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Whichever of these factors is held the more weighty, there was a third of undoubted force, the constant and disturbing shift in leadership. The Liberal party entered the dominion field under a heavy disability.
Their opponent was
in power, possessed of the honey-pots of patronage; they had nothing to offer but the stern task of opposition that for years to come must be its own reward. True, when the project of Confederation was adopted, Macdonald had been steadily losing his grip on his party as well as on himself, and the Government formed to carry the project through was a coalition in which the Liberals had a fair-sized share. But the coalition, and later the opportunity of patching up alliances with men from the new provinces that were entering the Union, gave Macdonald a new lease of life. Brown, with all his downright and domineering force, could not hold his own in the administration against his shrewd and supple rival; bitterly disappointed, he shook the dust of the cabinet from his feet, and the Liberal tinge soon faded out of the coalition.
Throughout the Union period George Brown had dominated the Liberal party of Canada West. A fiery and uncompromising Covenanter, fierce in assault upon sectional or religious or racial or class privilege, constructive on occasion, as in his insistence upon the acquisition of the Northwest and his championing of Confederation, hard-hitting in parliamentary debate, a whirlwind force in country campaigning, a shrewd and tireless organizer, Brown had many qualities of a great party leader. But he was too impatient and too sure not only of the superiority of his own powers, but of the absolute rightness of his own opinions to be able to keep a parliamentary following contented and in line.
Alexander Mackenzie had brought his Scotch radicalism and his dour downrightness to Canada in 1842, a year before George Brown arrived similarly freighted. But where Brown, trained to journalism, plunged at once into politics, Mackenzie, every whit as keen, had first to earn a living in occupations which offered less scope. He had left school at thirteen, herded and plowed on Scottish farms, and turned stone-cutter before
emigrating to Canada as a lad of twenty. When John A. Macdonald was building up his law practice in Kingston and representing that city in the provincial parliament, and Oliver Mowat and Alexander Campbell, one-time students in Macdonald's office, were beginning to practise, in the same town Alexander Mackenzie was dressing or laying stone for the doorway of St. Mary's Cathedral, the Martello tower at Fort Henry, or the walls of the city hall, attending the local temperance society, joining in the worship of the Baptist Church, or debating hotly with his fellow-workmen the iniquity of the clergy reserves or Governor Metcalfe's last stand for high Toryism. Pushing farther west, in Sarnia, he became in turn a prosperous contractor, an editor strong alike on principles and on personalities, and in 1861 member for Lambton in the provincial parliament. He declined to walk into Macdonald's coalition parlor, was elected a member of the first dominion and of the second provincial parliament, joined Blake in 1871 in overturning the government which Sir John had set up in Ontario under his clansman and former foe, John Sandfield Macdonald, became provincial treasurer under Blake as premier, and in 1872, when the abolition of dual representation forced both Blake and himself to choose between Toronto and Ottawa, decided for the federal field, but not until he had joined Blake in setting Oliver Mowat firmly on the provincial throne that pawky chieftain was to occupy for a quarter of a century.
Edward Blake came by other ways to power. His father, William Hume Blake, a member of a distinguished Irish family, had come to Canada in 1832 with a colony of kinsmen and neighbors who had combined to charter a vessel. Finding a backwoods clearing far from corresponding to his dreams of a forest estate, the elder Blake turned city man and barrister, fought on the Liberal side in the struggle for responsible government, entered the Baldwin-Lafontaine cabinet in 1848, swept the House on a memorable occasion by his fierce exposure of Tory claims to a superior loyalty, was prevented by the speaker's intervention from fighting a duel with John A. Macdonald, became the first
Chancellor of Upper Canada, and made the name of Blake a mark of honor by his high interpretation of the judge's calling. Edward Blake, born in 1833 on his father's clearing, went through the University of Toronto with high honors, was called to the bar in 1859, rose to unquestioned leadership of the equity bar almost at a stroke, became a member of both the federal and the provincial parliaments in 1867, and premier of Ontario four years later. After a year of office, he resigned the premiership to Mowat, and chose a federal career.
Mackenzie and Blake both entered public life possessed of a deeply rooted and almost hereditary Liberalism. In nearly every other respect of training, as of temperament, they were poles apart. Mackenzie had the self-taught man's unevenness as well as his intensity; Blake's leisurely training had given him a wider culture, but less driving force. Both had extraordinary memories, but Mackenzie's was vertical, furnishing him with a store of fact and precedent as to the achievements of the good men and the lapses of the sinners through many a year of party warfare, while Blake's was horizontal, enabling him to survey with his mind's eye every present angle and every minutest detail of the most complicated issue. kenzie was the best debater in parliament, "a grand man on his legs," as Laurier used to say, going straight for his antagonist's weakest point with unerring keenness and unsparing stroke. Blake was its most masterful and overwhelming logician, surveying every phase of the case, fitting argument into argument and heaping up demonstration upon demonstration until his opponent sank crushed under the weight. Rarely, when deeply moved, passion added a force and fire to his words that burned up resistance.
Mr. Goldwin Smith, with that thoroughgoing snobbery of which none but the radical aware of the condescension involved in consorting with other radicals is capable, once remarked, in a phrase curiously reminiscent of that other Oxford don who snubbed the hopes of "Mr. Jude Fawley, stonemason," that Mackenzie had been bred
a stone-mason, and that as premier a stone-mason he remained. It was a bigger man than Smith who saw in all Mackenzie's political achievements the same honest efficiency, the same plummet-straight workmanship, that marked his masonry. There is on record a letter of Mackenzie to George Brown, written in 1872, which sets forth in sincere, honorable, and pathetic words his sense of his own deficiencies and of Blake's strong qualities:
I know too well my own deficiencies as a political leader to wonder at other people seeing them as well. The want of early advantages was but ill compensated for by an anxious-enough effort to acquire such in the midst of a laborious life, deeply furrowed by domestic trials, and it has left me but illfitted to grapple with questions and circumstances constantly coming up in Parliament. I am quite aware of the advantages possessed by a leader of men, of high mental culture and having ample means, especially when joined to intellectual power and personal excellence. Therefore I do not wonder at, or complain of, those who see in others possessing such, greater fitness for the work required of them than myself.
National spirit brought discontent with party spirit. In the years before Confederation, political life had been degenerating into personal vendettas; parties were becoming fighting clans, public life a succession of bitter feuds. Shrieking personalities were the staple of discussion in parliament and in press. A Liberal had come to mean a man who feared and hated John A. Macdonald; a Conservative, a man who scorned and hated George Brown. Now, so many an ardent young man dreamed, the time had come to sweep away all these unrealities, to build afresh parties based on ideas-parties which could appeal to every province alike and not seek to impose on the new provinces the discredited leaders and labels of the old, parties that would be constructive and would stand for "Canada First."
Distinct from these youthful crusaders, who stood ostentatiously aloof from both the old parties, there was a wing of the Liberal party with much the same ends in view, but believing that a reorganized Liberalism was the best means
he was considered an echo of George Brown.
To men of these varied shades of thinking Edward Blake appeared to be the leader predestined to guide Canada out of the bogs of partizanship and colonialism. He was a man of outstanding capacity and scrupulous integrity. was a Liberal who could be liberal to new ideas and old opponents. Not least, he was a Canadian born and bred, determined to assert for his country a more distinctive place in the world's affairs. In the first Confederation parliament the opposition did not choose a leader. The different provincial groups had not yet fused into one. Dorion continued to lead the Quebec wing, while Smith and Holmes marshaled the Maritime contingents.
Blake was a member of the Ontario group, but as he was serving his first years of parliamentary apprenticeship, he was not yet in the running. Mackenzie, with six years of parliamentary experience and many more of party service, came to the front among
dented in Canadian practice, but, supported by two British instances; even so, he informed his constituents that it might not be possible for him to continue permanently in the Government. His presence in the administration, however tentative, undoubtedly strengthened it in the general elections which followed in January and February, 1874. No sooner were the elections completed and a strong majority for the Government assured than Blake resigned. He declared that his legal responsibilities
The Honorable George Brown
the Ontario Reformers when Brown retired and Macdougall joined Macdonald. He soon made his place as virtual leader of the whole party, simply because unflagging industry and interest and unsparing criticism of every government weakness put him at the front of the fray.
would not permit him to continue in office even without departmental duties, and recalled the intimations he had given during the election. His critics declined to accept this explanation at face value. Conservative editors insisted that his resignation made evident a want of confidence in Mackenzie's policy. Macdonald, in his place in the House, criticized the transaction as an instance of selling under false pretenses: the administration had gone to the country as a Mackenzie-Blake govern
ment; it owed much of the support it received to the character and repute of the member for South Bruce; it had sold by sample, and one of the strongest claims for the cabinet cloth was that it contained a strong fiber all the way from Bruce that would stand sun, wind, or rain; now, that fiber was withdrawn before delivery, and the people were saying, "We have had palmed off upon us the same old brown stuff."
After eight months' service as leader of the opposition, Mackenzie was summoned to form a ministry in November, 1873, after the Pacific scandal had forced In October, 1874, Blake delivered a the retirement of Macdonald. speech to a Liberal county convention much difficulty Blake was induced to at Aurora that raised the hopes of the enter the cabinet. He would not, how- progressive wing and the ire of the standever, undertake any administrative patters. He first developed the issues tasks, and became a minister without on which he was in agreement with portfolio, an expedient then unprece- the whole party, indorsing the effi
cient and economical administration of Mowat in Ontario, and urging the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway with a view to the expansion of settlement on the prairies rather than to the immediate fulfilment of the rash undertaking to pierce British Columbia's "sea of mountains." Blake then proceeded to suggest new fields to explore. Compulsory voting, based on the recognition of the franchise as a sacred trust; extension of the suffrage, then limited to property-owners, by adding farmers' sons and income schedules; representation of minorities by some modification of the Hare system, and reform of the Senate were all urged with reasoned force. Some change in imperial relations was imperative:
I know that I have made a rather disturbing speech, but I am not afraid of that. Not much good can be done without disturbing something or somebody. I may be said also to have made an imprudent speech; at least that might be said if I were one of those who aspire to lead their fellow-countrymen as ministers. It is the function of a minister to say nothing that can be caught hold of, nothing in advance of the public opinion of the day, and to catch the current of that opinion when it has gathered strength, and crystallize it in Acts of Parliament.
Sir Charles Tupper
of control than they now have in the management of foreign affairs. . . . This is a state of things of which you have no right to complain, because so long as you do not choose to undertake the responsibilities and burdens which attach to some share of control in these affairs, you cannot fully claim the rights and privileges of free-born Britons in such matters. . . . The time will come when that national spirit which has been spoken of will be truly felt among us, when we shall realize that we are four millions of Britons who are not free.
Blake recognized that he was departing from the usual path set for the leaders of a party when in power. He concluded:
That is the function of a Liberal minister. The function of a Tory minister is to wait until he is absolutely forced to swallow his own opinions. It may be permitted to one who prefers to be a private in the advanced guard of the army of freedom to a commanding place in the main body, to run the risk of promulgating what may be a political heresy to-day and may perhaps become a political creed to-morrow.
That the suggestions thus freely thrown out were disturbing to the old guard was sufficiently indicated by the fact that the "Globe," though publishing the speeches of lesser lights delivered later in the proceedings, held over Blake's speech until an editorial counterblast could be prepared. In a series of editorials Blake's Canadian Pacific policy was indorsed, and a tribute paid to his vigor and independence, but there agreement ended. Senate reform was premature, compulsory voting a fad, the revision of imperial relations an academic issue. Canada was suffering from no injustice, conscious of no hampering and degrading influence exerted by her colonial status. Throughout the winter the discussion continued. The "Globe's" criticism was nominally directed against the Canada First group, and particu