The Alabama Claims —
The Fishery Question — The Washington Treaty concluded, May 8th—1871.
Lord Dufferin, Governor-General-Canadian Pacific Railway Companies
organized—1872. Prince Edward Island enters the Dominion, July
1st—"Pacific Railway Scandal" controversy—The Macdonald Ministry
resigns, November 5th—1873.
The question of the
liability of Great Britain for the immense damage done to American
commerce by the depredation of the Alabama, Florida, and other
Confederate cruisers sailing from British ports, was the occasion of
intense and prolonged discussion in the United States. The political
irritation found vehement expression in the public press, on the
platform, and even in the pulpit.
Another cause of
international difficulty also existed. During the continuance of the
Reciprocity Treaty, the deep sea and inshore fisheries of the British
North American coast were freely thrown open to American fishermen by
the conditions of the treaty. On the suspension of reciprocity, of
course that privilege ceased. Yet the Americans continued to claim the
right of fishing in British waters. In order to remove as far as
possible these causes of irritation, a joint high commission, composed
of eminent statesmen of both nations, met at Washington in the month of
February, 1871. The result of the negotiations was expressed by the
Washington Treaty, concluded on the 8th of May. The Alabama claims were
jointly referred to a board of arbitration appointed by friendly powers,
which awarded $15,000,000 to the United States. The fisheries of both
Canada and the United States were thrown open to either country. A money
compensation (afterwards settled at $5,500,000) was, however, to be paid
to Canada in consideration of the superior value of her fisheries.
In the month of
December, 1871, the Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald, in consequence of a
vote of the Ontario Legislature adverse to the policy of the Government,
in appropriating $1,500,000 for railroad subsidies without taking a vote
on the appropriations to the several roads, resigned the premiership
into the hands of Mr. Edward Blake.1 Among the
important measures of the session was one disallowing the practice of
dual representation, that is, the occupancy of seats by the same person
in both the Dominion and local parliaments. In consequence of this, Mr.
Blake yielded the office of premier to the Hon. Oliver Mowat, who
resigned his position on the bench in order to enter again into
In the' month of June
following, the- Earl of Dufferin 2079 succeeded Sir John Young (now Lord
Lisgar) as Governor-General. He brought with him a distinguished
reputation as a statesman and man of letters, and by the urbanity of his
manners won a very remarkable degree of popular favour. He promptly
identified himself with every interest of the country which was
calculated to promote its happiness and welfare.
The construction of a
Canadian Pacific Railway across the continent was one of the conditions
of the entrance of British Columbia into the Dominion. For the purpose
of procuring the contract for this gigantic undertaking, two rival
companies obtained incorporation—the " Canada Pacific," with Sir Hugh
Allan, principal proprietor of the Canadian steamship line, at its head;
and the " Inter-Oceanic," with the Hon. Senator Macpherson as its
president. A subsidy of $30,000,000, and a grant of fifty million acres
of land in alternate blocks along the line of railway, were also to be
given to the company constructing the road.
A charter was at length
granted (February 19th) to a 187o new "Canada Pacific Railway Company."
The president was Sir Hugh Allan, and among the directors, seventeen in
number, were members of both the former companies, and representative
men from the different provinces of the Dominion, together with several
leading American capitalists.
Parliament met on the
6th of March. The Government had a good working majority. Early in the
session grave charges were preferred against the ministry by Mr.
Huntington, the member for Shefford. They were accused of malfeasance of
office in connection with the granting of the Pacific Railway charter. A
committee of investigation was appointed, with authority to examine
witnesses on oath.
In Quebec, Mr. Caron
became Lieutenant-Governor, vice Sir N. Belleau; and in New Brunswick,
Mr. Tilley succeeded Mr. Wilmot.
On the 1st of July,
1873 (Dominion Day), Prince'Edward Island was admitted into the Canadian
confederacy. It received a representation in the House of Commons of six
members, and in the Senate, of four members.
During the recess of
Parliament certain correspondence between Sir Hugh Allan and some
American capitalists, which was published in the newspapers, seemed to
inculpate the Government in what was now known as the " Pacific
Scandal." The burden of the charge was that the Government had received
from Sir Hugh Allan and American capitalists, in consideration for
granting them the Pacific Railway Charter, large sums of money to be
used in carrying the elections in the interest of the Ministerial party.
When Parliament met on
the 13th of August, the committee of investigation failed to report, as
the Imperial Government had on legal-grounds disallowed the Oaths Bill,
under which it was authorized to receive sworn testimony. A royal
commission was appointed by the Governor-General, to receive the
testimony of sworn witnesses on the charges against the Government.
Parliament met again on
the 23rd of October to receive the report of the royal commission,
presenting the unprecedented circumstance of being in session three
times within five months. The report of the commissioners was confined
to a statement of matters of evidence, without expressing any judicial
opinion upon the subject. Mr. Mackenzie, the leader of the Opposition,
moved a resolution of censure on the Government. The debate continued
for seven days. At length, without waiting for the House to come to a
vote, Sir John A. Macdonald announced the resignation of his cabinet,