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Lord Elgin by John George Bourinot

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owned the Netherlands, vast estates were partitioned out to certain
"patroons," who held their property on _quasi_ feudal conditions, and
bore a resemblance to the _seigneurs_ of French Canada. This manorial
system was perpetuated under English forms when the territory was
conquered by the English and transformed into the colony of New York,
where it had a chequered existence, and was eventually abolished as
inconsistent with the free conditions of American settlement. In the
proprietary colony of Maryland the Calverts also attempted to
establish a landed aristocracy, and give to the manorial lords certain
rights of jurisdiction over their tenants drawn from the feudal system
of Europe. For Carolina, Shaftesbury and Locke devised a constitution
which provided a territorial nobility, called _landgraves_ and
_caciques_, but it soon became a mere historical curiosity. Even in
the early days of Prince Edward Island, when it was necessary to
mature a plan of colonization, it was gravely proposed to the British
government that the whole island should be divided into "hundreds," as
in England, or into "baronies," as in Ireland, with courts-baron,
lords of manors, courts-leet, all under the direction of a lord
paramount; but while this ambitious aristocratic scheme was not
favourably entertained, the imperial authorities chose one which was
most injurious in its effects on the settlement of this fertile

It was Richelieu who introduced this modified form of the feudal
system into Canada, when he constituted, in 1627, the whole of the
colony as a fief of the great fur-trading company of the Hundred
Associates on the sole condition of its paying fealty and homage to
the Crown. It had the right of establishing seigniories as a part of
its undertaking to bring four thousand colonists to the province and
furnish them with subsistence for three years. Both this company and
its successor, the Company of the West Indies, created a number of
seigniories, but for the most part they were never occupied, and the
king revoked the grants on the ground of non-settlement, when he
resumed possession of the country and made it a royal province. From
that time the system was regulated by the _Coutume de Paris_, by royal
edicts, or by ordinances of the intendant.

The greater part of the soil of Canada was accordingly held _en fief_
or _en seigneurie_. Each grant varied from sixteen _arpents_--an
_arpent_ being about five-sixths of an English acre--by fifty, to ten
leagues by twelve. We meet with other forms of tenure in the partition
of land in the days of the French regime--for instance, _franc aleu
noble_ and _franc aumone_ or _mortmain_, but these were exceptional
grants to charitable, educational, or religious institutions, and were
subject to none of the ordinary obligations of the feudal tenure, but
required, as in the latter case, only the performance of certain
devotional or other duties which fell within their special sphere.
Some grants were also given in _franc aleu roturier_, equivalent to
the English tenure of free and common socage, and were generally made
for special objects.[22]

The _seigneur_, on his accession to the estate, was required to pay
homage to the king, or to his feudal superior from whom he derived his
lands. In case he wished to transfer by sale or otherwise his
seigniory, except in the event of direct natural succession, he had to
pay under the _Coutume de Paris_--which, generally speaking, regulated
such seigniorial grants--a _quint_ or fifth part of the whole purchase
money to his feudal superior, but he was allowed a reduction _(rabat)_
of two-thirds if the money was promptly paid down. In special cases,
land transfers, whether by direct succession or otherwise, were
subject to the rule of _Vixen le_ _francais_, which required the
payment of _relief_, or one year's revenue, on all changes of
ownership, or a payment of gold (_une maille d'or_). It was obligatory
on all seigniors to register their grants at Quebec, to concede or
sub-infeudate them under the rule of _jeu de fief_, and settle them
with as little delay as practicable. The Crown also reserved in most
cases its _jura regalia_ or _regalitates_, such as mines and minerals,
lands for military or defensive purposes, oak timber and masts for the
building of the royal ships. It does not, however, appear that
military service was a condition on which the seigniors of Canada held
their grants, as was the case in France under the old feudal tenure.
The king and his representative in his royal province held such powers
in their own hands. The seignior had as little influence in the
government of the country as he had in military affairs. He might be
chosen to the superior council at the royal pleasure, and was bound to
obey the orders of the governor whenever the militia were called out.
The whole province was formed into a militia district, so that in time
of war the inhabitants might be obliged to perform military service
under the royal governor or commander-in-chief of the regular forces.
A captain was appointed for each parish--generally conterminous with a
seigniory--and in some cases there were two or three. These captains
were frequently chosen from the seigniors, many of whom--in the
Richelieu district entirely--were officers of royal regiments, notably
of the Carignan-Salieres. The seigniors had, as in France, the right
of dispensing justice, but with the exception of the Seminary of St
Sulpice of Montreal, it was only in very rare instances they exercised
their judicial powers, and then simply in cases of inferior
jurisdiction _(basse justice)_. The superior council and intendant
adjudicated in all matters of civil and criminal importance.

The whole success of the seigniorial system, as a means of settling
the country, depended on the extent to which the seigniors were able
to grant their lands _en censive_ or _en roture_. The _censitaire_ who
held his lands in this way could not himself sub-infeudate. The
grantee _en roture_ was governed by the same rules as the one _en
censive_ except with respect to the descent of lands in cases of
intestacy. All land grants to the _censitaires_--or as they preferred
to call themselves in Canada, _habitants_--were invariably shaped like
a parallelogram, with a narrow frontage on the river varying from two
to three _arpents_, and with a depth from four to eight _arpents_.
These farms, in the course of time assumed the appearance of a
continuous settlement on the river and became known in local
phraseology as _Cotes_--for example, Cote de Neiges, Cote St. Louis,
Cote St. Paul, and many other picturesque villages on the banks of the
St. Lawrence. In the first century of settlement the government
induced the officers and soldiers of the Carignan-Salieres regiment to
settle lands along the Richelieu river and to build palisaded villages
for the purposes of defence against the war-like Iroquois; but, in the
rural parts of the province generally, the people appear to have
followed their own convenience with respect to the location of their
farms and dwellings, and chose the banks of the river as affording the
easiest means of intercommunication. The narrow oblong grants, made in
the original settlement of the province, became narrower still as the
original occupants died and their property was divided among the heirs
under the civil law. Consequently at the present day the traveller who
visits French Canada sees the whole country divided into extremely
long and narrow parallelograms each with fences and piles of stones as
boundaries in innumerable cases.

The conditions on which the _censitaire_ held his land from the
seignior were exceedingly easy during the greater part of the French
regime. The _cens et rentes_ which he was expected to pay annually, on
St. Martin's day, as a rule, varied from one to two _sols_ for each
superficial _arpent_, with the addition of a small quantity of corn,
poultry, and some other article produced on the farm, which might be
commuted for cash, at current prices. The _censitaire_ was also
obliged to grind his corn at the seignior's mill (_moulin banal_), and
though the royal authorities at Quebec were very particular in
pressing the fulfilment of this obligation, it does not appear to have
been successfully carried out in the early days of the colony on
account of the inability of the seigniors to purchase the machinery,
or erect buildings suitable for the satisfactory performance of a
service clearly most useful to the people of the rural districts. The
obligation of baking bread in the seigniorial oven was not generally
exacted, and soon became obsolete as the country was settled and each
_habitant_ naturally built his own oven in connection with his home.
The seigniors also claimed the right to a certain amount of statute
labour (_corvee_) from the _habitants_ on their estates, to one fish
out of every dozen caught in seigniorial waters, and to a reservation
of wood and stone for the construction and repairs of the manor house,
mill, and church in the parish or seigniory. In case the _censitaire_
wished to dispose of his holding during his lifetime, it was subject
to the _lods et ventes_, or to a tax of one-twelfth of the purchase
money, which had to be paid to the seignior, who usually as a favour
remitted one-fourth on punctual payment. The most serious restriction
on such sales was the _droit de retraite_, or right of the seignior to
preempt the same property himself within forty days from the date of
the sale.

There was no doubt, at the establishment of the seigniorial tenure, a
disposition to create in Canada, as far as possible, an aristocratic
class akin to the _noblesse_ of old France, who were a social order
quite distinct from the industrial and commercial classes, though they
did not necessarily bear titles. Under the old feudal system the
possession of land brought nobility and a title, but in the modified
seigniorial system of Canada the king could alone confer titular
distinctions. The intention of the system was to induce men of good
social position--like the _gentils-hommes_ or officers of the Carignan
regiment--to settle in the country and become seigniors. However, the
latter were not confined to this class, for the title was rapidly
extended to shopkeepers, farmers, sailors, and even mechanics who had
a little money and were ready to pay for the cheap privilege of
becoming nobles in a small way. Titled seigniors were very rare at any
time in French Canada. In 1671, Des Islets, Talon's seigniory, was
erected into a barony, and subsequently into an earldom (Count
d'Orsainville). Francois Berthelot's seigniory of St. Laurent on the
Island of Orleans was made in 1676 an earldom, and that of Portneuf,
Rene Robineau's, into a barony. The only title which has come down to
the present time is that of the Baron de Longueuil, which was first
conferred on the distinguished Charles LeMoyne in 1700, and has been
officially recognized by the British government since December, 1880.

The established seigniorial system bore conclusive evidence of the
same paternal spirit which sent shiploads of virtuous young women
(sometimes _marchandises melees_) to the St. Lawrence to become wives
of the forlorn Canadian bachelors, gave trousseaux of cattle and
kitchen utensils to the newly wed, and encouraged by bounties the
production of children. The seigniories were the ground on which these
paternal methods of creating a farming community were to be developed,
but despite the wise intentions of the government the whole machinery
was far from realizing the results which might reasonably have been
expected from its operation. The land was easily acquired and cheaply
held, facilities were given for the grinding of grain and the making
of flour; fish and game were quickly taken by the skilful fisherman
and enterprising hunter, and the royal officials generally favoured
the _habitants_ in disputes with the seigniors.

Unlike the large grants made by the British government after the
conquest to loyalists, Protestant clergy, and speculators--grants
calculated to keep large sections of the country in a state of
wildness--the seigniorial estates had to be cultivated and settled
within a reasonable time if they were to be retained by the occupants.
During the French dominion the Crown sequestrated a number of
seigniories for the failure to observe the obligation of cultivation.
As late as 1741 we find an ordinance restoring seventeen estates to
the royal domain, although the Crown was ready to reinstate the former
occupants the moment they showed that they intended to perform their
duty of settlement. But all the care that was taken to encourage
settlement was for a long time without large results, chiefly in
consequence of the nomadic habits of the young men on the seigniories.
The fur trade, from the beginning to the end of French dominion, was a
serious bar to steady industry on the farm. The young _gentilhomme_ as
well as the young _habitant_ loved the free life of the forest and
river better than the monotonous work of the farm. He preferred too
often making love to the impressionable dusky maiden of the wigwam
rather than to the stolid, devout damsel imported for his kind by
priest or nun. A raid on some English post or village had far more
attraction than following the plough or threshing the grain. This
adventurous spirit led the young Frenchman to the western prairies
where the Red and Assiniboine waters mingle, to the foot-hills of the
Rocky Mountains, to the Ohio and Mississippi, and to the Gulf of
Mexico. But while Frenchmen in this way won eternal fame, the
seigniories were too often left in a state of savagery, and even those
_seigneurs_ and _habitants_ who devoted themselves successfully to
pastoral pursuits found themselves in the end harassed by the constant
calls made upon their military services during the years the French
fought to retain the imperial domain they had been the first to
discover and occupy in the great valleys of North America. Still,
despite the difficulties which impeded the practical working of the
seigniorial system, it had on the whole an excellent effect on the
social conditions of the country. It created a friendly and even
parental relation between _seigneur, cure,_ and _habitant_, who on
each estate constituted as it were a seigniorial family, united to
each other by common ties of self-interest and personal affection. If
the system did not create an energetic self-reliant people in the
rural communities, it arose from the fact that it was not associated
with a system of local self-government like that which existed in the
colonies of England. The French king had no desire to see such a
system develop in the colonial dependencies of France. His
governmental system in Canada was a mild despotism intended to create
a people ever ready to obey the decrees and ordinances of royal
officials, over whom the commonality could exercise no control
whatever in such popular elective assemblies as were enjoyed by every
colony of England in North America.

During the French regime the officials of the French government
frequently repressed undue or questionable exactions imposed, or
attempted to be imposed, on the _censitaires_ by greedy or extravagant
seigniors. It was not until the country had been for some time in the
possession of England that abuses became fastened on the tenure, and
retarded the agricultural and industrial development of the province.
The _cens et rentes_ were unduly raised, the _droit de banalite_ was
pressed to the extent that if a _habitant_ went to a better or more
convenient mill than the seignior's, he had to pay tolls to both, the
transfer of property was hampered by the _lods el ventes_ and the
_droit de retraite_, and the claim always made by the seigniors to the
exclusive use of the streams running by or through the seigniories was
a bar to the establishment of industrial enterprise. Questions of law
which arose between the _seigneur_ and _habitant_ and were referred to
the courts were decided in nearly all cases in favour of the former.
In such instances the judges were governed by precedent or by a strict
interpretation of the law, while in the days of French dominion the
intendants were generally influenced by principles of equity in the
disputes that came before them, and by a desire to help the weaker
litigant, the _censitaire_.

It took nearly a century after the conquest before it was possible to
abolish a system which had naturally become so deeply rooted in the
social and economic conditions of the people of French Canada. As the
abuses of the tenure became more obvious, discontent became
widespread, and the politicians after the union were forced at last to
recognize the necessity of a change more in harmony with modern
principles. Measures were first passed better to facilitate the
optional commutation of the tenure of lands _en roture_ into that of
_franc aleu roturier_, but they never achieved any satisfactory
results. LaFontaine did not deny the necessity for a radical change in
the system, but he was too much wedded to the old institutions of his
native province to take the initiative for its entire removal. Mr.
Louis Thomas Drummond, who was attorney-general in both the
Hincks-Morin and MacNab-Morin ministries, is deserving of honourable
mention in Canadian history for the leading part he took in settling
this very perplexing question. I have already shown that his first
attempt in 1853 failed in consequence of the adverse action of the
legislative council, and that no further steps were taken in the matter
until the coming into office of the MacNab or Liberal-Conservative
government in 1854, when he brought a bill into parliament to a large
extent a copy of the first. This bill became law after it had received
some important amendments in the upper House, where there were a number
of representatives of seigniorial interests, now quite reconciled to
the proposed change and prepared to make the best of it. It abolished
all feudal rights and duties in Lower Canada, "whether hearing upon the
_censitaire_ or _seigneur_," and provided for the appointment of
commissioners to enquire into the respective rights of the parties
interested. In order to enable them to come to correct conclusions with
respect to these rights, all questions of law were first submitted to a
seigniorial court composed of the judges of the Queen's Bench and
Superior Court in Lower Canada. The commissioners under this law were
as follows:--

Messrs. Chabot, H. Judah, S. Lelievre, L. Archambault, N. Dumas, J.G.
Turcotte, C. Delagrave, P. Winter, J.G. Lebel, and J.B. Varin.

The judges of the seigniorial court were:--

Chief Justice Sir Louis H. LaFontaine, president; Judges Bowen,
Aylwin, Duval, Caron, Day, Smith, Vanfelson, Mondelet, Meredith,
Short, Morin, and Badgley.

Provision was also made by parliament for securing compensation to the
seigniors for the giving up of all legal rights of which they were
deprived by the decision of the commissioners. It took five years of
enquiry and deliberation before the commissioners were able to complete
their labours, and then it was found necessary to vote other funds to
meet all the expenses entailed by a full settlement of the question.

The result was that all lands previously held _en fief, en arriere
fief, en censive_, or _en roture_, under the old French system, were
henceforth placed on the footing of lands in the other provinces, that
is to say, free and common socage. The seigniors received liberal
remuneration for the abolition of the _lods et ventes, droit de
banalite_, and other rights declared legal by the court. The _cens et
ventes_ had alone to be met as an established rent (_rente
constituee_) by the _habitant_, but even this change was so modified
and arranged as to meet the exigencies of the _censitaires_, the
protection of whose interests was at the basis of the whole law
abolishing this ancient tenure. This radical change cost the country
from first to last over ten million dollars, including a large
indemnity paid to Upper Canada for its proportion of the fund taken
from public revenues of the united provinces to meet the claims of the
seigniors and the expenses of the commission. The money was well spent
in bringing about so thorough a revolution in so peaceable and
conclusive a manner. The _habitants_ of the east were now as free as
the farmers of the west. The seigniors themselves largely benefited by
the capitalization in money of their old rights, and by the
untrammelled possession of land held _en franc aleu roturier_.
Although the seigniorial tenure disappeared from the social system of
French Canada nearly half a century ago, we find enduring memorials of
its existence in such famous names as these:--Nicolet, Vercheres,
Lotbiniere, Berthier, Rouville, Joliette, Terrebonne, Sillery,
Beaupre, Bellechasse, Portneuf, Chambly, Sorel, Longueuil,
Boucherville, Chateauguay, and many others which recall the seigniors
of the old regime.



In a long letter which he wrote to Earl Grey in August, 1850, Lord
Elgin used these significant words: "To render annexation by violence
impossible, or by any other means improbable as may be, is, as I have
often ventured to repeat, the polar star of my policy." To understand
the full significance of this language it is only necessary to refer
to the history of the difficulties with which the governor-general had
to contend from the first hour he came to the province and began his
efforts to allay the feeling of disaffection then too prevalent
throughout the country--especially among the commercial classes--and
to give encouragement to that loyal sentiment which had been severely
shaken by the indifference or ignorance shown by British statesmen and
people with respect to the conditions and interests of the Canadas. He
was quite conscious that, if the province was to remain a contented
portion of the British empire, it could be best done by giving full
play to the principles of self-government among both nationalities who
had been so long struggling to obtain the application of the
parliamentary system of England in the fullest sense to the operation
of their own internal affairs, and by giving to the industrial and
commercial classes adequate compensation for the great losses which
they had sustained by the sudden abolition of the privileges which
England had so long extended to Canadian products--notably, flour,
wheat and lumber--in the British market.

Lord Elgin knew perfectly well that, while this discontent existed,
the party which favoured annexation would not fail to find sympathy
and encouragement in the neighbouring republic. He recalled the fact
that both Papineau and Mackenzie, after the outbreak of their abortive
rebellion, had many abettors across the border, as the infamous raids
into Canada clearly proved. Many people in the United States, no
doubt, saw some analogy between the grievances of Canadians and those
which had led to the American revolution. "The mass of the American
people," said Lord Durham, "had judged of the quarrel from a distance;
they had been obliged to form their judgment on the apparent grounds
of the controversy; and were thus deceived, as all those are apt to be
who judge under such circumstances, and on such grounds. The contest
bore some resemblance to that great struggle of their own forefathers,
which they regard with the highest pride. Like that, they believed it
to be the contest of a colony against the empire, whose misconduct
alienated their own country; they considered it to be a contest
undertaken by a people professing to seek independence of distant
control, and extension of popular privileges." More than that, the
striking contrast which was presented between Canada and the United
States "in respect to every sign of productive industry, increasing
wealth, and progressive civilization" was considered by the people of
the latter country to be among the results of the absence of a
political system which would give expansion to the energies of the
colonists and make them self-reliant in every sense. Lord Durham's
picture of the condition of things in 1838-9 was very painful to
Canadians, although it was truthful in every particular. "On the
British side of the line," he wrote, "with the exception of a few
favoured spots, where some approach to American prosperity is
apparent, all seems waste and desolate." But it was not only "in the
difference between the larger towns on the two sides" that we could
see "the best evidence of our own inferiority." That "painful and
undeniable truth was most manifest in the country districts through
which the line of national separation passes for one thousand miles."
Mrs. Jameson in her "Winter Studies and Summer Rambles," written only
a year or two before Lord Durham's report, gives an equally
unfavourable comparison between the Canadian and United States sides
of the western country. As she floated on the Detroit river in a
little canoe made of a hollow tree, and saw on one side "a city with
its towers, and spires, and animated population," and on the other "a
little straggling hamlet with all the symptoms of apathy, indolence,
mistrust, hopelessness," she could not help wondering at this
"incredible difference between the two shores," and hoping that some
of the colonial officials across the Atlantic would be soon sent "to
behold and solve the difficulty."

But while Lord Durham was bound to emphasize this unsatisfactory state
of things he had not lost his confidence in the loyalty of the mass of
the Canadian people, notwithstanding the severe strain to which they
had been subject on account of the supineness of the British
government to deal vigorously and promptly with grievances of which
they had so long complained as seriously affecting their connection
with the parent state and the development of their material resources.
It was only necessary, he felt, to remove the causes of discontent to
bring out to the fullest extent the latent affection which the mass of
French and English Canadians had been feeling for British connection
ever since the days when the former obtained guarantees for the
protection of their dearest institutions and the Loyalists of the
American Revolution crossed the frontier for the sake of Crown and
empire. "We must not take every rash expression of disappointment,"
wrote Lord Durham, "as an indication of a settled aversion to the
existing constitution; and my own observation convinces me that the
predominant feeling of all the British population of the North
American colonies is that of devoted attachment to the mother country.
I believe that neither the interests nor the feelings of the people
are incompatible with a colonial government, wisely and popularly
administered." His strong conviction then was that if connection with
Great Britain was to be continuous, if every cause of discontent was
to be removed, if every excuse for interference "by violence on the
part of the United States" was to be taken away, if Canadian
annexationists were no longer to look for sympathy and aid among their
republican neighbours, the Canadian people must be given the full
control of their own internal affairs, while the British government on
their part should cease that constant interference which only
irritated and offended the colony. "It is not by weakening," he said,
"but strengthening the influence of the people on the government; by
confining within much narrower bounds than those hitherto allotted to
it, and not by extending the interference of the imperial authorities
in the details of colonial affairs, that I believe that harmony is to
be restored, where dissension has so long prevailed; and a regularity
and vigour hitherto unknown, introduced into the administration of
these provinces." And he added that if the internal struggle for
complete self-government were renewed "the sympathy from without would
at some time or other re-assume its former strength."

Lord Elgin appeared on the scene at the very time when there was some
reason for a repetition of that very struggle, and a renewal of that
very "sympathy from without" which Lord Durham imagined. The political
irritation, which had been smouldering among the great mass of
Reformers since the days of Lord Metcalfe, was seriously aggravated by
the discontent created by commercial ruin and industrial paralysis
throughout Canada as a natural result of Great Britain's ruthless
fiscal policy. The annexation party once more came to the surface, and
contrasts were again made between Canada and the United States
seriously to the discredit of the imperial state. "The plea of
self-interest," wrote Lord Elgin in 1849, "the most powerful weapon,
perhaps, which the friends of British connection have wielded in times
past, has not only been wrested from my hands but transferred since
1846 to those of the adversary." He then proceeded to contrast the
condition of things on the two sides of the Niagara, only "spanned by
a narrow bridge, which it takes a foot passenger about three minutes
to cross." The inhabitants on the Canadian side were "for the most
part United Empire Loyalists" and differed little in habits or modes
of thought and expression from their neighbours. Wheat, their staple
product, grown on the Canadian side of the line, "fetched at that time
in the market from 9d. to 1s. less than the same article grown on the
other." These people had protested against the Montreal annexation
movement, but Lord Elgin was nevertheless confident that the large
majority firmly believed "that their annexation to the United States
would add one-fourth to the value of the produce of their farms." In
dealing with the causes of discontent Lord Elgin came to exactly the
same conclusion which, as I have just shown, was accepted by Lord
Durham after a close study of the political and material conditions of
the country. He completed the work of which his eminent predecessor
had been able only to formulate the plan. By giving adequate scope to
the practice of responsible government, he was able to remove all
causes for irritation against the British government, and prevent
annexationists from obtaining any sympathy from that body of American
people who were always looking for an excuse for a movement--such a
violent movement as suggested by Lord Elgin in the paragraph given
above--which would force Canada into the states of the union. Having
laid this foundation for a firm and popular government, he proceeded
to remove the commercial embarrassment by giving a stimulus to
Canadian trade by the repeal of the navigation laws, and the adoption
of reciprocity with the United States. The results of his efforts were
soon seen in the confidence which all nationalities and classes of the
Canadian people felt in the working of their system of government, in
the strengthening of the ties between the imperial state and the
dependency, and in the decided stimulus given to the shipping and
trade throughout the provinces of British North America.

I have already in the previous chapters of this book dwelt on the
methods which Lord Elgin so successfully adopted to establish
responsible government in accordance with the wishes of the Canadian
people, and it is now only necessary to refer to his strenuous efforts
during six years to obtain reciprocal trade between Canada and the
United States. It was impossible at the outset of his negotiations to
arouse any active interest among the politicians of the republic as
long as they were unable to see that the proposed treaty would be to
the advantage of their particular party or of the nation at large. No
party in congress was ready to take it up as a political question and
give it that impulse which could be best given by a strong partisan
organization. The Canadian and British governments could not get up a
"lobby" to press the matter in the ways peculiar to professional
politicians, party managers, and great commercial or financial
corporations. Mr. Hincks brought the powers of his persuasive tongue
and ingenious intellect to bear on the politicians at Washington, but
even he with all his commercial acuteness and financial knowledge was
unable to accomplish anything. It was not until Lord Elgin himself
went to the national capital and made use of his diplomatic tact and
amenity of demeanour that a successful result was reached. No
governor-general who ever visited the United States made so deep an
impression on its statesmen and people as was made by Lord Elgin
during this mission to Washington, and also in the course of the
visits he paid to Boston and Portland where he spoke with great effect
on several occasions. He won the confidence and esteem of statesmen
and politicians by his urbanity, dignity, and capacity for business.
He carried away his audiences by his exhibition of a high order of
eloquence, which evoked the admiration of those who had been
accustomed to hear Webster, Everett, Wendell, Philipps, Choate, and
other noted masters of oratory in America.

He spoke at Portland after his success in negotiating the treaty, and
was able to congratulate both Canada and the United States on the
settlement of many questions which had too long alienated peoples who
ought to be on the most friendly terms with each other. He was now
near the close of his Canadian administration and was able to sum up
the results of his labours. The discontent with which the people of
the United States so often sympathized had been brought to an end "by
granting to Canadians what they desired--the great principle of
self-government" "The inhabitants of Canada at this moment," he went
on to say, "exercise as much influence over their own destinies and
government as do the people of the United States. This is the only
cause of misunderstanding that ever existed; and this cannot arise
when the circumstances which made them at variance have ceased to

The treaty was signed on June 5th, 1854, by Lord Elgin on the part of
Great Britain, and by the Honourable W.L. Marcy, secretary of state,
on behalf of the United States, but it did not legally come into force
until it had been formally ratified by the parliament of Great
Britain, the congress of the United States, and the several
legislatures of the British provinces. It exempted from customs duties
on both sides of the line certain articles which were the growth and
produce of the British colonies and of the United States--the
principal being grain, flour, breadstuffs, animals, fresh, smoked, and
salted meats, fish, lumber of all kinds, poultry, cotton, wool, hides,
ores of metal, pitch, tar, ashes, flax, hemp, rice, and unmanufactured
tobacco. The people of the United States and of the British provinces
were given an equal right to navigate the St. Lawrence river, the
Canadian canals and Lake Michigan. No export duty could be levied on
lumber cut in Maine and passing down the St. John or other streams in
New Brunswick. The most important question temporarily settled by the
treaty was the fishery dispute which had been assuming a troublesome
aspect for some years previously. The government at Washington then
began to raise the issue that the three mile limit to which their
fishermen could be confined should follow the sinuosities of the
coasts, including bays; the object being to obtain access to the
valuable mackerel fisheries of the Bay of Chaleurs and other waters
claimed to be exclusively within the territorial jurisdiction of the
maritime provinces. The imperial government generally sustained the
contention of the provinces--a contention practically supported by the
American authorities in the case of Delaware, Chesapeake, and other
bays on the coasts of the United States--that the three mile limit
should be measured from a line drawn from headland to headland of all
bays, harbours, and creeks. In the case of the Bay of Fundy, however,
the imperial government allowed a departure from this general
principle when it was urged by the Washington government that one of
its headlands was in the territory of the United States, and that it
was an arm of the sea rather than a bay. The result was that foreign
fishing vessels were shut out only from the bays on the coasts of Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick within the Bay of Fundy. All these questions
were, however, placed in abeyance, for twelve years, by the Reciprocity
Treaty of 1854, which provided that the inhabitants of the United
States could take fish of any kind, except shell fish, on the sea
coasts, and shores, in the bays, harbours, and creeks of any British
province, without any restriction as to distance, and had also
permission to land on these coasts and shores for the purpose of
drying their nets and curing their fish. The same privileges
were extended to British citizens on the eastern sea coasts and
shores of the United States, north of the 36th parallel of north
latitude--privileges of no practical value to the people of British
North America compared with those they gave up in their own prolific
waters. The farmers of the agricultural west accepted with great
satisfaction a treaty which gave their products free access to
their natural market, but the fishermen and seamen of the maritime
provinces, especially of Nova Scotia, were for some time dissatisfied
with provisions which gave away their most valuable fisheries without
adequate compensation, and at the same time refused them the
privilege--a great advantage to a ship-building, ship-owning
province--of the coasting trade of the United States on the same terms
which were allowed to American and British vessels on the coasts of
British North America. On the whole, however, the treaty eventually
proved of benefit to all the provinces at a time when trade required
just such a stimulus as it gave in the markets of the United States.
The aggregate interchange of commodities between the two countries
rose from an annual average of $14,230,763 in the years previous to
1854 to $33,492,754 gold currency, in the first year of its existence;
to $42,944,754 gold currency, in the second year; to $50,339,770 gold
currency in the third year; and to no less a sum than $84,070,955 at
war prices, in the thirteenth year when it was terminated by the
United States in accordance with the provision, which allowed either
party to bring it to an end after a due notice of twelve months at the
expiration of ten years or of any longer time it might remain in
force. Not only was a large and remunerative trade secured between the
United States and the provinces, but the social and friendly
intercourse of the two countries necessarily increased with the
expansion of commercial relations and the creation of common interests
between them. Old antipathies and misunderstandings disappeared under
the influence of conditions which brought these communities together
and made each of them place a higher estimate on the other's good
qualities. In short, the treaty in all respects fully realized the
expectations of Lord Elgin in working so earnestly to bring it to a
successful conclusion.

However, it pleased the politicians of the United States, in a moment
of temper, to repeal a treaty which, during its existence, gave a
balance in favour of the commercial and industrial interests of the
republic, to the value of over $95,000,000 without taking into account
the value of the provincial fisheries from which the fishermen of New
England annually derived so large a profit. Temper, no doubt, had much
to do with the action of the United States government at a time when
it was irritated by the sympathy extended to the Confederate States by
many persons in the provinces as well as in Great Britain--notably by
Mr. Gladstone himself. No doubt it was thought that the repeal of the
treaty would be a sort of punishment to the people of British North
America. It was even felt--as much was actually said in congress--that
the result of the sudden repeal of the treaty would be the growth of
discontent among those classes in Canada who had begun to depend upon
its continuance, and that sooner or later there would arise a cry for
annexation with a country from which they could derive such large
commercial advantages. Canadians now know that the results have been
very different from those anticipated by statesmen and journalists on
the other side of the border. Instead of starving Canada and forcing
her into annexation, they have, by the repeal of the Reciprocity
Treaty, and by their commercial policy ever since, materially helped
to stimulate her self-reliance, increase her commerce with other
countries, and make her largely a self-sustaining, independent
country. Canadians depend on themselves--on a self-reliant,
enterprising policy of trade--not on the favour or caprice of any
particular nation. They are always quite prepared to have the most
liberal commercial relations with the United States, but at the same
time feel that a reciprocity treaty is no longer absolutely essential
to their prosperity, and cannot under any circumstances have any
particular effect on the political destiny of the Canadian
confederation whose strength and unity are at length so well assured.



Lord Elgin assumed the governor-generalship of Canada on January 30th,
1847, and gave place to Sir Edmund Head on December 19th, 1854. The
address which he received from the Canadian legislature on the eve of
his departure gave full expression to the golden opinions which he had
succeeded in winning from the Canadian people during his able
administration of nearly eight years. The passionate feeling which had
been evoked during the crisis caused by the Rebellion Losses Bill had
gradually given way to a true appreciation of the wisdom of the course
that he had followed under such exceptionally trying circumstances,
and to the general conviction that his strict observance of the true
forms and methods of constitutional government had added strength and
dignity to the political institutions of the country and placed Canada
at last in the position of a semi-independent nation. The charm of his
manner could never fail to captivate those who met him often in social
life, while public men of all parties recognized his capacity for
business, the sincerity of his convictions, and the absence of a
spirit of intrigue in connection with the administration of public
affairs and his relations with political parties. He received
evidences on every side that he had won the confidence and respect and
even affection of all nationalities, classes, and creeds in Canada. In
the very city where he had been maltreated and his life itself
endangered, he received manifestations of approval which were full
compensation for the mental sufferings to which he was subject in that
unhappy period of his life, when he proved so firm, courageous and
far-sighted. In well chosen language--always characteristic of his
public addresses--he spoke of the cordial reception he had met with,
when he arrived a stranger in Montreal, of the beauty of its
surroundings, of the kind attention with which its citizens had on
more than one occasion listened to the advice he gave to their various
associations, of the undaunted courage with which the merchants had
promoted the construction of that great road which was so necessary to
the industrial development of the province, of the patriotic energy
which first gathered together such noble specimens of Canadian
industry from all parts of the country, and had been the means of
making the great World's Fair so serviceable to Canada; and then as he
recalled the pleasing incidents of the past, there came to his mind a
thought of the scenes of 1849, but the sole reference he allowed
himself was this: "And I shall forget--but no, what I might have to
forget is forgotten already, and therefore I cannot tell you what I
shall forget."

The last speech which he delivered in the picturesque city of Quebec
gave such eloquent expression to the feelings with which he left
Canada, is such an admirable example of the oratory with which he so
often charmed large assemblages, that I give it below in full for the
perusal of Canadians of the present day who had not the advantage of
hearing him in the prime of his life.

"I wish I could address you in such strains as I have sometimes
employed on similar occasions--strains suited to a festive meeting;
but I confess I have a weight on my heart and it is not in me to be
merry. For the last time I stand before you in the official character
which I have borne for nearly eight years. For the last time I am
surrounded by a circle of friends with whom I have spent some of the
most pleasant days of my life. For the last time I welcome you as my
guests to this charming residence which I have been in the habit of
calling my home.[23] I did not, I will frankly confess it, know what
it would cost me to break this habit, until the period of my departure
approached, and I began to feel that the great interests which have so
long engrossed my attention and thoughts were passing out of my hands.
I had a hint of what my feelings really were upon this point--a pretty
broad hint too--one lovely morning in June last, when I returned to
Quebec after my temporary absence in England, and landed in the coves
below Spencerwood (because it was Sunday and I did not want to make a
disturbance in the town), and when with the greetings of the old
people in the coves who put their heads out of the windows as I passed
along, and cried 'Welcome home again,' still ringing in my ears, I
mounted the hill and drove through the avenue to the house door, I saw
the drooping trees on the lawn, with every one of which I was so
familiar, clothed in the tenderest green of spring, and the river
beyond, calm and transparent as a mirror, and the ships fixed and
motionless as statues on its surface, and the whole landscape bathed
in that bright Canadian sun which so seldom pierces our murky
atmosphere on the other side of the Atlantic. I began to think that
persons were to be envied who were not forced by the necessities of
their position to quit these engrossing interests and lovely scenes,
for the purpose of proceeding to distant lands, but who are able to
remain among them until they pass to that quiet corner of the garden
of Mount Hermon, which juts into the river and commands a view of the
city, the shipping, Point Levi, the Island of Orleans, and the range
of the Laurentine; so that through the dim watches of that tranquil
night which precedes the dawning of the eternal day, the majestic
citadel of Quebec, with its noble tram of satellite hills, may seem to
rest forever on the sight, and the low murmur of the waters of St.
Lawrence, with the hum of busy life on their surface, to fall
ceaselessly on the ear. I cannot bring myself to believe that the
future has in store for me any interests which will fill the place of
those I am now abandoning. But although I must henceforward be to you
as a stranger, although my official connection with you and your
interests will have become hi a few days matter of history, yet I
trust that through some one channel or other, the tidings of your
prosperity and progress may occasionally reach me; that I may hear
from time to time of the steady growth and development of those
principles of liberty and order, of manly independence in combination
with respect for authority and law, of national life in harmony with
British connection, which it has been my earnest endeavour, to the
extent of my humble means of influence, to implant and to establish. I
trust, too, that I shall hear that this House continues to be what I
have ever sought to render it, a neutral territory, on which persons
of opposite opinions, political and religious, may meet together in
harmony and forget their differences for a season. And I have good
hope that this will be the case for several reasons, and, among
others, for one which I can barely allude to, for it might be an
impertinence in me to dwell upon it But I think that without any
breach of delicacy or decorum I may venture to say that many years
ago, when I was much younger than I am now, and when we stood towards
each other in a relation somewhat different from that which has
recently subsisted between us, I learned to look up to Sir Edmund Head
with respect, as a gentleman of the highest character, the greatest
ability, and the most varied accomplishments and attainments. And now,
ladies and gentlemen, I have only to add the sad word--Farewell. I
drink this bumper to the health of you all, collectively and
individually. I trust that I may hope to leave behind me some who will
look back with feelings of kindly recollection to the period of our
intercourse; some with whom I have been on terms of immediate official
connection, whose worth and talents I have had the best means of
appreciating, and who could bear witness at least, if they please to
do so, to the spirit, intentions, and motives with which I have
administered your affairs; some with whom I have been bound by the
ties of personal regard. And if reciprocity be essential to enmity,
then most assuredly I can leave behind me no enemies. I am aware that
there must be persons in so large a society as this, who think that
they have grievances to complain of, that due consideration has not in
all cases been shown to them. Let them believe me, and they ought to
believe me, for the testimony of a dying man is evidence, even in a
court of justice, let them believe me, then, when I assure them, in
this the last hour of my agony, that no such errors of omission or
commission have been intentional on my part. Farewell, and God bless
you." Before I proceed to review some features of his administration
in Canada, to which it has not been possible to do adequate justice in
previous chapters of this book, I must very briefly refer to the
eminent services which he was able to perform for the empire before he
closed his useful life amid the shadows of the Himalayas. On his
return to England he took his seat in the House of Lords, but he gave
very little attention to politics or legislation. On one occasion,
however, he expressed a serious doubt as to the wisdom of sending to
Canada large bodies of troops, which had come back from the Crimea, on
the ground that such a proceeding might complicate the relations of
the colony with the United States, and at the same time arrest its
progress towards self-independence in all matters affecting its
internal order and security.

This opinion was in unison with the sentiments which he had often
expressed to the secretary of state during his term of office in
America. While he always deprecated any hasty withdrawal of imperial
troops from the dependency as likely at that time to imperil its
connection with the mother country, he believed most thoroughly in
educating Canadians gradually to understand the large measure of
responsibility which attached to self-government. He was of opinion
"that the system of relieving colonists altogether from the duty of
self-defence must be attended with injurious effects upon themselves."
"It checks," he continued, "the growth of national and manly morals.
Men seldom think anything worth preserving for which they are never
asked to make a sacrifice." His view was that, while it was desirable
to remove imperial troops gradually and throw the responsibility of
self-defence largely upon Canada, "the movement in that direction
should be made with due caution." "The present"--he was writing to the
secretary of state in 1848 when Canadian affairs were still in an
unsatisfactory state--"is not a favourable moment for experiments.
British statesmen, even secretaries of state, have got into the habit
lately of talking of the maintenance of the connection between Great
Britain and Canada with so much indifference, that a change of system
in respect to military defence incautiously carried out, might be
presumed by many to argue, on the part of the mother country, a
disposition to prepare the way for separation." And he added three
years later:

"If these communities are only truly attached to the
connection and satisfied of its permanence (and as respects
the latter point, opinions here will be much influenced by
the tone of statesmen at home), elements of self-defence,
not moral elements only, but material elements likewise,
will spring up within them spontaneously as the product of
movements from within, not of pressure from without. Two
millions of people in a northern latitude can do a good deal
in the way of helping themselves, when their hearts are in
the right place."

Before two decades of years had passed away, the foresight of these
suggestions was clearly shown. Canada had become a part of a British
North American confederation, and with the development of its material
resources, the growth of a national spirit of self-reliance, the new
Dominion, thus formed, was able to relieve the parent state of the
expenses of self-defence, and come to her aid many years later when
her interests were threatened in South Africa. If Canada has been able
to do all this, it has been owing to the growth of that spirit of
self-reliance--of that principle of self-government--which Lord Elgin
did his utmost to encourage. We can then well understand that Lord
Elgin, in 1855, should have contemplated with some apprehension the
prospect of largely increasing the Canadian garrisons at a time when
Canadians were learning steadily and surely to cultivate the national
habit of depending upon their own internal resources in their working
out of the political institutions given them by England after years of
agitation, and even suffering, as the history of the country until
1840 so clearly shows. It is also easy to understand that Lord Elgin
should have regarded the scheme in contemplation as likely to create a
feeling of doubt and suspicion as to the motives of the imperial
government in the minds of the people of the United States. He
recalled naturally his important visit to that country, where he had
given eloquent expression, as the representative of the British Crown,
to his sanguine hopes for the continuous amity of peoples allied to
each other by so many ties of kindred and interest, and had also
succeeded after infinite labour in negotiating a treaty so well
calculated to create a common sympathy between Canada and the
republic, and stimulate that friendly intercourse which would dispel
many national prejudices and antagonisms which had unhappily arisen
between these communities in the past. The people of the United States
might well, he felt, see some inconsistency between such friendly
sentiments and the sending of large military reinforcements to Canada.

In the spring of 1857 Lord Elgin accepted from Lord Palmerston a
delicate mission to China at a very critical time when the affair of
the lorcha "Arrow" had led to a serious rupture between that country
and Great Britain. According to the British statement of the case, in
October, 1856, the Chinese authorities at Canton seized the lorcha
although it was registered as a British vessel, tore down the British
flag from its masthead, and carried away the crew as prisoners. On the
other hand the Chinese claimed that they had arrested the crew, who
were subjects of the emperor, as pirates, that the British ownership
had lapsed some time previously, and that there was no flag flying on
the vessel at the time of its seizure. The British representatives in
China gave no credence to these explanations but demanded not only a
prompt apology but also the fulfilment of "long evaded treaty
obligations." When these peremptory demands were not at once complied
with, the British proceeded in a very summary manner to blow up
Chinese forts, and commit other acts of war, although the Chinese only
offered a passive resistance to these efforts to bring them to terms
of abject submission. Lord Palmerston's government was condemned in
the House of Commons for the violent measures which had been taken in
China, but he refused to submit to a vote made up, as he satirically
described it, "of a fortuitous concourse of atoms," and appealed to
the country, which sustained him. While Lord Elgin was on his way to
China, he heard the news of the great mutiny in India, and received a
letter from Lord Canning, then governor-general, imploring him to send
some assistance from the troops under his direction. He at once sent
"instructions far and wide to turn the transports back and give
Canning the benefit of the troops for the moment." It is impossible,
say his contemporaries, to exaggerate the importance of the aid which
he so promptly gave at the most critical time in the Indian situation.
"Tell Lord Elgin," wrote Sir William Peel, the commander of the famous
Naval Brigade at a later time, "that it was the Chinese expedition
which relieved Lucknow, relieved Cawnpore, and fought the battle of
December 6th." But this patriotic decision delayed somewhat the
execution of Lord Elgin's mission to China. It was nearly four months
after he had despatched the first Chinese contingent to the relief of
the Indian authorities, that another body of troops arrived in China
and he was able to proceed vigorously to execute the objects of his
visit to the East. After a good deal of fighting and bullying, Chinese
commissioners were induced in the summer of 1859 to consent to sign
the Treaty of Tientsin, which gave permission to the Queen of Great
Britain to appoint, if she should see fit, an ambassador who might
reside permanently at Pekin, or visit it occasionally according to the
pleasure of the British government, guaranteed protection to
Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, allowed British subjects to
travel to all parts of the empire, under passports signed by British
consuls, established favourable conditions for the protection of trade
by foreigners, and indemnified the British government for the losses
that had been sustained at Canton and for the expenses of the war.

Lord Elgin then paid an official visit to Japan, where he was well
received and succeeded in negotiating the Treaty of Yeddo, which was a
decided advance on all previous arrangements with that country, and
prepared the way for larger relations between it and England. On his
return to bring the new treaty to a conclusion, he found that the
commissioners who had gone to obtain their emperor's full consent to
its provisions, seemed disposed to call into question some of the
privileges which had been already conceded, and he was consequently
forced to assume that peremptory tone which experience of the Chinese
has shown can alone bring them to understand the full measure of their
responsibilities in negotiations with a European power. However, he
believed he had brought his mission to a successful close, and
returned to England in the spring of 1859.

How little interest was taken in those days in Canadian affairs by
British public men and people, is shown by some comments of Mr.
Waldron on the incidents which signalized Lord Elgin's return from
China. "When he returned in 1854 from the government of Canada," this
writer naively admits, "there were comparatively few persons in
England who knew anything of the great work he had done in the colony.
But his brilliant successes in the East attracted public interest and
gave currency to his reputation." He accepted the position of
postmaster-general in the administration just formed by Lord
Palmerston, and was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow; but he had hardly
commenced to study the details of his office, and enjoy the amenities
of the social life of Great Britain, when he was again called upon by
the government to proceed to the East, where the situation was once
more very critical. The duplicity of the Chinese in their dealings
with foreigners had soon shown itself after his departure from China,
and he was instructed to go back as Ambassador Extraordinary to that
country, where a serious rupture had occurred between the English and
Chinese while an expedition of the former was on its way to Pekin to
obtain the formal ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin. The French
government, which had been a party to that treaty, sent forces to
cooeperate with those of Great Britain in obtaining prompt satisfaction
for an attack made by the Chinese troops on the British at the Peilo,
the due ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin, and payment of an
indemnity to the allies for the expenses of their military operations.

The punishment which the Chinese received for their bad faith and
treachery was very complete. Yuen-ming-yuen, the emperor's summer
palace, one of the glories of the empire, was levelled to the ground
as a just retribution for treacherous and criminal acts committed by
the creatures of the emperor at the very moment it was believed that
the negotiations were peacefully terminated. Five days after the
burning of the palace, the treaty was fully ratified between the
emperor's brother and Lord Elgin, and full satisfaction obtained from
the imperial authorities at Pekin for their shameless disregard of
their solemn engagements. The manner in which the British ambassador
discharged the onerous duties of his mission, met with the warm
approval of Her Majesty's government and when he was once more in
England he was offered by the prime minister the governor-generalship
of India.

He accepted this great office with a full sense of the arduous
responsibilities which it entailed upon him, and said good-bye to his
friends with words which showed that he had a foreboding that he might
never see them again--words which proved unhappily to be too true. He
went to the discharge of his duties in India in that spirit of modesty
which was always characteristic of him. "I succeeded," he said, "to a
great man (Lord Canning) and a great war, with a humble task to be
humbly discharged." His task was indeed humble compared with that
which had to be performed by his eminent predecessors, notably by Earl
Canning, who had established important reforms in the land tenure, won
the confidence of the feudatories of the Crown, and reorganized the
whole administration of India after the tremendous upheaval caused by
the mutiny. Lord Elgin, on the other hand, was the first
governor-general appointed directly by the Queen, and was now subject
to the authority of the secretary of state for India. He could
consequently exercise relatively little of the powers and
responsibilities which made previous imperial representatives so
potent in the conduct of Indian affairs. Indeed he had not been long
in India before he was forced by the Indian secretary to reverse Lord
Canning's wise measure for the sale of a fee-simple tenure with all
its political as well as economic advantages. He was able, however, to
carry out loyally the wise and equitable policy of his predecessor
towards the feudatories of England with firmness and dignity and with
good effect for the British government.[24]

In 1863 he decided on making a tour of the northern parts of India
with the object of making himself personally acquainted with the
people and affairs of the empire under his government. It was during
this tour that he held a Durbar or Royal Court at Agra, which was
remarkable even in India for the display of barbaric wealth and the
assemblage of princes of royal descent. After reaching Simla his
peaceful administration of Indian affairs was at last disturbed by the
necessity--one quite clear to him--of repressing an outburst of
certain Nahabee fanatics who dwelt in the upper valley of the Indus.
He came to the conclusion that "the interests both of prudence and
humanity would be best consulted by levelling a speedy and decisive
blow at this embryo conspiracy." Having accordingly made the requisite
arrangements for putting down promptly the trouble on the frontier and
preventing the combination of the Mahommedan inhabitants in those
regions against the government, he left Simla and traversed the upper
valleys of the Beas, the Ravee, and the Chenali with the object of
inspecting the tea plantations of that district and making inquiries
as to the possibility of trade with Ladak and China. Eventually, after
a wearisome journey through a most picturesque region, he reached
Dhurmsala--"the place of piety"--in the Kangra valley, where appeared
the unmistakable symptoms of the fatal malady which soon caused his

The closing scenes in the life of the statesman have been described in
pathetic terms by his brother-in-law, Dean Stanley.[25] The
intelligence that the illness was mortal "was received with a calmness
and fortitude which never deserted him" through all the scenes which
followed. He displayed "in equal degrees, and with the most unvarying
constancy, two of the grandest elements of human character--unselfish
resignation of himself to the will of God, and thoughtful
consideration down to the smallest particulars, for the interests and
feelings of others, both public and private." When at his own request,
Lady Elgin chose a spot for his grave in the little cemetery which
stands on the bluff above the house where he died, "he gently
expressed pleasure when told of the quiet and beautiful aspect of the
place chosen, with the glorious view of the snowy range towering
above, and the wide prospect of hill and plain below." During this
fatal illness he had the consolation of the constant presence of his
loving wife, whose courageous spirit enabled her to overcome the
weakness of a delicate constitution. He died on November 20th, 1863,
and was buried on the following day beneath the snow-clad

If at any time a Canadian should venture to this quiet station in the
Kangra valley, let his first thought be, not of the sublimity of the
mountains which rise far away, but of the grave where rest the remains
of a statesman whose pure unselfishness, whose fidelity to duty, whose
tender and sympathetic nature, whose love of truth and justice, whose
compassion for the weak, whose trust in God and the teachings of
Christ, are human qualities more worthy of the admiration of us all
than the grandest attributes of nature.

None of the distinguished Canadian statesmen who were members of Lord
Elgin's several administrations from 1847 until 1854, or were then
conspicuous in parliamentary life, now remain to tell us the story of
those eventful years. Mr. Baldwin died five years before, and Sir
Louis Hypolite LaFontaine three months after the decease of the
governor-general of India, and in the roll of their Canadian
contemporaries there are none who have left a fairer record. Mr.
Hincks retired from the legislature of Canada in 1855, when he
accepted the office of governor-in-chief of Barbadoes and the Windward
Islands from Sir William Molesworth, colonial secretary in Lord
Palmerston's government, and for years an eminent advocate of a
liberal colonial policy. This appointment was well received throughout
British North America by Mr. Hincks's friends as well as political
opponents, who recognized the many merits of this able politician and
administrator. It was considered, according to the London _Times_, as
"the inauguration of a totally different system of policy from that
which has been hitherto pursued with regard to our colonies." "It gave
some evidence," continued the same paper, "that the more distinguished
among our fellow-subjects in the colonies may feel that the path of
imperial ambition is henceforth open to them." It was a direct answer
to the appeal which had been so eloquently made on more than one
occasion by the Honourable Joseph Howe[27] of Nova Scotia, to extend
imperial honours and offices to distinguished colonists, and not
reserve them, as was too often the case, for Englishmen of inferior
merit. "This elevation of Mr. Hincks to a governorship," said the
Montreal _Pilot_ at the time, "is the most practicable comment which
can possibly be offered upon the solemn and sorrowful complaints of
Mr. Howe, anent the neglect with which the colonists are treated by
the imperial government. So sudden, complete and noble a disclaimer on
the part of Her Majesty's minister for the colonies must have startled
the delegate from Nova Scotia, and we trust that his turn may not be
far distant." Fifteen years later, Mr. Howe himself became a
lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, and an inmate of the very
government house to which he was not admitted in the stormy days when
he was fighting the battle of responsible government against Lord

Mr. Hincks was subsequently appointed governor of British Guiana, and
at the same time received a Commandership of the Bath as a mark of
"Her Majesty's approval honourably won by very valuable and continued
service in several colonies of the empire." He retired from the
imperial service with a pension in 1869, when his name was included in
the first list of knights which was submitted to the Queen on the
extension of the Order of St. Michael and St. George for the express
purpose of giving adequate recognition to those persons in the
colonies who had rendered distinguished service to the Crown and
empire. During his Canadian administration Lord Elgin had impressed
upon the colonial secretary that it was "very desirable that the
prerogative of the Crown, as the fountain of honour, should be
employed, in so far as this can properly be done, as a means of
attaching the outlying parts of the empire to the throne." Two
principles ought, he thought, "as a general rule to be attended to in
the distribution of imperial honours among colonists." Firstly they
should appear "to emanate directly from the Crown, on the advice, if
you will, of the governors and imperial ministers, but not on the
recommendation of the local executive." Secondly, they "should be
conferred, as much as possible, on the eminent persons who are no
longer engaged actively in political life." The first principle has,
generally speaking, guided the action of the Crown in the distribution
of honours to colonists, though the governors may receive suggestions
from and also consult their prime ministers when the necessity arises.
These honours, too, are no longer conferred only on men actively
engaged in public life, but on others eminent in science, education,
literature, and other vocations of life.[28]

In 1870 Sir Francis Hincks returned to Canadian public life as finance
minister in Sir John Macdonald's government, and held the office until
1873, when he retired altogether from politics. Until the last hours
of his life he continued to show that acuteness of intellect, that
aptitude for public business, that knowledge of finance and commerce,
which made him so influential in public affairs. During his public
career in Canada previous to 1855, he was the subject of bitter
attacks for his political acts, but nowadays impartial history can
admit that, despite his tendency to commit the province to heavy
expenditures, his energy, enterprise and financial ability did good
service to the country at large. He was also attacked as having used
his public position to promote his own pecuniary interests, but he
courted and obtained inquiry into the most serious of such
accusations, and although there appears to have been some carelessness
in his connection with various speculations, and at times an absence
of an adequate sense of his responsibility as a public man, there is
no evidence that he was ever personally corrupt or dishonest. He
devoted the close of his life to the writing of his "Reminiscences,"
and of several essays on questions which were great public issues when
he was so prominent in Canadian politics, and although none of his
most ardent admirers can praise them as literary efforts of a high
order, yet they have an interest so far as they give us some insight
into disputed points of Canada's political history. He died in 1885 of
the dreadful disease small-pox in the city of Montreal, and the
veteran statesman was carried to the grave without those funeral
honours which were due to one who had filled with distinction so many
important positions in the service of Canada and the Crown. All his
contemporaries when he was prime minister also lie in the grave and
have found at last that rest which was not theirs in the busy,
passionate years of their public life. Sir Allan MacNab, who was a
spendthrift to the very last, lies in a quiet spot beneath the shades
of the oaks and elms which adorn the lovely park of Dundurn in
Hamilton, whose people have long since forgotten his weaknesses as a
man, and now only recall his love for the beautiful city with whose
interests he was so long identified, and his eminent services to Crown
and state. George Brown, Hincks's inveterate opponent, continued for
years after the formation of the first Liberal-Conservative
administration, to keep the old province of Canada in a state of
political ferment by his attacks on French Canada and her institutions
until at last he succeeded in making government practically
unworkable, and then suddenly he rose superior to the spirit of
passionate partisanship and racial bitterness which had so long
dominated him, and decided to aid his former opponents in consummating
that federal union which relieved old Canada of her political
embarrassment and sectional strife. His action at that time is his
chief claim to the monument which has been raised in his honour in the
great western city where he was for so many years a political force,
and where the newspaper he established still remains at the head of
Canadian journalism.

The greatest and ablest man among all who were notable in Lord Elgin's
days in Canada, Sir John Alexander Macdonald--the greatest not simply
as a Canadian politician but as one of the builders of the British
empire--lived to become one of Her Majesty's Privy Councillors of
Great Britain, a Grand Cross of the Bath, and prime minister for
twenty-one years of a Canadian confederation which stretches for 3,500
miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. When death at last
forced him from the great position he had so long occupied with
distinction to himself and advantage to Canada, the esteem and
affection in which he was held by the people, whom he had so long
served during a continuous public career of half a century, were shown
by the erection of stately monuments in five of the principal cities
of the Dominion--an honour never before paid to a colonial statesman.
The statues of Sir John Macdonald and Sir Georges Cartier--statues
conceived and executed by the genius of a French Canadian
artist--stand on either side of the noble parliament building where
these statesmen were for years the most conspicuous figures; and as
Canadians of the present generation survey their bronze effigies, let
them not fail to recall those admirable qualities of statesmanship
which distinguished them both--above all their assertion of those
principles of compromise, conciliation and equal rights which have
served to unite the two races in critical times when the tide of
racial and sectional passion and political demagogism has rushed in a
mad torrent against the walls of the national structure which
Canadians have been so steadily and successfully building for so many
years on the continent of North America.



In the foregoing pages I have endeavoured to review--very imperfectly,
I am afraid--all those important events in the political history of
Canada from 1847 to 1854, which have had the most potent influence on
its material, social, and political development. Any one who carefully
studies the conditions of the country during that critical period of
Canadian affairs cannot fail to come to the conclusion that the
gradual elevation of Canada from the depression which was so prevalent
for years in political as well as commercial matters, to a position of
political strength and industrial prosperity, was largely owing to the
success of the principles of self-government which Lord Elgin
initiated and carried out while at the head of the Canadian executive.
These principles have been clearly set forth in his speeches and in
his despatches to the secretary of state for the colonies as well as
in instructive volumes on the colonial policy of Lord John Russell's
administration by Lord Grey, the imperial minister who so wisely
recommended Lord Elgin's appointment as governor-general Briefly
stated these principles are as follows:--

That it is neither desirable nor possible to carry on the
government of a province in opposition to the opinion of its

That a governor-general can have no ministers who do not
enjoy the full confidence of the popular House, or, in the
last resort, of the people.

That the governor-general should not refuse his consent to
any measure proposed by the ministry unless it is clear that
it is of such an extreme party character that the assembly
or people could not approve of it.

That the governor-general should not identify himself with
any party but make himself "a mediator and moderator between
all parties."

That colonial communities should be encouraged to cultivate "a
national and manly tone of political morals," and should look to their
own parliaments for the solution of all problems of provincial
government instead of making constant appeals to the colonial office
or to opinion in the mother country, "always ill-informed, and
therefore credulous, in matters of colonial politics."

That the governor-general should endeavour to impart to these rising
communities the full advantages of British laws, British institutions,
and British freedom, and maintain in this way the connection between
them and the parent state.

We have seen in previous chapters how industriously, patiently, and
discreetly Lord Elgin laboured to carry out these principles in the
administration of his government. In 1849 he risked his own life that
he might give full scope to the principles of responsible government
with respect to the adjustment of a question which should be settled
by the Canadian people themselves without the interference of the
parent state, and on the same ground he impressed on the imperial
government the necessity of giving to the Canadian legislature full
control of the settlement of the clergy reserves. He had no patience
with those who believed that, in allowing the colonists to exercise
their right to self-government in matters exclusively affecting
themselves, there was any risk whatever so far as imperial interests
were concerned. One of his ablest letters was that which he wrote to
Earl Grey as an answer to the unwise utterances of the prime minister,
Lord John Russell, in the course of a speech on the colonies in which,
"amid the plaudits of a full senate, he declared that he looked
forward to the day when the ties which he was endeavouring to render
so easy and mutually advantageous would be severed." Lord Elgin held
it to be "a perfectly unsound and most dangerous theory, that British
colonies could not attain maturity without separation," and in this
connection he quoted the language of Mr. Baldwin to whom he had read
that part of Lord John Russell's speech to which he took such strong
exception. "For myself," said the eminent Canadian, "if the
anticipations therein expressed prove to be well founded, my interest
in public affairs is gone forever. But is it not hard upon us while we
are labouring, through good and evil report, to thwart the designs of
those who would dismember the empire, that our adversaries should be
informed that the difference between them and the prime minister of
England is only one of time? If the British government has really come
to the conclusion that we are a burden to be cast off, whenever a
favourable opportunity offers, surely we ought to be warned." In Lord
Elgin's opinion, based on a thorough study of colonial conditions, if
the Canadian or any other system of government was to be successful,
British statesmen must "renounce the habit of telling the colonies
that the colonial is a provisional existence." They should be taught
to believe that "without severing the bonds which unite them to
England, they may attain the degree of perfection, and of social and
political development to which organized communities of free men have
a right to aspire." The true policy in his judgment was "to throw the
whole weight of responsibility on those who exercise the real power,
for after all, the sense of responsibility is the best security
against the abuse of power; and as respects the connection, to act and
speak on this hypothesis--that there is nothing in it to check the
development of healthy national life in these young communities." He
was "possessed," he used the word advisedly, "with the idea that it
was possible to maintain on the soil of North America, and in the face
of Republican America, British connection and British institutions, if
you give the latter freely and trustingly." The history of Canada from
the day those words were penned down to the beginning of the twentieth
century proves their political wisdom. Under the inspiring influence
of responsible government Canada has developed in 1902, not into an
independent nation, as predicted by Lord John Russell and other
British statesmen after him, but into a confederation of five millions
and a half of people, in which a French Canadian prime minister gives
expression to the dominant idea not only of his own race but of all
nationalities within the Dominion, that the true interest lies not in
the severance but in the continuance of the ties that have so long
bound them to the imperial state.

Lord Elgin in his valuable letters to the imperial authorities, always
impressed on them the fact that the office of a Canadian
governor-general has not by any means been lowered to that of a mere
subscriber of orders-in-council--of a mere official automaton,
speaking and acting by the orders of the prime minister and the
cabinet. On the contrary, he gave it as his experience that in
Jamaica, where there was no responsible government, he had "not half
the power" he had in Canada "with a constitutional and changing
cabinet." With respect to the maintenance of the position and due
influence of the governor, he used language which gives a true
solution of the problem involved in the adaptation of parliamentary
government to the colonial system. "As the imperial government and
parliament gradually withdraw from legislative interference, and from
the exercise of patronage in colonial affairs, the office of governor
tends to become, in the most emphatic sense of the term, the link
which connects the mother country and the colony, and his influence
the means by which harmony of action between the local and imperial
authorities is to be preserved. It is not, however, in my humble
judgment, by evincing an anxious desire to stretch to the utmost
constitutional principles in his favour, but, on the contrary, by the
frank acceptance of the conditions of the parliamentary system, that
this influence can be most surely extended and confirmed. Placed by
his position above the strife of parties--holding office by a tenure
less precarious than the ministers who surround him--having no
political interests to serve but those of the community whose affairs
he is appointed to administer--his opinion cannot fail, when all cause
for suspicion and jealousy is removed, to have great weight in
colonial councils, while he is set at liberty to constitute himself in
an especial manner the patron of those larger and higher
interests--such interests, for example, as those of education, and of
moral and material progress in all its branches--which, unlike the
contests of party, unite instead of dividing the members of the body

As we study the political history of Canada for the fifty years which
have elapsed since Lord Elgin enunciated in his admirable letters to
the imperial government the principles which guided him in his
Canadian administration, we cannot fail to see clearly that
responsible government has brought about the following results, which
are at once a guarantee of efficient home government and of a
harmonious cooperation between the dependency and the central
authority of the empire.

The misunderstandings that so constantly occurred between the
legislative bodies and the imperial authorities, on account of the
latter failing so often to appreciate fully the nature of the
political grievances that agitated the public mind, and on account of
their constant interference in matters which should have been left
exclusively to the control of the people directly interested, have
been entirely removed in conformity with the wise policy of making
Canada a self-governing country in the full sense of the phrase. These
provinces are as a consequence no longer a source of irritation and
danger to the parent state, but, possessing full independence in all
matters of local concern, are now among the chief sources of England's
pride and greatness.

The governor-general instead of being constantly brought into conflict
with the political parties of the country, and made immediately
responsible for the continuance of public grievances, has gained in
dignity and influence since he has been removed from the arena of
public controversy. He now occupies a position in harmony with the
principles that have given additional strength and prestige to the
throne itself. As the legally accredited representative of the
sovereign, as the recognized head of society, he represents what
Bagehot has aptly styled "the dignified part of our constitution,"
which has much value in a country like ours where we fortunately
retain the permanent form of monarchy in harmony with the democratic
machinery of our government. If the governor-general is a man of
parliamentary experience and constitutional knowledge, possessing tact
and judgment, and imbued with the true spirit of his high
vocation--and these high functionaries have been notably so since the
commencement of confederation--he can sensibly influence, in the way
Lord Elgin points out, the course of administration and benefit the
country at critical periods of its history. Standing above all party,
having the unity of the empire at heart, a governor-general can at
times soothe the public mind, and give additional confidence to the
country, when it is threatened with some national calamity, or there
is distrust abroad as to the future. As an imperial officer he has
large responsibilities of which the general public has naturally no
very clear idea, and if it were possible to obtain access to the
confidential and secret despatches which seldom see the light in the
colonial office--certainly not in the lifetime of the men who wrote
them--it would be found how much, for a quarter of a century past, the
colonial department has gained by having had in the Dominion, men, no
longer acting under the influence of personal feeling through being
made personally responsible for the conduct of public affairs, but
actuated simply by a desire to benefit the country over which they
preside, and to bring Canadian interests into union with those of the
empire itself.

The effects on the character of public men and on the body politic
have been for the public advantage. It has brought out the best
qualities of colonial statesmanship, lessened the influence of mere
agitators and demagogues, and taught our public men to rely on
themselves in all crises affecting the welfare and integrity of the
country. Responsible government means self-reliance, the capacity to
govern ourselves, the ability to build up a great nation.

When we review the trials and struggles of the past that we may gain
from them lessons of confidence for the future, let us not forget to
pay a tribute to the men who have laid the foundations of these
communities, still on the threshold of their development, and on whom
the great burden fell; to the French Canadians who, despite the
neglect and indifference of their kings, amid toil and privation, amid
war and famine, built up a province which they have made their own by
their patience and industry, and who should, differ as we may from
them, evoke our respect for their fidelity to the institutions of
their origin, for their appreciation of the advantages of English
self-government, and for their cooperation in all great measures
essential to the unity of the federation; to the Loyalists of last
century who left their homes for the sake of "king and country," and
laid the foundations of prosperous and loyal English communities by
the sea and by the great lakes, and whose descendants have ever stood
true to the principles of the institutions which have made Britain free
and great; to the unknown body of pioneers some of whose names perhaps
still linger on a headland or river or on a neglected gravestone, who
let in the sunlight year by year to the dense forests of these
countries, and built up by their industry the large and thriving
provinces of this Dominion; above all, to the statesmen--Elgin,
Baldwin, LaFontaine, Morin, Howe, and many others--who laid deep and
firm, beneath the political structure of this confederation, those
principles of self-government which give harmony to our constitutional
system and bring out the best qualities of an intelligent people. In
the early times in which they struggled they had to bear much obloquy,
and their errors of judgment have been often severely arraigned at the
bar of public opinion; many of them lived long enough to see how soon
men may pass into oblivion; but we who enjoy the benefit of their
earnest endeavours, now that the voice of the party passion of their
times is hushed, should never forget that, though they are not here to
reap the fruit of their labours, their work survives in the energetic
and hopeful communities which stretch from Cape Breton to Victoria.



In one of Lord Elgin's letters we are told that, when he had as
visitors to government house in 1850, Sir Henry Bulwer, the elder
brother of Lord Lytton, and British minister to the United States, as
well as Sir Edmund Head, his successor in the governorship of Canada,
he availed himself of so favourable an opportunity of reassuring them
on many points of the internal policy of the province on which they
were previously doubtful, and gave them some insight into the position
of men and things on which Englishmen in those days were too ignorant
as a rule. One important point which he impressed upon them--as he
hoped successfully--was this:

"That the faithful carrying out of the principles of
constitutional government is a departure from the American
model, not an approximation to it, and, therefore, a
departure from republicanism in its only workable shape."

The fact was: "The American system is our old colonial system, with,
in certain cases, the principle of popular election substituted for
that of nomination by the Crown." He was convinced "that the
concession of constitutional government has a tendency to draw the
colonists" towards England and not towards republicanism; "firstly,
because it slakes that thirst for self-government which seizes on all
British communities when they approach maturity; and secondly because
it habituates the colonists to the working of a political mechanism
which is both intrinsically superior to that of the Americans, and
more unlike it than our old colonial system." In short, he felt very
strongly that "when a people have been once thoroughly accustomed to
the working of such a parliamentary system as ours they never will
consent to resort to this irresponsible mechanism."

Since these significant words were written half a century ago,
Canadians have been steadily working out the principles of
parliamentary government as understood and explained by Lord Elgin,
and have had abundant opportunities of contrasting their experiences
with those of their neighbours under a system in many respects the
very reverse of that which has enabled Canada to attain so large a
measure of political freedom and build up such prosperous communities
to the north of the republic, while still remaining in the closest
possible touch with the imperial state. I propose now to close this
book with some comparisons between the respective systems of the two
countries, and to show that in this respect as in others Lord Elgin
proved how deep was his insight into the working of political
institutions, and how thoroughly he had mastered the problem of the
best methods of administering the government of a great colonial
dependency, not solely with a regard to its own domestic interests but
with a view of maintaining the connection with the British Crown, of
which he was so discreet and able a servant.

It is especially important to Canadians to study the development of
the institutions of the United States, with the view of deriving
benefit from their useful experiences, and avoiding the defects that
have grown up under their system. All institutions are more or less on
trial in a country like Canada, which is working out great problems of
political science under decided advantages, since the ground is
relatively new, and the people have before them all the experiences of
the world, especially of England and the United States, in whose
systems Canadians have naturally the deepest interest. The history of
responsible government affords another illustration of a truth which
stands out clear in the history of nations, that those constitutions
which are of a flexible character, the natural growth of the
experiences of centuries, and which have been created by the
necessities and conditions of the times, possess the elements of real
stability, and best ensure the prosperity of a people. The great
source of the strength of the institutions of the United States lies
in the fact that they have worked out their government in accordance
with certain principles, which are essentially English in their
origin, and have been naturally developed since their foundation as
colonial settlements, and whatever weaknesses their system shows have
chiefly arisen from new methods, and from the rigidity of their
constitutional rules of law, which separate too sharply the executive
and the legislative branches of government. Like their neighbours the
Canadian people have based their system on English principles, but
they have at the same time been able to keep pace with the progress of
the unwritten constitution of England, to adapt it to their own
political conditions, and to bring the executive and legislative
authorities to assist and harmonize with one another.

Each country has its "cabinet council," but the one is essentially
different from the other in its character and functions. This term,
the historical student will remember, was first used in the days of
the Stuarts as one of derision and obloquy. It was frequently called
"junto" or "cabal," and during the days of conflict between the
commons and the king it was regarded with great disfavour by the
parliament of England. Its unpopularity arose from the fact that it
did not consist of men in whom parliament had confidence, and its
proceedings were conducted with so much secrecy that it was impossible
to decide upon whom to fix responsibility for any obnoxious measure.
When the constitution of England was brought back to its original
principles, and harmony was restored between the Crown and the
parliament, the cabinet became no longer a term of reproach, but a
position therein was regarded as the highest honour in the country,
and was associated with the efficient administration of public
affairs, since it meant a body of men responsible to parliament for
every act of government.[29] The old executive councils of Canada were
obnoxious to the people for the same reason that the councils of the
Stuarts, and even of George III, with the exception of the regime of
the two Pitts, became unpopular. Not only do we in Canada, in
accordance with our desire to perpetuate the names of English
institutions use the name "cabinet" which was applied to an
institution that gradually grew out of the old privy council of
England, but we have even incorporated in our fundamental law the
older name of "privy council," which itself sprang from the original
"permanent" or "continual" council of the Norman kings. Following
English precedent, the Canadian cabinet or ministry is formed out of
the privy councillors, chosen under the law by the governor-general,
and when they retire from office they still retain the purely honorary
distinction. In the United States the use of the term "cabinet" has
none of the significance it has with us, and if it can be compared at
all to any English institutions it might be to the old cabinets who
acknowledged responsibility to the king, and were only so many heads
of departments in the king's government. As a matter of fact the
comparison would be closer if we said that the administration
resembles the cabinets of the old French kings, or to quote Professor
Bryce, "the group of ministers who surround the Czar or the Sultan, or
who executed the bidding of a Roman emperor like Constantine or
Justinian." Such ministers like the old executive councils of Canada,
"are severally responsible to their master, and are severally called
in to counsel him, but they have not necessarily any relations with
one another, nor any duty or collective action." Not only is the
administration conducted on the principle of responsibility to the
president alone, in this respect the English king in old irresponsible
days, but the legislative department is itself constructed after the
English model as it existed a century ago, and a general system of
government is established, lacking in that unity and elasticity which
are essential to its effective working. On the other hand the Canadian
cabinet is the cabinet of the English system of modern times and is
formed so as to work in harmony with the legislative department, which
is a copy, so far as possible, of the English legislature.

The special advantages of the Canadian or English system of
parliamentary government, compared with congressional government, may
be briefly summed up as follows:--

(1) The governor-general, his cabinet, and the popular branch of the
legislature are governed in Canada, as in England, by a system of
rules, conventions and understandings which enable them to work in
harmony with one another. The Crown, the cabinet, the legislature, and
the people, have respectively certain rights and powers which, when
properly and constitutionally brought into operation, give strength
and elasticity to our system of government. Dismissal of a ministry by
the Crown under conditions of gravity, or resignation of a ministry
defeated in the popular House, bring into play the prerogatives of the
Crown. In all cases there must be a ministry to advise the Crown,
assume responsibility for its acts, and obtain the support of the
people and their representatives in parliament. As a last resort to
bring into harmony the people, the legislature, and the Crown, there
is the exercise of the supreme prerogative of dissolution. A governor,
acting always under the advice of responsible ministers, may, at any
time, generally speaking, grant an appeal to the people to test their
opinion on vital public questions and bring the legislature into
accord with the public mind. In short, the fundamental principle of
popular sovereignty lies at the very basis of the Canadian system.

On the other hand, in the United States, the president and his cabinet
may be in constant conflict with the two Houses of Congress during the
four years of his term of office. His cabinet has no direct influence
with the legislative bodies, inasmuch as they have no seats therein.
The political complexion of Congress does not affect their tenure of
office, since they depend only on the favour and approval of the
executive; dissolution, which is the safety valve of the English or
Canadian system--"in its essence an appeal from the legal to the
political sovereign"--is not practicable under the United States
constitution. In a political crisis the constitution provides no
adequate solution of the difficulty during the presidential term. In
this respect the people of the United States are not sovereign as they
are in Canada under the conditions just briefly stated.

(2) The governor-general is not personally brought into collision with
the legislature by the direct exercise of a veto of its legislative
acts, since the ministry is responsible for all legislation and must
stand or fall by its important measures. The passage of a measure of
which it disapproved as a ministry would mean in the majority of cases
a resignation, and it is not possible to suppose that the governor
would be asked to exercise a prerogative of the Crown which has been
in disuse since the establishment of responsible government and would
now be a revolutionary measure even in Canada.

In the United States there is danger of frequent collision between the
president and the two legislative branches, should a very critical
exercise of the veto, as in President Johnson's time, occur at a time
when the public mind was deeply agitated. The chief magistrate loses
in dignity and influence whenever the legislature overrides the veto,
and congress becomes a despotic master for the time being.

(3) The Canadian minister, having control of the finances and taxes
and of all matters of administration, is directly responsible to
parliament and sooner or later to the people for the manner in which
public functions have been discharged. All important measures are
initiated by the cabinet, and on every question of public interest the
ministers are bound to have a definite policy if they wish to retain
the confidence of the legislature. Even in the case of private
legislation they are also the guardians of the public interests and
are responsible to the parliament and the people for any neglect in

On the other hand in the United States the financial and general
legislation of congress is left to the control of committees, over
which the president and his cabinet have no direct influence, and the
chairman of which may have ambitious objects in direct antagonism to
the men in office.

(4) In the Canadian system the speaker is a functionary who certainly
has his party proclivities, but it is felt that as long as he occupies
the chair all political parties can depend on his justice and
impartiality. Responsible government makes the premier and his
ministers responsible for the constitution of the committees and for
the opinions and decisions that may emanate from them. A government
that would constantly endeavour to shift its responsibilities on
committees, even of its own selection, would soon disappear from the
treasury benches. Responsibility in legislation is accordingly
ensured, financial measures prevented from being made the footballs of
ambitious and irresponsible politicians, and the impartiality and
dignity of the speakership guaranteed by the presence in parliament of
a cabinet having the direction and supervision of business.

On the other hand, in the United States, the speaker of the House of
Representatives becomes, from the very force of circumstances, a
political leader, and the spectacle is presented--in fact from the
time of Henry Clay--so strange to us familiar with English methods, of
decisions given by him with clearly party objects, and of committees
formed by him with purely political aims, as likely as not with a view
to thwart the ambition either of a president who is looking to a
second term or of some prominent member of the cabinet who has
presidential aspirations. And all this lowering of the dignity of the
chair is due to the absence of a responsible minister to lead the
House. The very position which the speaker is forced to take from time
to time--notably in the case of Mr. Reed[30]--is clearly the result of
the defects in the constitutional system of the United States, and is
so much evidence that a responsible party leader is an absolute
necessity in congress. A legislature must be led, and congress has
been attempting to get out of a crucial difficulty by all sorts of
questionable shifts which only show the inherent weakness of the
existing system.

In the absence of any provision for the unity of policy between the
executive and legislative authorities of the United States, it is
impossible for any nation to have a positive guarantee that a treaty
it may negotiate with the former can be ratified. The sovereign of
Great Britain enters into treaties with foreign powers with the advice
and assistance of his constitutional advisers, who are immediately
responsible to parliament for their counsel in such matters. In theory
it is the prerogative of the Crown to make a treaty; in practice it is
that of the ministry. It is not constitutionally imperative to refer
such treaties to parliament for its approval--the consent of the Crown
is sufficient; but it is sometimes done under exceptional
circumstances, as in the case of the cession of Heligoland. In any
event the action of the ministry in the matter is invariably open to
the review of parliament, and the ministry may be censured by an
adverse vote for the advice given to the sovereign, and forced to
retire from office. In the United States the senate must ratify all
treaties by a two-thirds vote, but unless there is a majority in that
House of the same political complexion as the president the treaty may
be refused. No cabinet minister is present, to lead the House, as in
England, and assume all the responsibility of the president's action.
It is almost impossible to suppose that an English ministry would
consent to a treaty that would be unpopular in parliament and the
country. The existence of the government would depend on its action.
In the United States both president and senate have divided
responsibilities. The constitution makes no provision for unity in
such important matters of national obligation.

The great advantages of the English, or Canadian, system lie in the
interest created among all classes of the people by the discussions of
the different legislative bodies. Parliamentary debate involves the
fate of cabinets, and the public mind is consequently led to study all
issues of importance. The people know and feel that they must be
called upon sooner or later to decide between the parties contending
on the floor of the legislature, and consequently are obliged to give
an intelligent consideration to public affairs. Let us see what
Bagehot, ablest of critics, says on this point:--

"At present there is business in their attention (that is to
say, of the English or Canadian people). They assist at the
determining crisis; they assist or help it. Whether the
government will go out or remain is determined by the debate
and by the division in parliament And the opinion out of
doors, the secret pervading disposition of society, has a
great influence on that division. The nation feels that its
judgment is important, and it strives to judge. It succeeds
in deciding because the debates and the discussions give it
the facts and arguments. But under the presidential
government the nation has, except at the electing moment, no
influence; it has not the ballot-box before it; its virtue
is gone and it must wait till its instant of despotism again
returns. There are doubtless debates in the legislature, but
they are prologues without a play. The prize of power is not
in the gift of the legislature. No presidential country
needs to form daily delicate opinions, or is helped in
forming them."

Then when the people do go to the ballot-box, they cannot
intelligently influence the policy of the government. If they vote for
a president, then congress may have a policy quite different from his;
if they vote for members of congress, they cannot change the opinions
of the president. If the president changes his cabinet at any time,
they have nothing to say about it, for its members are not important
as wheels in the legislative machinery. Congress may pass a bill of
which the people express their disapproval at the first opportunity
when they choose a new congress, but still it may remain on the
statute-book because the senate holds views different from the newly
elected House, and cannot be politically changed until after a long
series of legislative elections. As Professor Woodrow Wilson well puts
it in an able essay:--[31]

"Public opinion has no easy vehicle for its judgments, no
quick channels for its action. Nothing about the system is
direct and simple. Authority is perplexingly subdivided and
distributed, and responsibility has to be hunted down in
out-of-the-way corners. So that the sum of the whole matter
is that the means of working for the fruits of good
government are not readily to be found. The average citizen
may be excused for esteeming government at best but a
haphazard affair upon which his vote and all his influence
can have but little effect. How is his choice of
representative in congress to affect the policy of the
country as regards the questions in which he is most
interested if the man for whom he votes has no chance of
getting on the standing committee which has virtual charge
of those questions? How is it to make any difference who is
chosen president? Has the president any great authority in
matters of vital policy? It seems a thing of despair to get
any assurance that any vote he may cast will even in an
infinitesimal degree affect the essential courses of
administration. There are so many cooks mixing their
ingredients in the national broth that it seems hopeless,
this thing of changing one cook at a time."

Under such a system it cannot be expected that the people will take
the same deep interest in elections and feel as directly responsible
for the character of the government as when they can at one election
and by one verdict decide the fate of a government, whose policy on
great issues must be thoroughly explained to them at the polls. This
method of popular government is more real and substantial than a
system which does not allow the people to influence congressional
legislation and administrative action through a set of men sitting in
congress and having a common policy.

I think it does not require any very elaborate argument to show that
when men feel and know that the ability they show in parliament may be
sooner or later rewarded by a seat on the treasury benches, and that
they will then have a determining voice in the government of the
country, be it dominion or province, they must be stimulated by a
keener interest in public life, a closer watchfulness over legislation
and administration, a greater readiness for discussing all public
questions, and a more studied appreciation of public opinion outside
the legislative halls. Every man in parliament is a premier _in
posse_. While asking my readers to recall what I have already said as
to the effect of responsible government on the public men and people
of Canada, I shall also here refer them to some authorities worthy of
all respect.

Mr. Bagehot says with his usual clearness:--[32]

"To belong to a debating society adhering to an executive
(and this is no inapt description of a congress under a
presidential constitution) is not an object to stir a noble
ambition, and is a position to encourage idleness. The
members of a parliament excluded from office can never be
comparable, much less equal, to those of a parliament not
excluded from office. The presidential government by its
nature divides political life into two halves, an executive
half and a legislative half, and by so dividing it, makes
neither half worth a man's having--worth his making it a
continuous career--worthy to absorb, as cabinet government
absorbs, his whole soul. The statesmen from whom a nation
chooses under a presidential system are much inferior to
those from whom it chooses under a cabinet system, while the
selecting apparatus is also far less discerning."

An American writer, Prof. Denslow,[33] does not hesitate to express
the opinion very emphatically that "as it is, in no country do the
people feel such an overwhelming sense of the littleness of the men in
charge of public affairs" as in the United States. And in another
place he dwells on the fact that "responsible government educates
office-holders into a high and honourable sense of their
accountability to the people," and makes "statesmanship a permanent
pursuit followed by a skilled class of men."

Prof. Woodrow Wilson says that,[34] so far from men being trained to
legislation by congressional government, "independence and ability are
repressed under the tyranny of the rules, and practically the favour
of the popular branch of congress is concentrated in the speaker and a
few--very few--expert parliamentarians." Elsewhere he shows that
"responsibility is spread thin, and no vote or debate can gather it."
As a matter of fact and experience, he comes to the conclusion "the
more power is divided the more irresponsible it becomes and the petty
character of the leadership of each committee contributes towards
making its despotism sure by making its duties interesting."

Professor James Bryee, it will be admitted, is one of the fairest of
critics in his review of the institutions of the United States; but
he, too, comes to the conclusion[35] that the system of congressional
government destroys the unity of the House (of representatives) as a
legislative body; prevents the capacity of the best members from being
brought to bear upon any one piece of legislation, however important;
cramps debate; lessens the cohesion and harmony of legislation; gives
facilities for the exercise of underhand and even corrupt influence;
reduces responsibility; lowers the interest of the nation in the
proceedings of congress.

In another place,[36] after considering the relations between the
executive and the legislature, he expresses his opinion that the
framers of the constitution have "so narrowed the sphere of the
executive as to prevent it from leading the country, or even its own
party in the country." They endeavoured "to make members of congress
independent, but in doing so they deprived them of some of the means
which European legislators enjoy of learning how to administer, of
learning even how to legislate in administrative topics. They
condemned them to be architects without science, critics without
experience, censors without responsibility."

And further on, when discussing the faults of democratic government in
the United States--and Professor Bryce, we must remember, is on the
whole most hopeful of its future--he detects as amongst its
characteristics "a certain commonness of mind and tone, a want of
dignity and elevation in and about the conduct of public affairs, and
insensibility to the nobler aspects and finer responsibilities of
national life." Then he goes on to say[37] that representative and
parliamentary system "provides the means of mitigating the evils to be
feared from ignorance or haste, for it vests the actual conduct of
affairs in a body of specially chosen and presumably qualified men,
who may themselves intrust such of their functions as need peculiar
knowledge or skill to a smaller governing body or bodies selected in
respect of their more eminent fitness. By this method the defects of
democracy are remedied while its strength is retained." The members of
American legislatures, being disjoined from the administrative
offices, "are not chosen for their ability or experience; they are not
much respected or trusted, and finding nothing exceptional expected
from them, they behave as ordinary men."

"If corruption," wrote Judge Story, that astute political student,
"ever silently eats its way into the vitals of this Republic, it will
be because the people are unable to bring responsibility home to the
executive through his chosen ministers."[38]

As I have already stated in the first pages of this chapter, long
before the inherent weaknesses of the American system were pointed out
by the eminent authorities just quoted, Lord Elgin was able, with that
intuitive sagacity which he applied to the study of political
institutions, to see the unsatisfactory working of the clumsy,
irresponsible mechanism of our republican neighbours.

"Mr. Fillmore," he is writing in November, 1850, "stands to his
congress very much in the same relation in which I stood to my
assembly in Jamaica. There is the same absence of effective
responsibility in the conduct of legislation, the same want of
concurrent action between the parts of the political machine. The
whole business of legislation in the American congress, as well as in
the state legislatures, is conducted in the manner in which railway
business was conducted in the House of Commons at a time when it is to
be feared that, notwithstanding the high standard of honour in the
British parliament, there was a good deal of jobbing. For instance,
our reciprocity measure was pressed by us at Washington last session
just as a railway bill in 1845 or 1846 would have been pressed in
parliament There was no government to deal with. The interests of the
union as a whole, distinct from local and sectional interests, had no
organ in the representative bodies; it was all a question of
canvassing this member of congress or the other. It is easy to
perceive that, under such a system, jobbing must become not the
exception but the rule,"--remarks as true in 1901 as in 1850.

It is important also to dwell on the fact that in Canada the
permanency of the tenure of public officials and the introduction of
the secret ballot have been among the results of responsible
government. Through the influence and agency of the same system,
valuable reforms have been made in Canada in the election laws, and
the trial of controverted elections has been taken away from partisan
election committees and given to a judiciary independent of political
influences. In these matters the irresponsible system of the United
States has not been able to effect any needful reforms. Such measures
can be best carried by ministers having the initiation and direction
of legislation and must necessarily be retarded when power is divided
among several authorities having no unity of policy on any question.

Party government undoubtedly has its dangers arising from personal
ambition and unscrupulous partisanship, but as long as men must range
themselves in opposing camps on every subject, there is no other
system practicable by which great questions can be carried and the
working of representative government efficiently conducted. The
framers of the constitution of the United States no doubt thought they
had succeeded in placing the president and his officers above party
when they instituted the method of electing the former by a body of
select electors chosen for that purpose in each state, who were
expected to act irrespective of all political considerations. A
president so selected would probably choose his officers also on the
same basis. The practical results, however, have been to prove that in
every country of popular and representative institutions party
government must prevail. Party elects men to the presidency and to the
floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, and the election to
those important positions is directed and controlled by a political
machinery far exceeding in its completeness any party organization in
England or in Canada. The party convention is now the all important
portion of the machinery for the election of the president, and the
safeguard provided by the constitution for the choice of the best man
is a mere nullity. One thing is quite certain, that party government
under the direction of a responsible ministry, responsible to
parliament and the people for every act of administration and
legislation, can have far less dangerous tendencies than a party
system which elects an executive not amenable to public opinion for
four years, divides the responsibilities of government among several
authorities, prevents harmony among party leaders, does not give the
executive that control over legislation necessary to efficient
administration of public affairs, and in short offers a direct premium
to conflict among all the authorities of the state--a conflict, not so
much avoided by the checks and balances of the constitution as by the
patience, common sense, prudence, and respect for law which presidents
and their cabinets have as a rule shown at national crises. But we can
clearly see that, while the executive has lost in influence, congress
has gained steadily to an extent never contemplated by the founders of
the constitution, and there are thoughtful men who say that the true
interests of the country have not always been promoted by the change.
Party government in Canada ensures unity of policy, since the premier
of the cabinet becomes the controlling part of the political machinery
of the state; no such thing as unity of policy is possible under a
system which gives the president neither the dignity of a
governor-general, nor the strength of a premier, and splits up
political power among any number of would-be party leaders, who adopt
or defeat measures by private intrigues, make irresponsible
recommendations, and form political combinations for purely selfish

It seems quite clear then that the system of responsible ministers
makes the people more immediately responsible for the efficient
administration of public affairs than is possible in the United
States. The fact of having the president and the members of congress
elected for different terms, and of dividing the responsibilities of
government among these authorities does not allow the people to
exercise that direct influence which is ensured, as the experience of
Canada and of England proves, by making one body of men immediately
responsible to the electors for the conduct of public affairs at
frequently recurring periods, arranged by well understood rules, so as
to ensure a correct expression of public opinion on all important
issues. The committees which assist in governing this country are the
choice of the people's representatives assembled in parliament, and
every four or five years and sometimes even sooner in case of a
crisis, the people have to decide on the wisdom of the choice.

The system has assuredly its drawbacks like all systems of government
that have been devised and worked out by the brain of man. In all
frankness I confess that this review would be incomplete were I not to
refer to certain features of the Canadian system of government which
seem to me on the surface fraught with inherent danger at some time or
other to independent legislative judgment. Any one who has closely
watched the evolution of this system for years past must admit that
there is a dangerous tendency in the Dominion to give the executive--I
mean the ministry as a body--too superior a control over the
legislative authority. When a ministry has in its gift the appointment
not only of the heads of the executive government in the provinces,
that is to say, of the lieutenant-governors, who can be dismissed by
the same power at any moment, but also of the members of the Upper
House of Parliament itself, besides the judiciary and numerous
collectorships and other valuable offices, it is quite obvious that

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