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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XXX. Prosperous Days


THE office of Governor-General had now become practically a sinecure, and a sinecure of most noxious influence on social and political life in Canada. Lord Monck was the incumbent of Rideau Hall in 1867. He was an impecunious sporting peer, and an Irish rack-rent landlord, glad to eke out an impoverished income by the $50,000 a year paid by Canadian taxpayers. He was the first, and, unhappily, not the last, used by the Imperial Government to corrupt Canadian statesmen, by bestowing "tin-pot knighthoods," which, of course, bound the acceptor to prefer Imperial to Canadian interests whenever the two came in conflict. The first recipients of this questionable distinction were John A. Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier.

Now began a prosperous reign of Conservatism, under Sir John A. Macdonald, with the championship in French Canada of Sir George E. Cartier. The latter was a marked personage in the Conservative coterie, and few who have beheld that keen man's figure, and heard the tones of that strident, high-pitched voice, Will forget either. In early life Cartier had sat at the feet of Papineau, and, showing a courage of which that frothy demigogue was incapable, had fought bravely at St. Denis, when the French peasants, led by Dr. Wolfred Nelson, repelled a corps of the regular British army, led by a veteran of Waterloo. Like his leader, Cartier withdrew to the United States, and when amnesty was proclaimed for political offences, returned to Canada, a sadder and a wiser man. In 1848 he supplanted the Rouge leader, M. Dorion, as member for Vercheres, and, having had the sense to see what the old Rouge leaders had not insight for, the absolute necessity of keeping on good terms with the clergy and the Church, Cartier became the most adroit, successful, and popular manager of the vote of Jean Baptiste. The Finance Minister in the new Government, Alexander Tilloch Galt, was the son of a second-rate winter who had attained a sort of second-rate reputation as the acquaintance of Byron, of whom he wrote a biography. The elder Galt came to Canada in the service of the Canada Land Company, and resided at Toronto, of which place, and of Canada in general, he expressed the supercilious disdain with which foreigners who live on Canadian pay are apt to express their noble scorn of the people who are their paymasters. Sir Alexander Gait is chiefly noted for the quasi diplomatic position held by him for some time in London, England, and as one of the chief promoters of that most mpractic.able of enterprises, Imperial Federation.

The new Secretary of State, Hector L. Langevin, was formerly editor of the Coumer du Canada, in Quebec. In 1855 he was awarded the first of three prizes for an essay on Canada to be circulated in Paris, and being elected to the Canadian Parliament as member for Dorchester, soon took a leading position, second only to Cartier, to whose leadership he rightfully succeeded. Not less noteworthy was Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley. An earnest, although not eloquent speaker, he did good service to the country by promoting the adhesion of the Maritimes to Confederation. Sir William Ilowland, another tin-pot creation, and the Hon. William McDougall were two of the Liberal members of the Coalition which had caused Confederation, but were seduced by the siren blandishments of office to cast in then lot personally with "Sir John." But in all the Cabinet there can be no question that the most remarkable figure was that of the astute and versatile lawyer from Kingston who was at its head. His deep and intricate knowledge of all the men and interests engaged in Canadian politics, much tact, a felicitous readiness in debate or repartee, and a command of what might be almost mistaken for eloquence, gave the Tory leader a pre-eminence to which none of his English-speaking satellites could in the remotest degree aspire. But the habits of the Premier were those of the pot-house politician to whom John A. Macdonald has been frequently compared—the English statesman Walpole, who first introduced into politics the infamous maxim, "Every man has his price." Macdonald resembles Walpole in his systematic use of corruption, and in the coarse humour and full-flavoured stories for which both have such an unsavoury reputation. But here the likeness ceases. Walpole's peace policy saved England. Macdonald has never originated a single measure for the benefit of his country save such as he stole from the Liberal repertoire. He has dragged the good name of Canada m the dirt with cynical disregard of public opinion, and has literally " sold his country" as well as himself. It is no excuse to say " that amid corruption he has continued personally pure," for we consider the crime of the bawd to lose none of its infamy because she may not herself practise the sin to which she entices others. But at the time we write of, John A. Macdonald's character was as yet comparatively untarnished.

A Refoim Convention was now held at Toronto, which endorsed enthusiastically the patriotic and self-denying conduct of the Hon. George Brown, and declared that the deserters, Ilowland and McDougall, deserved ostracism from the Reform ranks. Howland, however, made the amende for a temporary lapse, by heartily throwing in his lot with the cause of Reform. A general election was at once held, and returned a considerable majority in favour of Confederation, and, therefore, as a matter of course, in favour of "Sir John," the vessel of whose Cabinet was carried in over calm seas, its sheets distended by the wind which had been so adroitly taken out of the Liberal sails.

From that general election to the Day of Doom, when Mr. Huntington thundered forth the first sentence of his Pacific Scandal indictment, S;r John and Sir George Cartier were "the great twin brethren" of Canadian politics, against whom no champion could avail. The Ministry were now supported by a new politician, destined to exercise no small influence, to rise to all the honours of the tin-pot, and become even a dangerous "brother near the throne" to Sir John himself. In the 1ittle town of Amherst, on the New Brunswick frontier of Nova Scotia, an humble wooden store, garnished with bottles and gallipots, long bore the legend of "Dr. Tupper—office-hours 8 to 11 a.m." He alone of the advocates of Confederation was able to stem the torrent in l is native Province. Another Blue-nose representative was returned to Ottawa i« the person of Timothy Warren Anglin, a trenchant writer and speaker, but, like Tupper, given to overtax the patience of his hearers. A mightier figure was that of the popular idol of the Nova Scotia fishermen, the versatile, vigorous, vituperative Joe Howe. But the reactionary effort to undo the work of Confederation was now met by a statesman whose intellectual force and oratorical power were, in that Parliament, and in many a succeeding one, to meet few seconds and no superiors. Edward Blake was now the leader of the Liberal phalanx on their slow but certain return to power. Mr. Blake is an instance of what is so rarely seen, hereditary talent, such as that of the two Pitts. He and his eminent brother, the Hon. Samuel Blake, are sons of the Hon. William Hume Blake, whose famous extempore reply to Sir Allan MacNab when the Tory chief taunted the Liberals of English Canada with the charge of rebellion, will be remembered as constituting such a brilliant episode in the history of Canadian Parliamentary debate. Mr. Blake's luminous and crushing retort on Howe and the Maritime malcontents was ably seconded. A few months later, Sir Francis Hincks, an able financier, a clear and forcible speaker, and one whose personal magnetism rendered him a welcome acquisition even to a popular administration, once more entered public life, and became Minister of Finance. Sir Francis, at once after entering on office, delivered Canadian currency from the nuisance of a depreciated United States silver currency. The year 1868 was saddened by the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, of whose career some account has been already given.


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