Page images
PDF
EPUB

When Mr. Cameron left Toronto to attend Mr. Brown's meetings, much was expected from his efforts, and the North American modestly announced that Mr. Brown had gone to Kent, but that “one was after him mightier than he, whose shoe latchets he was unworthy to unloose."

Though a few good reformers did not support Mr. Brown, it was soon evident that nearly the whole party would cast their votes for him. The Hinck's administration considered, and properly considered, that Mr. Brown's election would necessarily be considered as a condemnation of the government by their own party. Mr. Rankin was therefore kept in the field solely and purely to divide the reform vote, and thereby to secure Mr. Brown's defeat by electing the Tory candidate. Some, however, of the warmest followers of Mr. Cameron declined to be placed in that position, and voted for Mr. Brown when all hope of electing Mr. Rankin was abandoned.

Another effort indeed was made of a very clumsy character to divide the party. A Mr. Wilkes appeared suddenly as a third reform candidate. His supporters and Mr. Rankin's supporters made this proposal to Mr. Brown's committee : That each of the candidates or their friends should nominate a committee of six, and that the eighteen so selected should designate the candidate as a kind of arbitration board. Of course all was supposed to be done in the party interests. Mr. A. McKellar, the chairman of Mr. Brown's committee, agreed to the arbitration, but said that as many of the electors were as much interested as the proposed committee could be, he proposed that the decision should be referred to the whole body of the electorate, and that the vote should be taken on the 13th and 14th of December (the regular polling days). This concluded the negotiations, and all parties prepared for the struggle. The result was Mr. Brown's election by a fair majority. Although he was forced into a position of hostility to the government by the logic of events, there was no reason to fear his opposition if reform measures were honestly brought forward. The new administration doubtless desired to do all they comfortably could to meet the just expectations of the country, without imperilling their own position. But it contained a reactionary element; one gentleman was there who, instead of meeting western reformers by argument, designated them as “Pharisaical brawlers.” The truth is, that Mr. Taché (afterwards Sir E. P. Taché) was not a reformer ; his appropriate place was in the conservative ranks, to which he drifted by easy gradations, and where he filled a respectable position for many years.

Mr. Brown expressed himself as follows immediately after the contest, respecting the principles involved in it:

State-churchism has been the great pivot on which the election has turned, and there is no misunderstanding the public feeling upon it here.

Mr. Rankin and myself were the avowed advocates of total separation of church and state-of sweeping away reserves, rectories, money-grants, and every shadow of connection, and together we obtained an immense majority of the suffrages. Even Mr. Larwill, the high church candidate, did not dare to avow the usual pretensions of his party; he talked of a more

equitable arrangement" than the present of the difficulty, not the “injustice” of upsetting the whole system--and hundreds of his voters, to my personal knowledge, strange as it may appear, would sweep away at once every vestige of state-churchism were the power in their hands. They had been so often appealed to on the same question that they despaired of any good being effected, and voted from old party associations ; but their hearts were with the voluntaries. And who that cares for the prosperity of his country would not be with them? Look back as far as you can recollect, and tell me if all the other causes of discord and strife and bad feeling in the province put together have entailed such aggravated evils upon us as this one question of church endowments ? Church has been set against church, family against family, sectarian hatred has been fostered, religion has been brought into contempt by the scramble for public plunder, and infidelity has been in no small degree promoted by the sight of men preaching one day the worthlessness of lucre, and battling on the next to clutch a little of that same commodity, though gained by the grossest partiality and injustice.

And all this to serve the cause of religion ! Men do not quarrel about religion.

A VOICE : It's all about the bawbees!

MR. BROWN : Yes ; it is all about the bawbees-take away the cash, and our sectarian animosities will be at an end. Settle, and settle finally, this question of endowments to churches, and I know not where we shall find a country with lighter grievances than Canada ; religion will prosper better by the voluntary gifts of the Christian people, and our political differences will be stript of an element so hurtful.

There is another point on which the result of this election is to me most satisfactory. The disagreements between the late and present ministry and myself have been made prominent issues in the contest.

The merits of this antagonism have been fully brought out at this election, and you by your votes have decided that the late ministry betrayed the reform cause in the last session of parliament; that the present ministry was not formed in a satisfactory manner; that it had no right to claim public confidence on the mere character of its members, but should have explained fairly and fully to the electors the principles and measures by which it was prepared to stand or fall; and that any confidence it may win must be by its measuress and its measures alone.

As far as I am concerned, I have no personal hostility to the present ministry. Our differences are on public principles : they have the power in their hands yet to redeem their character with the Upper Canada Reformers; and if they act firmly and honestly on the great questions of the day, they shall have no opposition from me. But if they do not act satisfactorily on these questions, they may depend upon it that no bug. bear fear to “new combinations ” will deter me from giving them earnest opposition.

Mr. Brown, on taking his seat in the new parliament, took the ground ever afterwards held, that there could be no compromise with principles, however much he might be disposed to make allowances, as he had already done to too great an extent, for delays occasioned by unforeseen circumstances.

Mr. Cameron at some of the Lambton meetings said that Mr. Brown was angry because he was not asked to join the government, and be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

cause the Globe was not now continued as the organ of the ministry. As to the latter charge, it is well known that the Globe declined to follow the government, not that the ministry abandoned the Globe. Mr. Brown's own reply to such insinuations was as follows, addressed to Mr. Hincks : “I am accused by your new allies of being actuated in my “present course by selfish pecuniary motives. They allege that I was “the pliant instrument of your government while I enjoyed its patron‘age, and only spoke independently when that patronage was with“drawn. You well know, sir, how utterly unfounded is such a charge, "and that from the beginning to the end of my connection with the government, you have had 'and have made a very different com“plaint; you know that I have been at open issue with you throughout “in regard to your systematic disregard of the feelings and wishes of “your supporters, and the disastrous effects on the party thereby pro" duced.

I am also charged with acting as I now do from “ambition, mortified ambition. As for the mortification, I am not "aware of any ground for it in the progress of seven years ; and if I

were unduly ambitious, I might have conciliated the French Cana“dian phalanx, soothed the Tories, and finessed with the Rolphites, as you have done. I have sense enough to see that plain words help “not the ambitious, but I have denounced without scruple all these “in turn when duty to the public required it.”

On the 10th day of June, 1851, Mr. Hincks spoke as follows on the occasion of the Globe denouncing a Religious Corporation Bill, which gave extraordinary powers to hold property : “I am ready to “ give my cordial support to any combination of parties by which the “union shall be maintained. I would refer more particularly to the

course lately pursued by what is considered the organ of the party "with which I act. Attempts are being made to damage my in“fluence.” So it seems the Globe was “damaging Mr. Hincks' influ'ence,” while it was yet considered the organ of the party with which he acted !

It is of course a question for argument whether Mr. Brown's course was right or wrong ; whether he was chiefly responsible for breaking up the reform party by the non-recognition of leaders who had been unfaithful, or whether Mr. Hincks, who avoided the introduction of promised and needful reforms rather than offend his opponents, and who coquetted with enemies, was the really responsible party. In the light of events no one can be at a loss to discover upon whom the blame must be cast. Every person who is conversant with the current political movements from 1844 to 1848, will readily recall the questions which were submitted to the electors in the autumn of 1847, and will also keep in view the policy of the reform party always. Was the policy of the liberal party on which the elections were carried acted upon by

[ocr errors]

was

the reform administration? This question must be answered in the negative so far as most of the great questions are concerned. It is true that Mr. Hincks pled that Mr. Brown defended all the acts of the administration until a few weeks before the general election of 1851. Were this literally true, it would neither palliate nor excuse the inaction, to use a mild term, of the government. The government had undoubtedly passed some good measures, for which Mr. Brown gave them ample credit, as shown by the extracts from his Haldimand address already given. Mr. Hincks, the new leader of the government, had resented certain articles in the Globe, which

paper,

he

says, “considered the organ of the party with which he acted," and in his wrath openly declared his readiness to support “any combination of “parties” to oppose the Globe's views. He also stated that “no wise

statesman would attempt to carry on this union upon any other prin“ciple than that of equal representation to both sections.”

He was also to oppose all organic changes in the constitution." He little thought that thirteen years after making this unwise speech, every statesman in both sections admitted that equal representation was not just, and therefore gave unequal representation, which now stands as 92 to 65. He evidently did not then dream that within two years he would himself propose another “organic change in the con“stitution.” It would be easy to multiply to any extent extracts from speeches, and to give votes, and cite cases of manifest omissions of duty in the liberal leader, which would show that he was then conscious of having lost the confidence of a large portion—the largest portion-of the reform party, and was plainly offering himself as a component part of a new combination, made up of all classes of politicians who would join the ministerial omnibus. The miserable pretence of maintaining the union was too shallow ; no one knew better than Mr. Hincks that the only danger to the union arose from wrong legislation, which created new abuses, and the want of legislation to remove old grievances. That Mr. Hincks' personal views were wholly in favour of perfect religious equality, and the justice of the other measures sought by reformers, probably few will be disposed to doubt. That he lamentably failed at a critical time to show that he had the courage of his convictions, no one will deny. If he had changed his opinions he should have frankly avowed it, and resigned the position he had attained by liberal votes. It was no answer to the reproaches heaped upon him by those whose aid he obtained at the elections to fly into a passion, and threaten to join his political adversaries.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER VII.

ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE MINISTRY.-MAIDEN SPEECH IN

PARLIAMENT.

Mr. Brown's appearance in parliament justified the expectations of his friends who had hoped so much from his great knowledge of public affairs, political and commercial, and his ability as a speaker. It is very seldom that a new member is able, at the very start of his political career, to take rank as a leading man. He was tacitly acknowledged at once as the leader of reformers, who did not give Mr. Hincks and the government a regular support, though he was not regularly selected to occupy that post. Parliament was not called together until late in the summer, but Mr. Brown did not wait for the meeting of parliament to promulgate his views on matters of great concern to the state and to the liberal party. He had been elected for Kent and Lambton on a thoroughly independent platform as regards • Mr. Hincks' government, and pledged only to promote the well understood policy of the reform party, either with or without the action of the government. Some reformers undoubtedly did desire to pursue a mild policy, and hoped for decided action from Mr. Hincks. That gentleman, however, repelled those who were disposed to still trust in him, and who urged him to adopt a policy which would unite the party and at the same time benefit the country, by passing measures of reform urgently demanded. To remonstrance orthreats his reply was, that if pressed, he would form other combinations which would maintain the status quo.

In the meantime Mr. Brown continued his pungent writing in the Globe in the most direct hostility to the government. But

every member of the government knew that he would support them, if haply they would introduce the measures demanded by the country.

In January the following piquant description of the ministry was given in the Globe :

“In this remarkable collection of heterogeneous elements was to “ be found the cautious conservative and the fierce republican; the "ardent admirer of Andrew Marvel and the meek subject of Pio “Nono ; the model constitution monger and the haughty scorner of " all organic changes ;' the unswerving voluntary and the high estab“ lishment man ; the panegyrist of Baldwin and the devotee of Rolph;

the Roman priesthood of Lower Canada, and the evangelical minis

« PreviousContinue »