forced the American corporations to commence development work on the Canadian side by threatening cancellation of their concessions. Mr. Hardy had difficulty in forcing action, because Col. Rankin, the head of the more powerful of the two companies involved, had been advised that he could obtain a veto from the Laurier government, on any cancellation proceedings that the Ontario Legislature might decide upon. Mr. Hardy "put the fear of God" into both the Ottawa Government and the Buffalo interests, and development was started. The engineer of the Canadian Niagara Power Company was the late Cecil B. Smith, a splendid type in every sense, who was some years later engaged by Adam Beck as the first engineer of the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission, and who had earlier been identified with power projects in other parts of Canada.
The public ownership idea in connection with the distribution of electrical energy from Niagara Falls originated in Waterloo County among the Swiss and German industrialists, of whom Adam Beck's father, Jacob Beck of Baden, Ont., was a type. The real originator of the idea was E. W. B. Snider, a flour-miller of St. Jacobs, Ont., a man of pure Swiss descent, who was familiar with what hydro-electric development had done for Switzerland,—and it is a fact worth noting that the first turbines installed at Niagara Falls were made at Zurich, the original home, it is said, of such appliances. Mr. Snider had active associate propagandists in Messrs. Breithaupt and Detweiler, prominent business men of Berlin (now Kitchener), Ont., and that city may honestly claim to be the original home of "Hydro" as a publicly owned enterprise. With regard to the natural initiative of Mr. Snider, it should be recorded that he was the very first miller on the continent of North America to import and instal the Hungarian roller milling process—an invention which later revolutionized flour-milling on this continent, and which was first used in the United States at Minneapolis two or three years after Mr. Snider had brought his machinery to Canada.
About the year 1900, the Toronto Board of Trade took up the idea of Niagara power development largely at the instance of two gentlemen interested in the jewellery trade, P. W. Ellis, at present chairman of the Queen Victoria Park Commission,with jurisdiction over the entire length of the Niagara River frontier, and the Toronto Transportation Commission; and the late W. K. McNaught, the man who made the Canadian National Exhibition what it is to-day. Messrs. Ellis and McNaught were aware of what hydro-electric development had meant to jewelry manufacture in Switzerland and Northern Italy, and were keenly alive to the advantages of a clean source of power in contrast to the dirt and waste caused in their trade by coal-generated power. They brought the Toronto Board of Trade to their way of thinking; and, indeed, Toronto manufacturers had an object lesson before their eyes in the city of Hamilton. Certain progressive Hamiltonians, of whom Sir John Gibson was the most prominent, had already developed hydro energy at DeCew Falls, near St. Catharines, with the waters of the Welland River at its back, and industry had gone forward by leaps and bounds in their city. Hamilton could afford to be indifferent to Niagara development with such resources at its doors.
Messrs. Ellis and McNaught found a political champion in the late Frank Spence, who had attained prominence as a temperance leader. Mr. Spence was a very able speaker and, at that time, a member of the Toronto Board of Control. Though he is best remembered as a prohibitionist, his services in furthering the cause of hydro development were much more important from the standpoint of public welfare. The first important and well-informed political speech in advocacy of hydro-electric development and distribution of power under government auspices was made by the late Dr. Beattie Nesbitt, a practical politician, who aspired to be the Conservative "boss" of Toronto, but nevertheless an educated man of marked scientific tastes. Dr. Nesbitt was erratic and uncontrollable, but a man of rare initiative and progressive instincts. He had studied the problem in Switzerland, Italy, and California, and was firmly convinced that development at Niagara would revolutionize the industries of Ontario. If he had had the powers of concentration possessed by Sir Adam Beck in carrying through a task, his name would be an honoured one in connection with the history of "Hydro".
The earliest eminent journalistic sponsor of government control of both development and transmission was Sir John Willison. In 1902, as editor of the Globe, he enunciated this policy in opposition to the views of the leaders of the party of which his newspaper was the organ, and which was then in power both in Ontario and at Ottawa. The opposition of the Ontario Government of that day to anything savouring of public control or ownership was dictated largely by its Attorney-General, Sir John Gibson, an honest believer in the principle of private ownership, who had already done great things for his home city of Hamilton by furthering the DeCew Falls development.
When Willison took charge of the Toronto News on January 1st, 1903, under the ownership of Sir Joseph Flavelle, the issue had become clear cut. Late in 1902, the Ontario Government had granted a concession to a syndicate headed by the late Sir William Mackenzie, the late Frederic Nicholls, and Sir Henry Pellatt, all of Toronto, which tied up one of the few remaining development sites at Niagara Falls. It was well known that these capitalists intended to allocate the power developed on special terms to the utility corporations and industries in which they happened to be stock-holders, and thus discriminate against less fortunate competitors. Though it was not generally realized, unfair discrimination against the smaller manufacturing cities of Western Ontario in connection with a great national asset was also inevitable.
Willison made the establishment of a government-owned transmission line for the equitable distribution of electric energy the foremost plank in the platform of the rejuvenated News. The writer was one of the newspaper men engaged by him in connection with the new enterprise, and for two months it was my principal assignment to arouse public interest in the whole matter of hydro development at Niagara, and the necessity of its being preserved for the benefit of all consumers and not for the selected few, by means of interviews with prominent business men. It amazes me to-day to recall the backwardness and conservatism of many manufacturers on the subject. I not only ransacked the business establishments of Toronto for men who were really aroused to the importance of the issue, but travelled through the manufacturing towns of Western Ontario on a similar mission. In the majority of instances manufacturers were still unconvinced that electricity would ever supersede steam power, as a source of energy; and of the wisdom of governmental action.
Nevertheless the progressive minority carried their point. Late in the winter of 1903 a conference was held at the Walper House, Berlin (now Kitchener), and there most of the propagandists first met Adam Beck, who as mayor of London had won general approbation by his solution of a local water problem, and was also a member of the Ontario Legislature. Mr. Beck, who was then best known as a horseman and daring rider in steeplechases, said he was at the Conference to learn, and listened with deep interest to the representations of Messrs. McNaught, Ellis, Spence, and the ardent Waterloo county group, who regarded him with affection as a native son of their district. A great deputation was organized to wait on Premier Ross; and, contrary to expectations, the latter conceded the principle of a government-owned transmission line. He appointed a commission to formulate a plan of distribution, consisting of E. W. B. Snider, the original agitator, who served as Chairman, P. W. Ellis of Toronto, W. F. Cockshutt of Brantford, and Adam Beck of London. Curiously enough all of these gentlemen, with the exception of Mr. Snider, were Conservatives. They were selected for sectional reasons, and Mr. Beck was named on account of his prominence in Western Ontario. Premier Ross's decision was a single-handed triumph for Willison and the News. Beck, who had been non-committal at the historic Walper House conference, became the most ardent of converts, and without his organizing genius and Napoleonic energy, Hydro development could never have reached its later proportions. He made it the corner stone of his political ambitions and "hewed to the line". One of his greatest conquests was the winning over of J. P. Whitney to his views, for the latter at the outset was not an enthusiast for public ownership. When Whitney, not then knighted, came in to power in 1905, he created for Beck the new office of Minister of Power, and from that day forward the course of "Hydro" was straight, though not always easy sailing.
The original intention of "Hydro" advocates was that the government should control distribution, and leave development to private capital. The interested capitalists themselves made this impossible by "black hand" tactics against Beck and his chief engineer, the late Cecil B. Smith. Finally, for its own salvation, the Hydro Commission was compelled to buy the Ontario Power Company to ensure a supply to municipalities. It was here that some of the original supporters of government control parted company with Sir Adam Beck. They held that in adding development to the transmission project, it was the Hydro Commission's duty to buy out competing private interests. In principle they were perhaps right, but my own opinion, based on inside knowledge, is that the slanderous campaign these interests organized against Beck and his associates, in the period between 1906 and 1910, put them entirely out of court. He would have been less than human had he failed to fight tooth and nail the men who sought to ruin him in every sense that the word implies; but in the minds of some, the idea of governmental competition with private enterprise was, and is still, regarded as an unfair usurpation of authority.
[The following article was originally written at the request of a periodical of wide circulation in the United States, "The Dearborn Independent", and lest the writer be accused of purely parochial pride, it should be added that in making the request the editor stated that so many American visitors to Canada had been profoundly impressed by the University of Toronto that an article interpreting its spirit would be welcomed in many parts of the United States. As originally published, it bore the title "A Capital in the Realm of Higher Scholarship". A fact which impressed United States readers as unique was the position of the University as a federation of colleges in which diverse elements found a common meeting ground. Subsequently the writer learned that the article contained much that was news to Canadians themselves with regard to the history and nature of one of the country's most celebrated educational institutions. There has been no attempt to deal exhaustively with its history, which is long and intricate.]
Within recent decades Toronto has grown to be one of the great cities of the continent, a financial, manufacturing, and trading center, whose interests reach not only all over Canada but to many parts of both hemispheres. Of its material prosperity ample evidence exists in residential districts that for opulence and extent are excelled by no city of the half-million class.
But Toronto has one institution which seldom forms the theme of oratory—an institution but indirectly connected with its latter-day prosperity, though a priceless possession—and that is its University.
Remove the University and the savour of individual life which Toronto possesses would largely disappear. For Torontonians themselves it would cease to be the city in which they have been reared. It has not the ancient traditions that envelop the historic universities of the motherland with a haze of romance. It does not go back as far as American universities like Harvard and Yale; but from the days when English-speaking Canada commenced to mean something to Canadians themselves, and to the world at large, it has been a fountain of intellectual aspiration, a civilizing influence, with an atmosphere all its own.
To define that atmosphere is not easy; but even the casual visitor who comes momentarily in touch with the social life of the city instinctively feels it; for whatever there is of distinction in that social life emanates from the University. Its influence makes itself felt in the minds of industrial and financial leaders who have helped to build up Canada's prosperity, and who feel it an honour to support the University. Though in later years it has by no means neglected those practical and scientific aspects of education, which are all-important for a country in so early a stage of development as Canada, it also represents the spirit of education in its larger sense, as a means whereby the youth of to-day shall not be the empty-handed heir of the ages, but shall mingle, as it were, in the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit since the beginning of recorded history and poetic utterance.
The University of Toronto is still in its essence, what it was in its beginnings—a fountain of old-world culture and tradition set down on the fringe of a wilderness. When it first came into active being, conditions in many parts of the province of Upper Canada, as Ontario was known until 1867, were not unlike those of the state of Ohio as described in W. D. Howells' graphic picture of primitive society—The Leatherwood God; and it has played a vital part in the development of Canada ever since. It is intimately bound up in the history of Toronto, as an early centre of government, and it is to the credit of the men who laid the foundations of British institutions in the country of the Great Lakes, and from thence by gradual steps in the vast prairie country of the Canadian West, that from the outset they had the idea of establishing University culture in the new-tapped wilderness.
To define the tradition that lies back of the University of Toronto, it is necessary to touch briefly on the conditions under which the Province of Upper Canada, which for a brief period included much of what is now Michigan, came into being. The cession of Canada to Great Britain after Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759, brought with it vast, and partly unexplored, tracts of territory lying on both sides of the Great Lakes, and extending far down the Mississippi Valley. The actual ownership of these tracts was not really settled until many years later; for before Great Britain had really time to take cognizance of her heritage, she was involved in the difficulties with the thirteen American colonies of the Atlantic seaboard.
The populated region to the east of Montreal then became the Province of Lower Canada, and the unpopulated region lying north of the lower lakes became Upper Canada. There were old French trading posts on the Niagara River, the Detroit River, and on the north shore of Lake Ontario. One of these posts was Fort Rouille, on the site where Toronto now stands. Because of its land-locked harbour, and easily defended position, it was selected as the seat of government in the new territory. The British Government gave little heed to this beautiful and fertile acquisition until the decade following the cessation of the Revolutionary War. It became necessary then to find homes for those American colonists who had sided with Great Britain and whom several of the states had driven out. In passing, it may be said that one reason the name of George Washington has been held in esteem in Canada is that he did his best to prevent this policy of spoliation. The Federal power in the United States was at that time too weak to make his protests effective. The United Empire Loyalists, as they came to be known, were chiefly made up of business and professional classes of New England and New Jersey; and though the confiscatory policy left them despoiled, it did not leave them helpless. New homesteads were found for some in the older colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; but large numbers were given holdings in the virgin territory of Upper Canada. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, York, now Toronto, was to all intents and purposes a New England settlement, supplemented by British officials and by enterprising immigrants with a little capital, who presently began to arrive from the British Isles.
The newcomers at once began to organize the young colony in earnest, and it is evidence of their qualities that higher education was one of their first cares. As early as 1798, the British governor, General Simcoe, recommended to the Imperial government, on the advice of his council, an educational plan to be sustained by vast grants of Crown lands in Upper Canada. It provided for the establishment of grammar schools at four points, at Sandwich on the Detroit River; at Newark (now Niagara); at Kingston near the eastern extremity of Lake Ontario; and at Cornwall on the St. Lawrence River; and for a university at York (Toronto). The British Government assented to this recommendation in 1799, and thus the University of Toronto had its documentary beginnings.
Nevertheless, it took more than a governmental edict, even when supported by ample financial provisions, to make a university. Many events intervened to prevent immediate fruition. There were the Napoleonic wars in Europe which retarded colonization and which had an off-shoot in 1812 in renewed war between Great Britain and the United States, during which the fringe of settlements along the lower lakes became battle fields. The town of York was burned by American troops and, in reprisal, British troops burned Washington. It was in 1819, before York had risen from its ashes and the world had become so tranquilized, that talk of a university could be revived. Then ensued a different type of conflict to delay matters still further—religious differences.
At that time educational and religious interests coincided in nearly all countries; and the question as to which sect was to control the management of the proposed institution was important. There was a strong party which desired to see the Anglican or Episcopal church established in Canada as in England. This party held that the university should be an institution of the church controlled by the ecclesiastical authorities. On the other hand, the United Empire Loyalists who had come from the American colonies included many Wesleyans and Baptists; while nonconformity was well represented in the more recent immigration from England, Scotland, and Ireland.
The agitation for the abolition at Oxford of religious tests, which made all members of the student body compulsory members of the Church of England, had begun. The high churchmen in the young Canadian colony would have liked to see religious tests in the projected university; but the bulk of the population would have none of this. The savage parochial controversies of that day ended in a disintegration of forces and the establishment of a number of colleges or seminaries by various religious denominations, each drawing government funds. In later years nearly all these colleges have returned and now go to make up the federated group which comprises the University of Toronto.
The advocates of a university which should be a home of humanistic education in which all religious differences could be sunk, did succeed, in 1827, in obtaining a charter for the "University of King's College", which has since been the pivotal point of the institution, but the original resources had been sadly diminished. To put an end to controversy, it was provided that no clergyman of any denomination should be eligible to act as a professor. Things moved slowly still; there was a rebellion in the Canadas in 1837, which resulted in a change from the advisory to the responsible form of government. It was 1843 before teaching actually began under the charter, significantly enough within the halls of the legislature of Upper Canada itself. In 1849, the name of the institution was changed to "The University of Toronto", and in subsequent years when the federal principle was adopted, and the various denominational colleges came back into union, the parent stem (once King's College) became University College, operating under the original charter.
This charter retained one very interesting provision, designed to perpetuate University College as the linking and pivotal institution, from which all the affiliated colleges should radiate without compromising their special aims. No ordained clergyman of any denomination may hold a chair in its various faculties. It devotes itself to the teaching of the humanities and the abstract sciences like philosophy and mathematics. Thus it is possible for denominational colleges like St. Michael's, a Roman Catholic seminary; Victoria College, the chief educational institution of the Methodist church (now merged in the United Church of Canada); Trinity College, originally a foundation of High Church Episcopalianism; Wycliffe College, devoted to the spread of Low Church ideas; Knox College, a Presbyterian theological establishment; and various other colleges to co-operate on the general lines of higher education. Co-ordination in lectures is attained thereby. In a sense, therefore, University College, housed in the beautiful Norman-Gothic building, erected in 1857, which overlooks what used to be a very large campus, is a clearing house of culture for the whole University. Symbolically, it occupies the central position in the group of affiliated colleges and special faculty buildings which have in the past thirty years grown up. Situated in the very heart of Toronto, they give an ornamental, old-world atmosphere, which exercises a strong fascination over the minds of visitors to the city.
The special position of University College, and the various denominational interests to be reconciled, have led to the adoption of a dual system of government. It is presided over by a principal, the celebrated classical scholar, Professor Maurice Hutton, who holds prestige similar to that of Sir Robert Falconer, president of the federated university. Though an ordained clergyman is debarred from holding the post of principal of University College, the restriction does not apply to office of president of the University, and Sir Robert was originally a Presbyterian clergyman. It will be seen that the presidency, by its very nature, demands an incumbent of infinite tact.
The dual system runs all through the system of government, but though it appears complicated, and disputes are not unknown, the machinery runs smoothly for the most part. The university is both a state and a private institution. Its main factors are state-supported, but some affiliated colleges, like the Toronto Conservatory of Music, for instance, are private foundations. It has a senate which exercises control over the scholastic side of its activities and which is elected by the graduate body, with provision for the representation of every profession. It has also a board of governors, chosen by the government of the province of Ontario, which deals with the financial problems, and with other practical details of management. At one time it was feared that the University's position as a state institution militated against it as the recipient of those private gifts, which have been as vital to many of the great American universities of to-day as for Oxford in the Middle Ages. But of recent years the wealthy men of Ontario have come to a better realization of the situation and have been generous. It is to some extent a grievance among scholars that donations are usually ear-marked for the promotion of scientific studies, and since 1890, when the University was primarily academic and theological, the scientific side has expanded enormously and is mainly responsible for the ever increasing international fame of the institution. The Massey Foundation, created by the founder of the greatest agricultural implement industry in Canada, has been lavish and discerning in the humanistic character of its gifts; and of recent years the Rockefeller Foundation, of the United States, has, by its munificence, assured to its professors security in old age.
I should like to be able to say that all of the many buildings associated with the university are architecturally beautiful, but it would be an exaggeration. Many of the edifices are individually of rare artistic appeal; one or two are frankly ugly. But the incongruity of the general ensemble sometimes arouses hostile criticism. There has been no general plan either in the matter of design or material. Several schools of Gothic are represented, side by side with Grecian, Romanesque, Renaissance, and modern American or Richardsonian architecture. There is almost as great a diversity in the matter of materials; contrasts which are especially marked in the newer buildings. Now the modern mind seems instinctively to tend toward uniformity; and we have aesthetic critics in Canada who scoff at these contrasts and incongruities. The parent edifice, University College, hallowed by sentiment, is beautiful from every point of view; and not far from it is Hart House, also in the Norman-Gothic style, an edifice still but a few years old, that is the envy of academicians from various parts of the world. Linking the two is a noble memorial tower erected by the Alumni Association as a monument to the thousands of graduates and undergraduates who fell in the great war.
Hart House was built by the Massey Foundation at lavish cost as a gift to the student body, and has brought international fame to its architects, Henry Sproatt and Ernest R. Rolph. Its "Great Hall", where students dine at low cost, is an oak-beamed chamber in the Gothic style that is hardly surpassed for dignity and beauty of style anywhere; and the edifice includes sumptuous clubrooms, gymnasiums, a vast swimming pool, and a most finely equipped "little theater". The scope of its activities even includes a printing shop for student publications.
Despite the thoroughly modern character of many of the offshoots that have grown up around the parent stem, the University still retains something of the scholastic atmosphere that gives an inner significance to the very word "university". Its professorial and lecturing body has grown in thirty years from about eighty to eight hundred or more; and many members of the various faculties come from Oxford and Cambridge, and other famous European universities. The June convocation when the Chancellor, magnificent in robes of gold and black and attended by beadles, heads a procession across the campus from University College to Convocation Hall, followed by scholars in the robes of many universities, is an unforgettable spectacle.
The real greatness of the institution lies not merely in the scholars it has sent forth, and they are numerous, for its sons figure on many a faculty in the United States, and in some of the universities of Great Britain; but in the part it has played as an illuminating factor in the country at large. It takes the boy from the village and the farm and places him in touch with the larger things of life. Nor does it destroy his aptitude for practical affairs, as Oxford and Cambridge are accused of doing. A surprisingly large number of the younger financiers, manufacturers, and business men of Canada are graduates. Many leading public men of the Canadian north-west provinces call it their Alma Mater. Its association with Canadian public life in the Federal arena has indeed been long and continuous. The best illustration of the close touch it holds with the life of the people is the fact that when a few years ago a government of farmers was constituted in Ontario it was revealed that more than half of them boasted the University of Toronto as their Alma Mater.
In a sense, the University of Toronto furnishes a link between the systems of higher education in Europe and in the United States. A university in Great Britain or on the Continent is composed of colleges. In the United States a university is practically a large college, with various departments but yet a single entity. Toronto in its unique organization of federated and affiliated colleges occupies both sorts of relationships to the students. The adoption of the extension idea, so widely used in the United States, helps to bring the benefits of the great institution home to many who otherwise would be denied its privileges. Rural and urban residents alike share in these advantages, and the great university has been brought into intimate touch with many phases of life throughout the province. In truth its roots are not merely civic, as its name implies, but national.
The edition used as base for this book contained the following errors, which have been corrected:
Page 8: Sir John in one letter emphasize => Sir John in one letter emphasized
Page 47: supposititious => suppositious
Page 88: fr ction => friction
Page 110: who subsequenly became => who subsequently became
Page 138: The winter of 1846-8 => The winter of 1847-8
Page 144: put any constructon he pleased => put any construction he pleased
Page 144: pamphlets that sprang up aroud => pamphlets that sprang up around
Page 150: tutelary care (obsolete. => tutelary care (obsolete).
Page 178: with little or no risk uutil => with little or no risk until
Page 221: of Higher Scholarship", A fact which impressed => of Higher Scholarship". A fact which impressed
Page 224: far down the Missislippi Valley => far down the Mississippi Valley