Governor-General, October 24th—The Trent affair—Threatened Outbreak of
War—Death of Prince Albert, December 15th— 1861. Defeat of
Cartier-Macdonald Ministry—Maedonald-Sicotte Cabinet formed—Its
Policy—The Cotton Famine—Canada at the World's Fair—1862. Reconstruction
of the Cabinet—Political Dead-lock—1863.
Lord Monck, the new
Governor-General, soon after his appointment as Governor-General, had to
face a grave international difficulty, in which Great Britain became
involved with the United States.
On the 9th of November,
Capt. Wilkes, of the U. S. steam-ship Jacinto, forcibly carried off from
the British mail steamer Trent, Mossrs. Slidell and Mason, commissioners
of the Southern Confederacy to Great Britain and France. The British
Government promptly resented this violation of international comity and
of the rights of neutrals, and demanded the rendition of the captured
While awaiting an
answer to the ultimatum sent to the United States, the British
Government shipped to Canada several regiments of troops, the flower of
the army, with immense stores of munitions of war. The navigation of the
St. Lawrence having closed, a portion of the troops came overland
through New Brunswick. The country sprang to arms. Volunteer military
companies were organized, home guards enrolled, and large sums of money
contributed to defend, if need were, the honour and dignity of the
Amid these public
agitations came the startling intelligence of the death of Prince
Albert, the wise and noble consort of our beloved and honoured Queen,
December 15th. The nation's sympathy with the widowed sovereign was
profound and sincere. A prudent counsellor, a loving husband, a
high-minded man, the Queen continues to mourn his loss with almost the
poignancy of her first grief.
With the close of the
year the war cloud which menaced the country was dissipated by the
surrender of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, the captured commissioners, to
the British Government.
A new Parliament met in
Quebec on the 21st of March 1862 —a §enera^ Section having taken place
The conflict of parties
was renewed with the utmost vigour. The defence of the provinces against
the growing military power of the United States was a question of
considerable difficulty. The Imperial authorities, feeling that in case
of the rupture of peace Canada would become the battle-ground, had
devised a comprehensive system of fortification. The cost of the
extensive works at Quebec was to be defrayed by the Home Government and
that of the , works at Montreal and places west of it was to be paid
from the provincial treasury. The people of Canada, while willing to
make any effort for national defence that they thought commensurate with
their ability, shrank from largely increasing their heavy indebtedness
by undertaking military works which they considered too extensive and
costly for their means, and of the necessity for which they were by no
means convinced. The volunteer movement was vigorously sustained, and
rifle competitions contributed to the efficiency of the corps; but the
feeling of the country, in opposition to the fortification scheme, found
expression in an adverse vote of the House on the ministerial militia
bill. The ministry forthwith resigned, and Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald
was called upon to form a new cabinet. Mr. Macdonald announced as the
policy of his administration the observance of the double-majority
principle in all measures affecting locally either province; a
readjustment of the representation of Upper and Lower Canada
respectively, without, however, adopting the principle of representation
by population; and an increase of revenue and protection of manufactures
by a revised customs tariff.
rejection of the Macdonald-Cartier militia bill created an impression in
Great Britain that the Canadians were unwilling to bear the burden of
self-defence —an erroneous conception, which the military enthusiasm of
the country during the late Trent difficulty ought to have prevented.
The thorough loyalty of the people was shown by the liberal militia bill
of the following session.
Two veteran Canadian
politicians passed away during the summer — the gallant Sir Allan McNab,
and his Reform contemporary, the Hon. William Hamilton Merritt, the
projector of the Welland Canal.
The continuance of the
American war wai attended with great commercial advantage to Canada.
Canadian horses were in especial demand for remounts for the Union
cavalry and for the artillery. The country was also denuded of its
surplus live stock and farm produce, and in fact of every marketable
commodity, at highly remunerative prices. The resulting financial
prosperity, in which all industrial classes shared, enabled the people
to discharge the indebtedness which many had incurred through rash
speculation or lavish expenditure. It was observed that " the prosperous
years which now followed were distinguished by an unusually small amount
of litigation, while money lenders no longer reaped the abundant harvest
they had hitherto enjoyed." In their prosperity Canadians did not forget
the adversity of their suffering fellow-subjects in Great Britain, who
were enduring extreme privation from the cotton famine, consequent on
the closing of the ports of the Southern Confederacy, from which the raw
staple of their industry was derived. Generous contributions for the
relief of their necessities exhibited at once the patriotism and
philanthropy of the donors.
Parliament met in
Quebec early in February, and the situation increased representation of
Upper Canada was renewed. These efforts were defeated by the solid Lower
Canadian vote; but public opinion in Upper Canada was daily becoming
stronger in favour of a more equitable adjustment of the representation.
At length the Government was defeated on a direct vote of want of
confidence. They resolved to appeal to the country. In the new
Parliament it was found that the ministers had a majority of only three.
They managed, however, to get through the session without defeat.
Much irritation was
felt in the United States toward Great Britain, on account of the
devastation caused by the Alabama and Florida, and other Confederate
cruisers. These piratical vessels, as the people of the North regarded
them, constructed by British ship-builders, and equipped by British
merchants, had captured and destroyed hundreds of American ships, and
had almost swept American commerce from the seas. The Union armies,
however, by sheer force of numbers and an unlimited supply of war
materiel, were steadily crushing out the Southern rebellion,
notwithstanding a heroic resistance worthy of a better cause.