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Majesty would to-morrow undertake what you have done she might lose her throne.”
“Well, what do you advise me to do ?” asked Lord Dufferin.
“I desire to recommend that you cable the Colonial Office and ask what it thinks of your
The result of that interview was that Sir John was aroused from his bed at two o'clock in the morning and notified that Lord Dufferin had recalled his decision. The record is, I have no doubt, still on file in the Colonial Office. The result of my advice was that Lord Dufferin served out his term with distinction, went home with the acclaim of both parties, and subsequently had a brilliant ambassadorial career after serving as Viceroy of India. Mackenzie and I spoke at the farewell banquet tendered him in London before His Excellency sailed for Bombay.
But to revert to the prolonged debate on the want of confidence resolution submitted by Mr. Mackenzie, leader of the Opposition. The discussion proved very animated. I did my utmost to defend Sir John, but the tide had now commenced to set in against him. The resolution never came to a vote as we lost so many of our supporters by desertion that the Government resigned. The Liberals captured six or seven of our leading men by bribes of seats in the Cabinet and governorships or fat contracts. Of these deserters I shall have more to say later.
Mr. Mackenzie was called upon to form a Government. He dissolved Parliament soon afterwards, and appealed to the country in January, 1874.
We returned a corporal's guard. William Macdonald and I were the only Conservatives elected in Nova Scotia. The Liberal victory was a sweeping one; but even in the moment of defeat I never doubted but that the pendulum of public opinion would ere many years swing as strongly in the opposite direction. My judgment was not shared by many of our leading supporters. Sir John was considered politically dead. He thought so himself, but I never entertained that view.
“I am done for,” declared Sir John to me in expressing a desire to relinquish the leadership of the party in my favour shortly after our political debacle. The ex-Premier had struck the lowest ebb of his political fortunes. He felt his defeat keenly, and earnestly believed that the people of Canada would never restore him to their confidence. His experience has been paralleled by other statesmen in other countries. I knew Sir John's strength better than himself. It required every argument I could use to induce him to remain at the head of the party. I told him that he was not only mistaken in regard to himself, but that the strongest lever at the next general election would be the desire to repair the injustice done him.
Despite my efforts, Sir John for a considerable time after our defeat took little part in politics, seeming to prefer to remain in the background. Gradually he realised that a reaction in his favour had set in, and little by little his one-time jauntiness returned. The bungling incapacity of the Liberals also conspired in his favour. Under a low revenue tariff from 1874 to 1878 Canada had a business depression never equalled before or since
The farmers had no markets, factories were closed down, and hundreds of thousands of young Canadians were obliged to emigrate.
The various Canadian provinces enjoyed phenomenal prosperity under the Elgin Reciprocity Treaty negotiated in 1854. This treaty was abrogated by the United States in 1866. Times were especially good during the American Civil War period. The United States, owing to the vast population withdrawn from industrial pursuits, proved to be Canada's best customer, and there was no question of a tariff issue as the abnormal conditions existing south of the boundary gave us all the protection we needed.
But this situation was not to last for ever. With the close of the Civil War was inaugurated a nationwide movement for the encouragement and protection of American labour and American industries by the imposition of heavy duties against foreign competitors. That policy has only recently been modified. The Hon. W. H. Seward, probably one of the ablest Secretaries of State, felt confident that the abrogation of the Elgin Reciprocity Treaty would force Canada into the American Union. In a famous speech just after the close of the Civil War he declared that Canada, owing to its geographical position, with Halifax on the Atlantic and a stretch of country extending to the Pacific, must inevitably dominate the trade with the FarEast. He was a man of vision, and his prophecy in that respect has since been verified.
In those days, owing to the lack of railway facilities, there was little inter-provincial trade. The bulk of the trade of the Maritime Provinces was
then with the New England States. The termination of the Reciprocity Treaty hit us a hard blow, and but for that circumstance we should probably have been unable to convince the people of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that our future was in a union with the Upper Canadian provinces. Gradually the restrictive policy of the United States tariff—a policy wisely directed to the upbuilding of American industry-began to be more acutely felt in the Dominion, and its full effects were experienced by the time the Liberals got into power in 1873.
Mackenzie did nothing to relieve the situation. His low revenue tariff permitted the American people to gain access to our market, while Canadians were virtually excluded from that of their neighbours. The effect of the American high tariff was not only felt by the Canadian farmers and manufacturers, but it produced a largely increased demand in Canada for American manufactures, and a more than corresponding increase in the demand for the manufactures of Great Britain, of which the trade returns of Canada showed abundant proof.
After the Liberal victory in 1873 I engaged in medical practice in Ottawa, usually spending a portion of the summer at St. Andrews, N.B. When later my son in Toronto was bereaved by the death of his young wife, who left an infant daughter, I decided to remove to that city. It proved to be my headquarters for the next two years. I practised there and also took an active part in politics. I not only attended Liberal meetings and demanded and obtained a hearing, but accompanied Sir John on numerous tours. We probably attended scores