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