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RECOLLECTIONS OF SIXTY YEARS
Born in 1821, Sir Charles Tupper at ninety-two is an interesting psychological study, as much for his present outlook on life at that advanced age as on account of his remarkable achievements. The oldest living statesman in the world, he reminds one of a stately and venerable oak which, unaffected by the storms of earlier years, still exhibits wonderful vitality. Unlike men twenty years his junior, who are living in the past and who have lost all concern in everything except their immediate surroundings, Sir Charles still feels the pulse-beat of the world day by day.
His mind is as keen and plastic, his memory, even of recent happenings, as clear as they were during his early manhood. He is at once a surprise and a revelation to friends and relatives. He is à constant reader of the magazines and newspapers, watching with deep interest the progress of events at home and abroad.
Sir Charles is descended from sturdy stock. The sprig of may-flower in his arms is commemorative of Thomas Tupper, the Puritan ancestor, who emigrated from England to America in 1635, and at once engaged energetically in an effort to
convert the Indians. His son, Eliakim, was the great-grandfather of Sir Charles Tupper. It was Eliakim who migrated from Connecticut and established the Tuppers in King's County, Nova Scotia, taking possession in 1763 of Crown lands vacated by the deported Acadian French. The statesman's father, the Rev. Charles Tupper, D.D., was a man of great force of character, a gifted linguist and an eloquent preacher. Sir Charles received his education at Horton Academy, Wolfeville, and later took the medical course at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1843, and being admitted to membership of the Royal College of Surgeons. Returning to Nova Scotia, he began practice in his native county, Cumberland, making Amherst his headquarters. His great ability, dominating personality, and proficiency in his profession soon attracted public attention.
In person he has been described as of medium height, straight, muscular and wiry, and with intense nervous energy, which gave him quickness of movement and ceaseless mental activity. For twelve years he lived and worked as a general medical practitioner, in a district which entailed long journeys in all weathers—but from which he extracted the utmost pleasure. The harder the work the more he enjoyed it; the more difficult the problems he had to face the greater his delight in tackling and conquering them.
On the hustings, with a courage which never failed him, he crossed swords with the Hon. Joseph Howe, whom he drove from power not many years later. In 1855 Dr. Tupper, yielding to the solicitations of his friends, accepted the party nomination.
The campaign proved an unusually exciting one, as Howe, his opponent, enjoyed the prestige of being a great orator. It was a battle royal, and the province awakened to the fact that the Liberal leader had met a worthy foeman, who asked and gave no quarter.
The result, however, was a sweeping victory for the Liberals, redeemed only by Dr. Tupper's defeat of Howe. On returning to Halifax, Howe told his friends that he had been beaten by the future leader of the Conservative party. At a later date Howe unsuccessfully sought an alliance with Dr. Tupper.
At the first caucus after the election the Hon. W. J. Johnstone, the Opposition leader, whose long career had been no less brilliant than that of Howe, expressed a desire for only nominal leadership, leaving the actual work to his young colleague. Before this arrangement became effective Dr. Tupper, with the assurance of a veteran statesman, declared that his party must reverse its hostile attitude towards the Roman Catholics; that the true policy was equal rights to all, without regard to race or creed ; and that all hostility to the railway policy of the Government must be abandoned. His counsel proved sound. for a month after the opening of the House the Opposition had increased its voting strength from fifteen to twenty-two, as compared with twenty-eight for the Government. The Conservatives attained power in the following year, but were, however, defeated by a small margin in 1859.
Four years later the Conservatives swept the province, and again Dr. Tupper refused the lead,
deferring to his old chieftain, Johnstone, whose connection with politics dated back to 1838. Mr. Johnstone resigned from the Government the following year to accept the position of judge in equity and Dr. Tupper succeeded him as Premier. Many changes in the policy of his party had been made during the preceding nine years. Howe, by advocating the proscription of Roman Catholics, aroused bitter sectarian strife throughout the province. Dr. Tupper, on the other hand, by his tolerant views, won hosts of new supporters. Mr. Howe justified himself on the ground that his mission to New York, to raise recruits for the British Army in the Crimea from among expatriated Britishers, had been rendered unsuccessful by the hostile opposition of Irish Americans. On one occasion troops were called out at Halifax to suppress religious riots. The end of the affair was that Mr. Cranston, the British Minister at Washington, was dismissed because of his zeal, or supposed connection with Mr. Howe's alleged breach of international law.
In connection with his championship of the cause of equal rights for all creeds, the following letter, written to Sir Charles Tupper on the announcement of his retirement in 1900 by the Catholic Archbishop of Halifax, bears testimony to the esteem which this policy of toleration secured for him : Archbishop's House, Halifax, N.S.,
Nov. 16th, 1900. DEAR SIR CHARLES,—I have read with regret that you have determined to quit public life. No doubt you have well earned an honourable repose ;
whilst this quite justifies your resolution, it cannot diminish our regret.
The many and great services you have rendered your country during your political life will keep your memory green in the hearts of generations as yet unborn, and will be a more fitting and endurable monument than one of bronze or stone.
It is pleasant to be able to bear testimony not only on my own part, but also on that of my predecessors, to the confidence reposed in your fairmindedness and your desire of dealing justly by all classes and creeds. You began your political career, I rejoice to know, as the champion of equal rights for Catholics; you persevered consistently in that cause; you lost power because of that consistency; but defeat with honour unstained is more glorious than victory purchased by the sacrifice of principle. What many will say after your death, I wish to say while you are alive.
With sincerest best wishes for the health and happiness of Lady Tupper and yourself, I remain, dear Şir Charles,
Yours very truly,
F. C. O'BRIEN, Archbishop of Halifax.
Previous to 1864 the confederation of the British North Americas had been discussed in legislative assemblies, in lectures and newspapers, only, however, in a theoretic and academic manner. As far back as 1838 it was the subject of a conference between representatives of the various provinces and Lord Durham, the Governor-General, at Quebec.