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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XLI.—The Mackenzie Administration—To 1876


The Mackenzie Ministry—1873. New Pacific Railway Act—Government empowered to Construct the Road — Qu'Appelle Treaty concluded with north-west Indians—1874. mounted police

Organized in North-west Territory—1875. Canada at the Centennial Exhibition—1876. Meeting of the Fishery Commission at Halifax—Great Fire at St. John, June 20th—1877.

Mr. Mackenzie was called upon to form a new government, which he speedily did. During the Christmas recess the House was dissolved, January 3rd. The nominations, with few exceptions, took place on January 22nd, and the elections one week later. It was the first election for the Dominion Parliament at which voting, except in a few outlying constituencies, was simultaneous. .

An administration which had the honour of guiding the early fortunes of the new confederation of provinces, which had exhibited marked ability, and had rendered distinguished service to the country, received the condemnation of a large proportion of the constituencies, especially of those in the province of Ontario. It was claimed that in a House of two hundred and six members, three-fourths were supporters of the new administration.

The session was a short but busy one. Sir Hugh Allan finding himself unable, on behalf of the Pacific Railway Company, to carry on the construction of the road, resigned - the charter into the hands of the Government. A new Pacific Railway Act was therefore passed, empowering the Government to construct the road in sections, and to make use of the water stretches on the route till the entire road could be completed.

During the recess negotiations were carried on between Sir Edward Thornton, British minister at Washington, and the Hon. George Brown, representing Canada, and the Hon. Mr. Fish, Secretary of the United States, for the renewal of a reciprocity treaty. On the 23rd of June a draft of a treaty, which had been approved by the Governments of Great Britain and Canada as the best that could be effected under the circumstances, although by no means so advantageous to Canadian interests as was desirable, was submitted by President Grant to the United States Senate "for advice." It was, however, ultimately vetoed by that body. Its failure caused little regret in Canada, so unfavourable were its conditions.

In the North-west the Qu'Appelle treaty was concluded with the Indians having territorial rights between Fort Ellice and the South Saskatchewan, which, in consideration of generous reserves and annual presents, extinguished the Indian title to seventy-four thousand square miles, and prepared the way for the future settlement of this vast region. Previous treaties had ceded the whole of Manitoba and the Kewatin District. A considerable immigration of Mennonites and Icelanders took place into the province of Manitoba. They received generous Government aid and favourably situated grants of land.

In 1876 provision was made for the separation of a portion of the North-west territory for administrative purposes, and for the creation of a new North-west Council, consisting of a Lieutenant-Governor and five members. That portion of the territory north and east of Manitoba was erected into the District? of Kewatin, or "the North-land," and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Lieutenant-Governor of the "prairie province." Provision was also made for the ratifying of treaties with the Indian tribes, and for the encouragement of immigration into the territory.

The United States Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia attracted large numbers of Canadian visitors, The position occupied by Canada in that great industrial congress of the nations was in the highest degree creditable to the skill and energy of her people, and was to multitudes an unexpected revelation of the extent and magnificence of her resources. Foremost of the provinces in variety, richness and beauty of. exhibits was Ontario. Its educational department especially—with one exception, perhaps, by far the best in the vast palace of industry—challenged universal attention and admiration. It is just ground for patriotic pride, that in this highest outcome of civilization our country takes the lead of the world, and far surpasses many countries much older and richer in material wealth. The mechanical industries and manufactures of Canada also commanded wide recognition, and in some cases extensive patronage.

One of the most notable events of the year 1877 was the meeting of the Fishery Commission at Halifax. The treaty of Washington had thrown open the fisheries of the United States and Canada to each country for the term of twelve years; the amount of compensation for the alleged superior value of the Canadian Fisheries to be decided by three commissioners,—one chosen by each Government and the third by the two Governments jointly. This commission met at Halifax, N.S., June, 1877. The 'amount claimed by Canada was $14,880,000. After exhaustive examination of documentary and oral evidence, the sum of $5,500,000 was awarded to be .paid by the United States. By this award the immense value of these fisheries was recognized.

A great calamity in the month of June befel the Province of New Brunswick in the destruction by fire, on the 20th of June, of a large part of its flourishing seaport, St. John. Two-fifths of the city, or over sixteen hundred houses, occupying two hundred acres of ground, were consumed. The energy and enterprise of the merchants of St. John at once essayed the task of rebuilding their ruined city; and soon, "like the phoenix from its ashes,"-it rose fairer and more stately than before.


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