George Brown
by John Lewis
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The Makers of Canada

Edited by

Duncan Campbell Scott, F.R.S.C., Pelham Edgar, Ph.D. and William Dawson Le Sueur, B.A., Ll.D., F.R.S.C.


Edition De Luxe

This edition is limited to Four Hundred Signed and Numbered Sets, of which this is

Number 88

[Signature: George N. Morang]

The Makers of Canada




Edition De Luxe

Toronto Morang & Co., Limited 1906

Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada in the year 1906 by Morang & Co., Limited, in the Department of Agriculture


The title of this series, "Makers of Canada," seemed to impose on the writer the obligation to devote special attention to the part played by George Brown in fashioning the institutions of this country. From this point of view the most fruitful years of his life were spent between the time when the Globe was established to advocate responsible government, and the time when the provinces were confederated and the bounds of Canada extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The ordinary political contests in which Mr. Brown and his newspaper engaged have received only casual notice, and the effort of the writer has been to trace Mr. Brown's connection with the stream of events by which the old legislative union of Canada gave place to the confederated Dominion.

After the establishment of responsible government, the course of this stream is not obscure. Brown is found complaining that Upper Canada is inadequately represented and is dominated by its partner. Various remedies, such as dissolution of the union, representation by population and the "double majority," are proposed; but ultimately the solution is found in federation, and to this solution, and the events leading up to it, a large part of the book is devoted. Mr. Brown was also an ardent advocate of the union with Canada of the country lying west to the Rocky Mountains, and to this work reference is made.

Mr. Brown was one of those men who arouse strong friendships and strong animosities. These have been dealt with only where they seemed to have a bearing upon history, as in the case of Sir John A. Macdonald and of the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to be a profitless task for a biographer to take up and fight over again quarrels which had no public importance and did not affect the course of history.

The period covering Mr. Brown's career was one in which the political game was played roughly, and in which strong feelings were aroused. To this day it is difficult to discuss the career of the Hon. George Brown, or of Sir John A. Macdonald, without reviving these feelings in the breasts of political veterans and their sons; and even one who tries to study the time and the men and to write their story, finds himself taking sides with men who are in their graves, and fighting for causes long since lost and won. The writer has tried to resist the temptation of building up the fame of Brown by detracting from that of other men, but he has also thought it right in many cases to present Brown's point of view, not necessarily as the whole truth, but as one of the aspects of truth.

In dealing with the question of confederation, my endeavour has been simply to tell the story of Brown's work and let it speak for itself, not to measure the exact proportion of credit due to Brown and to others. It is hard to believe, however, that the verdict of history will assign to him a place other than first among the public men of Canada who contributed to the work of confederation. Events, as D'Arcy McGee said, were probably more powerful than any of them.

If any apology is needed for the space devoted to the subject of slavery in the United States, it may be found not only in Brown's life-long opposition to slavery, but in the fact that the Civil War influenced the relations between the United States and Canada, and indirectly promoted the confederation of the Canadian provinces, and also in the fact, so frequently emphasized by Mr. Brown, that the growth of the institution of slavery on this continent was a danger to which Canada could not be indifferent.

Among the works that have been found useful for reference are John Charles Dent's Last Forty Years (Canada since the union of 1841); Gray on Confederation; Cote's Political Appointments and Elections in the Province of Canada; Dr. Hodgins' Legislation and History of Separate Schools in Upper Canada; the lives of Lord Elgin, Dr. Ryerson and Joseph Howe in "The Makers of Canada" series; the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie's Life and Speeches of the Hon. George Brown; the Hon. James Young's Public Men and Public Life in Canada. Mr. Mackenzie's book contains a valuable collection of letters, to which frequent reference is made in the chapters of this book dealing with confederation. The account of the relations of the Peel government with Governor Sir Charles Bagot is taken from the Life of Sir Robert Peel, from his correspondence, edited by C. S. Parker. The files of the Banner and the Globe have been read with some care; they were found to contain an embarrassing wealth of most interesting historical material.

To Dr. James Bain, Librarian of the Toronto Free Library, and to Mr. Avern Pardoe, of the Library of the Legislative Assembly, I am deeply indebted for courtesy and assistance.
























































George Brown was born at Alloa, a seaport on the tidal Forth, thirty-five miles inward from Edinburgh, on November 29th, 1818. His mother was a daughter of George Mackenzie, of Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis. His father, Peter Brown, was a merchant and builder. George was educated at the High School and Southern Academy in Edinburgh. "This young man," said Dr. Gunn, of the Southern Academy, "is not only endowed with high enthusiasm, but possesses the faculty of creating enthusiasm in others." At the risk of attaching too much significance to praise bestowed on a school-boy, it may be said that these words struck the keynote of Brown's character and revealed the source of his power. The atmosphere of the household was Liberal; father and son alike hated the institution of slavery, with which they were destined to become more closely acquainted. "When I was a very young man," said George Brown, denouncing the Fugitive Slave Law before a Toronto audience, "I used to think that if I ever had to speak before such an audience as this, I would choose African Slavery as my theme in preference to any other topic. The subject seemed to afford the widest scope for rhetoric and for fervid appeals to the best of human sympathies. These thoughts arose far from here, while slavery was a thing at a distance, while the horrors of the system were unrealized, while the mind received it as a tale and discussed it as a principle. But, when you have mingled with the thing itself, when you have encountered the atrocities of the system, when you have seen three millions of human beings held as chattels by their Christian countrymen, when you have seen the free institutions, the free press and the free pulpit of America linked in the unrighteous task of upholding the traffic, when you have realized the manacle, and the lash, and the sleuth-hound, you think no more of rhetoric, the mind stands appalled at the monstrous iniquity, mere words lose their meaning, and facts, cold facts, are felt to be the only fit arguments."

Again, as George grew to manhood, the struggle which ended in the disruption of the Church of Scotland was approaching its climax, and the sympathies of the Brown household were with those who declared that it "is the fundamental law of this Church that no pastor shall be intruded on any congregation contrary to the will of the people."

In 1838 reverses in business led the father and son to seek their fortunes in America. Arriving in New York, Peter Brown turned to journalism, finding employment as a contributor to the Albion, a weekly newspaper published for British residents of the United States. The Browns formed an unfavourable opinion of American institutions as represented by New York in that day. To them the republic presented itself as a slave-holding power, seeking to extend its territory in order to enlarge the area of slavery, and hostile to Great Britain as a citadel of freedom. They always regarded the slave-holding element in the United States as that which kept up the tradition of enmity to England. An American book entitled, The Glory and Shame of England, aroused Peter Brown's indignation, and he published a reply in a little volume bearing the name of The Fame and Glory of England Vindicated. Here he paid tribute to British freedom, contrasted it with the domination of the slave holders, and instanced the fact that in Connecticut a woman had been mobbed and imprisoned for teaching coloured girls to read. Further light is thrown upon the American experience of the Browns by an article in the Banner, their first Canadian venture in journalism. The writer is answering an accusation of disloyalty and Yankee sympathies, a stock charge against Reformers in that day. He said: "We have stood in the very heart of a republic, and fearlessly issued our weekly sheet, expressing our fervent admiration of the limited monarchy of Great Britain, though surrounded by Democratic Whigs, Democratic Republicans, Irish Repealers, slave-holders, and every class which breathes the most inveterate hostility to British institutions. And we are not to be turned from maintaining the genuine principles of the constitution because some of our contemporaries are taken with a fit of sycophancy, and would sacrifice all at the shrine of power."

In December, 1842, the Browns established in New York the British Chronicle, a paper similar to the Albion, but apparently designed more especially for Scottish and Presbyterian readers in the United States and Canada. In an effort to promote Canadian circulation, George Brown came to Canada early in 1843. The Chronicle had taken strong ground on the popular side of the movement then agitating the Church of Scotland; and this struggle was watched with peculiar interest in Canada, where the relations between Church and State were burning questions. Young Brown also met the members of a Reform administration then holding power under Governor Metcalfe, and the ministers became impressed with the idea that he would be a powerful ally in the struggle then impending.

There is on record an interesting pen picture of George Brown as he appeared at this time. The writer is Samuel Thompson, editor of the Colonist. "It was, I think, somewhere about the month of May, 1843, that there walked into my office on Nelson Street a young man of twenty-five years, tall, broad-shouldered, somewhat lantern-jawed and emphatically Scottish, who introduced himself to me as the travelling agent of the New York British Chronicle, published by his father. This was George Brown, afterwards editor and publisher of the Globe newspaper. He was a very pleasant-mannered, courteous, gentlemanly young fellow, and impressed me favourably. His father, he said, found the political atmosphere of New York hostile to everything British, and that it was as much as a man's life was worth to give expression to any British predilections whatsoever (which I knew to be true). They had, therefore, thought of transferring their publication to Toronto, and intended to continue it as a thoroughly Conservative journal. I, of course, welcomed him as a co-worker in the same cause with ourselves, little expecting how his ideas of Conservatism were to develop themselves in subsequent years." His Conservatism—assuming that the young man was not misunderstood—was perhaps the result of a reaction from the experience of New York, in which democracy had presented itself in an unlovely aspect. Contact with Toronto Toryism of that day would naturally stiffen the Liberalism of a combative man.

As a result of George Brown's survey of the Canadian field, the publication of the British Chronicle in New York ceased, and the Browns removed to Toronto, where they established the Banner, a weekly paper partly Presbyterian and partly political, and in both fields championing the cause of government by the people. The first number was issued on August 18th, 1843. Referring to the disruption of the "Scottish Church" that had occurred three months before, the Banner said: "If we look to Scotland we shall find an event unparalleled in the history of the world. Nearly five hundred ministers, backed by several thousand elders and perhaps a million of people, have left the Church of their fathers because the civil courts have trampled on what they deem the rights of the Christian people in Scotland, exhibiting a lesson to the world which must produce results that cannot yet be measured. The sacrifice made by these devoted ministers of the Gospel is great; their reward is sure."

The columns of the Banner illustrate in a striking way the intermingling, common in that day, of religion and politics. The Banner's chief antagonist was the Church, a paper equally devoted to episcopacy and monarchy. Here is a specimen bit of controversy. The Church, arguing against responsible government, declares that as God is the only ruler of princes, princes cannot be accountable to the people; and perdition is the lot of all rebels, agitators of sedition, demagogues, who work under the pretence of reforming the State. All the troubles of the country are due to parliaments constantly demanding more power and thereby endangering the supremacy of the mother country. The Banner is astonished by the unblushing avowal of these doctrines, which had not been so openly proclaimed since the days of "High Church and Sacheverell," and which if acted upon would reduce the people to the level of abject slaves. Whence, it asks, comes this doctrine of the irresponsibility of kings? "It has been dug up from the tombs of Roman Catholic and High Church priests and of Jacobite bigots. Wherever it gets a footing it carries bloodshed and persecution in its train. It cramps the freedom of thought. It represses commercial enterprise and industry. It dries up the springs of the human understanding. To what does Britain owe all her greatness but to that free range of intellectual exertion which prompted Watt and Arkwright in their wonderful discoveries, which carried Anson and Cook round the globe, and which enabled Newton to scale the heavens? Is the dial to be put back? Must the world once more adopt the doctrine that the people are made for kings and not kings for the people? Where will this treason to the British Constitution find the slightest warrant in the Word of God? We know that power alone proceeds from God, the very air we breathe is the gift of His bounty, and whatever public right is exercised from the most obscure elective franchise to the king upon his throne is derived from Him to whom we must account for the exercise of it. But does that accountability take away or lessen the political obligations of the social compact?—assuredly not."

This style of controversy was typical of the time. Tories drew from the French Revolution warnings against the heedless march of democracy. Reformers based arguments on the "glorious revolution of 1688." A bill for the secularization of King's College was denounced by Bishop Strachan, the stalwart leader of the Anglicans, in language of extraordinary vehemence. The bill would hold up the Christian religion to the contempt of wicked men, and overturn the social order by unsettling property. Placing all forms of error on an equality with truth, the bill represented a principle "atheistical and monstrous, destructive of all that was pure and holy in morals and religion." To find parallels for this madness, the bishop referred to the French Revolution, when the Christian faith was abjured, and the Goddess of Reason set up for worship; to pagan Rome, which, to please the natives she had conquered, "condescended to associate their impure idolatries with her own."

These writings are quoted not merely as illustrations of extravagance of language. The language was the natural outcome of an extraordinary situation. The bishop was not a voice crying in the wilderness; he was a power in politics as well as in the Church, and had, as executive councillor, taken an important part in the government of the country. He was not making extravagant pretensions, but defending a position actually held by his Church, a position which fell little short of absolute domination. Religious equality was to be established, a great endowment of land converted from sectarian to public purposes, and a non-sectarian system of education created. In this work Brown played a leading part, but before it could be undertaken it was necessary to vindicate the right of the people to self-government.

In November, 1843, the resignation of Metcalfe's ministers created a crisis which soon absorbed the energy of the Browns and eventually led to the establishment of the Globe. In the issue of December 8th, 1843, the principles of responsible government are explained, and the Banner gives its support to the ministers. It cannot see why less confidence should be bestowed by a governor-general in Canada than by a sovereign in the British empire. It deplores the rupture and declares that it still belongs to no political party. It has no liking for "Democracy," a word which even Liberals at that time seemed to regard with horror. It asks Presbyterians to stand fast for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty. It exhorts the people of Canada to be firm and patient and to let no feeling of disappointment lead their minds to republicanism. Those who would restrict the liberties of Canada also dwell on the evils of republicanism, but they are the very people who would bring it to pass. The Banner's ideal is a system of just and equal government. If this is pursued, a vast nation will grow up speaking the same language, having the same laws and customs, and bound to the mother country by the strongest bonds of affection. The Banner, which had at first described itself as independent in party politics, soon found itself drawn into a struggle which was too fierce and too momentous to allow men of strong convictions to remain neutral. We find politics occupying more and more attention in its columns, and finally on March 5th, 1844, the Globe is established as the avowed ally of Baldwin and Lafontaine, and the advocate of responsible government. It will be necessary to explain now the nature of the difference between Metcalfe and his ministers.



The Browns arrived in Canada in the period of reconstruction following the rebellion of 1837-8. In Lord Durham's Report the rising in Lower Canada was attributed mainly to racial animosity—"two nations warring in the bosom of a single state"—"a struggle not of principles but of races." The rising in Upper Canada was attributed mainly to the ascendency of the "family compact"—a family only in the official sense. "The bench, the magistracy, the high offices of the episcopal church, and a great part of the legal profession, are filled by their adherents; by grant or purchase they have acquired nearly the whole of the waste lands of the province; they are all-powerful in the chartered banks, and till lately shared among themselves almost exclusively all offices of trust and profit. The bulk of this party consists, for the most part, of native born inhabitants of the colony, or of emigrants who settled in it before the last war with the United States; the principal members of it belong to the Church of England, and the maintenance of the claims of that Church has always been one of its distinguishing characteristics." Reformers discovered that even when they triumphed at the polls, they could not break up this combination, the executive government remaining constantly in the hands of their opponents. They therefore agitated for the responsibility of the executive council to the legislative assembly.

Lord Durham's remedy was to unite Upper and Lower Canada, and to grant the demand for responsible government. He hoped that the union would in time dispose of the racial difficulty. Estimating the population of Upper Canada at four hundred thousand, the English inhabitants of Lower Canada at one hundred and fifty thousand, and the French at four hundred and fifty thousand, "the union of the two provinces would not only give a clear English majority, but one which would be increased every year by the influence of English immigration; and I have little doubt that the French, when once placed by the legitimate course of events and the working of natural causes, in a minority, would abandon their vain hopes of nationality."

The future mapped out by Lord Durham for the French-Canadians was one of benevolent assimilation. He under-estimated their tenacity and their power of adapting themselves to new political conditions. They not only retained their distinctive language and customs, but gained so large a measure of political power that in time Upper Canada complained that it was dominated by its partner. The union was effected soon after the report, but the granting of responsible government was long delayed. From the submission of Lord Durham's Report to the time of Lord Elgin, the question of responsible government was the chief issue in Canadian politics. Lord Durham's recommendations were clear and specific. He maintained that harmony would be restored "not by weakening but strengthening the influence of the people on its government; by confining within much narrower bounds than those hitherto allotted to it, and not by extending, the interference of the imperial authorities on the details of colonial affairs." The government must be administered on the principles that had been found efficacious in Great Britain. He would not impair a single prerogative of the Crown, but the Crown must submit to the necessary consequences of representative institutions, and must govern through those in whom the representative body had confidence.

These principles are now so well established that it is hard to realize how bold and radical they appeared in 1839. Between that time and 1847, the British government sent out to Canada three governors, with various instructions. Whatever the wording of these instructions was, they always fell short of Durham's recommendations, and always expressed a certain reluctance to entrusting the government of Canada unreservedly to representatives of the people.

From 1842 to 1846 the government in Great Britain was that of Sir Robert Peel, and it was that government which set itself most strongly against the granting of autonomy to Canada. It was Conservative, and it probably received from correspondents in Canada a good deal of misinformation and prejudiced opinion in regard to the aims of the Reformers. But it was a group of men of the highest character and capacity, concerning whom Gladstone has left on record a remarkable testimony. "It is his conviction that in many of the most important rules of public policy, that government surpassed generally the governments which have succeeded it, whether Liberal or Conservative. Among them he would mention purity in patronage, financial strictness, loyal adherence to the principle of public economy, jealous regard to the rights of parliament, a single eye to the public interest, strong aversion to extension of territorial responsibilities, and a frank admission of the rights of foreign countries as equal to those of their own."

With this high estimate of the general character of the Peel government must be coupled the undoubted fact that it entirely misunderstood the situation in Canada, gave its support to the party of reaction, and needlessly delayed the establishment of self-government. We may attribute this in part to the distrust occasioned by the rebellion; in part to the use of partisan channels of information; but under all this was a deeper cause—inability to conceive of such a relation as exists between Great Britain and Canada to-day. In that respect Peel and his colleagues resembled most of the public men of their time. They could understand separation; they could understand a relation in which the British government and its agents ruled the colonies in a kindly and paternal fashion; but a union under which the colonies were nations in all but foreign relations passed their comprehension. When the colonies asked for complete self-government it was supposed that separation was really desired. Some were for letting them go in peace. Others were for holding them by political and commercial bonds. Of the latter class, Stanley, colonial secretary under Peel, was a good type. He believed in "strong" governors; he believed in a system of preferential trade between Great Britain and the colonies, and his language might have been used, with scarcely any modification, by the Chamberlain party in the recent elections in Great Britain. When, in 1843, he introduced the measure giving a preference to Canadian wheat, he expressed the hope that it would restore content and prosperity to Canada; and when that preference disappeared with the Corn Laws, he declared that the basis of colonial union was destroyed.

From the union to September, 1842, no French-Canadian name appears in a Canadian government. French-Canadians were deeply dissatisfied with the terms of the union; there was a strong reluctance to admitting them to any share of power, and they complained bitterly that they were politically ostracized by Sydenham, the first governor. His successor, Bagot, adopted the opposite policy, and earned the severe censure of the government at home.

On August 23rd, 1842, Sir Robert Peel wrote to Lord Stanley in terms which indicated a belief that Governor Bagot was experiencing great difficulty in carrying on the government. He spoke of a danger of French-Canadians and Radicals, or French-Canadians and Conservatives, combining to place the government in a minority. He suggested various means of meeting the danger, and said, "I would not voluntarily throw myself into the hands of the French party through fear of being in a minority."

Before instructions founded on this letter could reach the colony, the governor had acted, "throwing himself," in the words of Peel's biographer, "into the hands of the party tainted by disaffection." What had really happened was that on September 16th, 1842, the Canadian government had been reconstructed, the principal change being the introduction of Lafontaine and Baldwin as its leading members. This action aroused a storm in Canada, where Bagot was fiercely assailed by the Tories for his so-called surrender to rebels. And that view was taken also in England.

On October 18th, 1842, Mr. Arbuthnot wrote to Sir Robert Peel: "The Duke [Wellington] has been thunderstruck by the news from Canada. Between ourselves, he considers what has happened as likely to be fatal to the connection with England; and I must also, in the very strictest confidence, tell you that he dreads lest it should break up the cabinet here at home."

On October 21st, Sir Robert Peel wrote to Lord Stanley, pointing out the danger of the duke's strong and decisive condemnation: "In various quarters the Duke of Wellington denouncing the arrangement as a tame surrender to a party tainted with treason, would produce an impression most dangerous to the government, if it could get over the effects produced by the first announcement of his retirement, on the ground of avowed difference of opinion." After reading Sir Charles Bagot's explanations, he admitted that the governor's position was embarrassing. "Suppose," he said in a subsequent letter, "that Sir C. Bagot was reduced to such difficulties that he had no alternative but to take the best men of the French-Canadian party into his councils, and that it was better for him to do this before there was a hostile vote; still, the manner in which he conducted his negotiations was a most unwise one. He makes it appear to the world that he courted and rejoiced in the necessity for a change in his councils." On October 24th the Duke of Wellington wrote expressing his agreement with Peel, and adding: "However, it appears to me that we must consider the arrangement as settled and adopted by the legislature of Canada. It will remain to be considered afterwards what is to be done with Sir Charles Bagot and with his measures."

The question was solved by the death of the governor who had been unfortunate enough to arouse the storm, and to create a ministerial crisis in Great Britain. It is believed that his end was hastened by the news from England. He fell ill in November, grew steadily worse, and at last asked to be recalled, a request which was granted. At his last cabinet council he bade an affectionate farewell to his ministers, and begged them to defend his memory. His best vindication is found in the failure of Metcalfe's policy, and in the happy results of the policy of Elgin.

The events connected with the retirement of Bagot, which were not fully understood until the publication of Sir Robert Peel's papers a few years ago, throw light upon the reasons which determined the selection of Sir Charles Metcalfe. Metcalfe was asked by Lord Stanley whether he would be able and disposed to assume "most honourable and at the same time very arduous duties in the public service." Metcalfe wrote to Captain Higginson, afterwards his private secretary: "I am not sure that the government of Canada is a manageable affair, and unless I think I can go to good purpose I will not go at all." Sir Francis Hincks says: "All Sir Charles Metcalfe's correspondence prior to his departure from England is indicative of a feeling that he was going on a forlorn hope expedition," and Hincks adds that such language can be explained only on the assumption that he was sent out for the purpose of overthrowing responsible government. It is certainly established by the Peel correspondence that the British government strongly disapproved of Sir Charles Bagot's policy, and selected Sir Charles Metcalfe as a man who would govern on radically different lines. It is perhaps putting it rather strongly to say that he was intended to overthrow responsible government. But he must have come to Canada filled with distrust of the Canadian ministry, filled with the idea that the demand for responsible government was a cloak for seditious designs, and ready to take strong measures to preserve British connection. In this misunderstanding lay the source of his errors and misfortunes in Canada.

It is not therefore necessary to enter minutely into the dispute which occasioned the rupture between Metcalfe and his advisers. On the surface it was a dispute over patronage. In reality Baldwin and Lafontaine were fighting for autonomy and responsible government; Metcalfe, as he thought, was defending the unity of the empire. He was a kindly and conscientious man, and he held his position with some skill, always contending that he was willing to agree to responsible government on condition that the colonial position was recognized, the prerogative of the Crown upheld, and the governor not dominated by one political party.

The governor finally broke with his advisers in November, 1843. For some months he was to govern, not only without a responsible ministry, but without a parliament, for the legislature was immediately prorogued, and did not meet again before dissolution. His chief adviser was William Henry Draper, a distinguished lawyer, whose political career was sacrificed in the attempt to hold an impossible position. Reformers and Tories prepared for a struggle which was to continue for several years, and which, in spite of the smallness of the field, was of the highest importance in settling a leading principle of government.

On March 5th, 1844, as a direct consequence of the struggle, appeared the first issue of the Toronto Globe, its motto taken from one of the boldest letters of Junius to George III: "The subject who is truly loyal to the chief magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures." The leading article was a long and careful review of the history of the country, followed by a eulogy on the constitution enjoyed by Great Britain since "the glorious revolution of 1688," but denied to Canada. Responsible government was withheld; the governor named his councillors in defiance of the will of the legislature. Advocates of responsible government were stigmatized by the governor's friends as rebels, traitors, radicals and republicans. The Globe proclaimed its adherence to Lord Durham's recommendation, and said: "The battle which the Reformers of Canada will right is not the battle of a party, but the battle of constitutional right against the undue interference of executive power." The prospectus of the paper contained these words: "Firmly attached to the principles of the British Constitution, believing the limited monarchy of Great Britain the best system of government yet devised by the wisdom of man, and sincerely convinced that the prosperity of Canada will best be advanced by a close connection between it and the mother country, the editor of the Globe will support all measures which will tend to draw closer the bonds of a mutually advantageous union."

On March 25th, 1844, the campaign was opened with a meeting called by the Toronto Reform Association. Robert Baldwin, "father of responsible government," was in the chair, and William Hume Blake was the orator of the night. The young editor of the Globe, a recruit among veterans, seems to have made a hit with a picture of a ministry framed on the "no party" plan advocated by Governor Metcalfe. In this imaginary ministry he grouped at the same council table Robert Baldwin and his colleague Francis Hincks; Sir Allan MacNab, the Tory leader; William Henry Draper, Metcalfe's chief adviser; John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto; and Dr. Ryerson, leader of the Methodists and champion of the governor. His Excellency is on a chair raised above the warring elements below. Baldwin moves that King's College be opened to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. At once the combination is dissolved, as any one who remembers Bishop Strachan's views on that question will understand.

Dr. Ryerson, whose name was used by Brown in this illustration, was a leader among the Methodists, and had fought stoutly for religious equality against Anglican privilege. But he had espoused the side of the governor-general, apparently taking seriously the position that it was the only course open to a loyal subject. In a series of letters published in the summer of 1844, he warned the people that the Toronto Reform Association was leading them to the edge of a precipice. "In the same manner," he said, "I warned you against the Constitutional Reform Association, formed in 1834. In 1837 my warning predictions were realized, to the ruin of many and the misery of thousands. What took place in 1837 was but a preface of what may be witnessed in 1847." The warning he meant to convey was that the people were being drawn into a conflict with the imperial authorities. "Mr. Baldwin," he said, "practically renounces the imperial authority by refusing to appeal to it, and by appealing through the Toronto Association to the people of Canada. If the people of Canada are the tribunal of judgment on one question of constitutional prerogative, they are so on every question of constitutional prerogative. Then the governor is no longer responsible to the imperial authority, and Canada is an independent country. Mr. Baldwin's proceeding, therefore, not only leads to independence but involves (unconsciously, I admit, from extreme and theoretical views), a practical declaration of independence before the arrival of the 4th of July!"

In this language Dr. Ryerson described with accuracy the attitude of the British government. That government had, as we have seen, disapproved of Governor Bagot's action in parting with so large a measure of power, and it was fully prepared to support Metcalfe in pursuing the opposite course. Dr. Ryerson was also right in saying that the government of Great Britain would be supported by parliament. In May, 1844, the affairs of Canada were discussed in the British House of Commons, and the governor's action was justified by Peel, by Lord Stanley, and by Lord John Russell. The only dissentient voices were those of the Radicals, Hume and Roebuck.

Metcalfe and his chiefs at home can hardly be blamed for holding the prevailing views of the time, which were that the changes contemplated by Durham, by Bagot, and by Baldwin were dangerous and revolutionary. The idea that a colony could remain connected with Great Britain under such a system of autonomy as we enjoy to-day was then conceived by only a few men of exceptional breadth and foresight, among whom Elgin was one of the most eminent.

The wise leadership of Baldwin and Lafontaine and the patience and firmness of the Reformers are attested by their conduct in very trying circumstances. Finding their demand for constitutional reform opposed not only by the Canadian Tories, but by the governor-general and the imperial government and parliament, they might have become discouraged, or have been tempted into some act of violence. Their patience must have been sorely tried by the persistent malice or obstinate prejudice which stigmatized a strictly constitutional movement as treason. They had also to endure the trial of a temporary defeat at the polls, and an apparent rejection of their policy by the very people for whose liberties they were contending.

In the autumn of 1844 the legislature was dissolved and a fierce contest ensued. Governor Metcalfe's attitude is indicated by his biographer.[1] "The contest," he says, "was between loyalty on the one side and disaffection to Her Majesty's government on the other. That there was a strong anti-British feeling abroad, in both divisions of the province [Upper and Lower Canada] Metcalfe clearly and painfully perceived. The conviction served to brace and stimulate him to new exertions. He felt that he was fighting for his sovereign against a rebellious people." The appeal was successful; Upper Canada was swept by the loyalty cry, and in various polling places votes were actually cast or offered for the governor-general. The Globe described a conversation that occurred in a polling place in York: "Whom do you vote for?" "I vote for the governor-general." "There is no such candidate. Say George Duggan, you blockhead." "Oh, yes, George Duggan; it's all the same thing." There were candidates who described themselves as "governor-general's men"; there were candidates whose royalist enthusiasm was expressed in the name "Cavaliers." In the Montreal election petition it was charged that during two days of polling the electors were exposed to danger from the attacks of bands of fighting men hired by the government candidates or their agents, and paid, fed, and armed with "bludgeons, bowie-knives, and pistols and other murderous weapons" for the purpose of intimidating the Liberal electors and preventing them from gaining access to the polls; that Liberals were driven from the polls by these fighting men, and by cavalry and infantry acting under the orders of partisan magistrates. The polls, it was stated, were surrounded by soldiers, field-pieces were placed in several public squares, and the city was virtually in a state of siege. The charges were not investigated, the petition being rejected for irregularity; but violence and intimidation were then common accompaniments of elections.

In November the governor was able to record his victory thus: Upper Canada, avowed supporters of his government, thirty; avowed adversaries, seven; undeclared and uncertain, five. Lower Canada, avowed supporters, sixteen; avowed adversaries, twenty-one; undeclared and uncertain, four. Remarking on this difference between Upper and Lower Canada, he said that loyalty and British feeling prevailed in Upper Canada and in the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada, and that disaffection was predominant among the French-Canadian constituencies.[2] Metcalfe honestly believed he had saved Canada for the empire; but more mischief could hardly have been done by deliberate design. In achieving a barren and precarious victory at the polls, he and his friends had run the risk of creating that disaffection which they feared. The stigma of disloyalty had been unjustly affixed to honest and public-spirited men, whose steadiness alone prevented them, in their resentment, from joining the ranks of the disaffected. Worse still, the line of political cleavage had been identified with the line of racial division, and "French-Canadian" and "rebel" had been used as synonymous terms.

The ministry and the legislative assembly were now such as the governor had desired, yet the harmony was soon broken. There appeared divisions in the cabinet, hostile votes in the legislature, and finally a revolt in the Conservative press. An attempt to form a coalition with the French-Canadian members drew a sarcastic comment from the Globe: "Mr. Draper has invited the men whom he and his party have for years stigmatized before the country as rebels and traitors and destructives to join his administration." Reformers regarded these troubles as evidence that the experiment in reaction was failing, and waited patiently for the end. Shortly after the election the governor was raised to the peerage, an honour which, if not earned by success in Canada, was fairly due to his honest intentions. He left Canada at the close of the year 1845, suffering from a painful disease, of which he died a year afterwards.

Soon after the governor's departure the young editor of the Globe had a curious experience. At a dinner of the St. Andrew's Society, Toronto, the president, Judge MacLean, proposed the health of Lord Metcalfe, eulogized his Canadian policy, and insisted that he had not been recalled, "as certain persons have most impertinently and untruly assumed and set forth." Brown refused to drink the toast, and asked to be heard, asserting that he had been publicly insulted from the chair. After a scene of uproar, he managed to obtain a hearing, and said, addressing the chairman: "I understand your allusions, sir, and your epithet of impertinence as applied to myself. I throw it back on you with contempt, and will content myself with saying that your using such language and dragging such matters before the society was highly improper. Lord Metcalfe, sir, has been recalled, and it may yet be seen that it was done by an enlightened British government for cause. The toast which you have given, too, and the manner in which it was introduced, are highly improper. This is not the place to discuss Lord Metcalfe's administration. There is a wide difference of opinion as to it. But I refrain from saying one word as to his conduct in this province. This is not a political but a benevolent society, composed of persons of very varied political sentiments, and such a toast ought never to have been brought here. Lord Metcalfe is not now governor-general of Canada, and I had a right to refuse to do honour to him or not as I saw fit, and that without any disparagement to his conduct as a gentleman, even though the person who is president of this society thinks otherwise." This incident, trivial as it may appear, illustrates the passion aroused by the contest, and the bold and resolute character of the young politician.

Lord Metcalfe's successor was Earl Cathcart, a soldier who concerned himself little in the political disputes of the country, and who had been chosen because of the danger of war with the United States, arising out of the dispute over the Oregon boundary. The settlement of that dispute does not come within the scope of this work; but it may be noted that the Globe was fully possessed by the belligerent spirit of the time, and frankly expressed the hope that Great Britain would fight, not merely for the Oregon boundary, but "to proclaim liberty to the black population." The writer hoped that the Christian nations of the world would combine and "break the chains of the slaves in the United States, in Brazil and in Cuba."


[1] Kaye's Life of Metcalfe, Vol. II., p. 389.

[2] Kaye's Life of Metcalfe, Vol. II., p. 390.



In England, as well as in Canada, events were moving towards self-government. With the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1840 disappeared the preference to Canadian wheat. "Destroy this principle of protection," said Lord Stanley in the House of Lords, "and you destroy the whole basis upon which your colonial system rests." Loud complaints came from Canada, and in a despatch from Earl Cathcart to the colonial secretary, it was represented that the Canadian waterways had been improved on the strength of the report made to Great Britain, and that the disappointment and loss resulting from the abolition of the preference would lead to alienation from the mother country and "annexation to our rival and enemy, the United States." Gladstone, in his reply, denied that the basis of imperial unity was protection, "the exchange, not of benefits, but of burdens;" the true basis lay in common feelings, traditions and hopes. The Globe held that Canada had no right to complain if the people of the United Kingdom did what was best for themselves. England, as an exporter of manufactures, had to meet competition at the world's prices, and must have cheap food supplies. Canada had surely a higher destiny than to export a few hundred bushels of wheat and flour to England. Canadian home manufactures must be encouraged, and efforts made to obtain free trade with the United States. "The Tory press," said the Globe, "are out in full cry against free trade. Their conduct affords an illustration of the unmitigated selfishness of Toryism. Give them everything they can desire and they are brimful of loyalty. They will shout paeans till they are sick, and drink goblets till they are blind in favour of 'wise and benevolent governors' who will give them all the offices and all the emoluments. But let their interests, real or imaginary, be affected, and how soon does their loyalty evaporate! Nothing is now talked of but separation from the mother country, unless the mother continues feeding them in the mode prescribed by the child."

Some time afterwards, Lord Elgin, in his communications to the home government, said that the Canadian millers and shippers had a substantial grievance, not in the introduction of free trade, but in the constant tinkering incident to the abandoned system of imperial protection. The preference given in 1843 to Canadian wheat and to flour, even when made of American wheat, had stimulated milling in Canada; but almost before the newly-built mills were fairly at work, the free trade measure of 1846 swept the advantage away. What was wrong was not free trade, but Canadian dependence on imperial tariff legislation.

Elgin was one of the few statesmen of his day who perceived that the colonies might enjoy commercial independence and political equality, without separation. He declared that imperial unity did not depend on the exercise of dominion, the dispensing of patronage, or the maintenance of an imperial hot-bed for forcing commerce and manufactures. Yet he conceived of an empire not confined to the British Islands, but growing, expanding, "strengthening itself from age to age, and drawing new supplies of vitality from virgin soils."

With Elgin's administration began the new era of self-government. The legislature was dissolved towards the close of the year 1847, and the election resulted in a complete victory for the Reformers. In Upper Canada the contest was fairly close, but in Lower Canada the Conservative forces were almost annihilated, and on the first vote in parliament the government was defeated by a large majority. The second Baldwin-Lafontaine government received the full confidence and loyal support of the governor, and by its conduct and achievements justified the reform that had been so long delayed, and adopted with so many misgivings. But the fight for responsible government was not yet finished. The cry of French and rebel domination was raised, as it had been raised in the days of Governor Bagot. A Toronto journal reproachfully referred to Lord Elgin's descent from "the Bruce," and asked how a man of royal ancestry could so degrade himself as to consort with rebels and political jobbers. "Surely the curse of Minerva, uttered by a great poet against the father, clings to the son." The removal of the old office-holders seemed to this writer to be an act of desecration not unlike the removal of the famous marbles from the Parthenon. In a despatch explaining his course on the Rebellion Losses Bill, Lord Elgin said that long before that legislation there were evidences of the temper which finally produced the explosion. He quoted the following passage from a newspaper: "When French tyranny becomes insupportable, we shall find our Cromwell. Sheffield in olden times used to be famous for its keen and well-tempered whittles. Well, they make bayonets there now, just as sharp and just as well-tempered. When we can stand tyranny no longer, it will be seen whether good bayonets in Saxon hands will not be more than a match for a mace and a majority." All the fuel for a conflagration was ready. There was race hatred, there was party hostility, there was commercial depression and there was a sincere, though exaggerated, loyalty, which regarded rebellion as the unforgivable sin, and which was in constant dread of the spread of radical, republican and democratic ideas.

The Rebellion Losses Bill was all that was needed to fan the embers into flame. This was a measure intended to compensate persons who had suffered losses during the rebellion in Lower Canada. It was attacked as a measure for "rewarding rebels." Lord Elgin afterwards said that he did not believe a rebel would receive a farthing. But even if we suppose that some rebels or rebel sympathizers were included in the list, the outcry against the bill was unreasonable. A general amnesty had been proclaimed; French-Canadians had been admitted to a full share of political power. The greater things having been granted, it was mere pedantry to haggle about the less, and to hold an elaborate inquiry into the principles of every man whose barns had been burned during the rebellion. When responsible government was conceded, it was admitted that even the rebels had not been wholly wrong. It would have been straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel to say "we will give you these free institutions for the sake of which you rebelled, but we will not pay you the small sum of money necessary to recompense you for losses arising out of the rebellion."

However, it is easier to discuss these matters coolly in 1906 than it was in 1849, and in 1849 the notion of "rewarding the rebels" produced another rebellion on a small scale. A large quantity of important legislation was brought down by the new government when it met the legislature early in 1849, but everything else was forgotten when Mr. Lafontaine introduced the resolution on which the Rebellion Losses Bill was founded. In various parts of Upper Canada meetings were held and protests made against the measure. In Toronto the protests took the form of mob violence, foreshadowing what was to come in Montreal. Effigies of Baldwin and Blake were carried through the streets and burned. William Lyon Mackenzie had lately returned to Canada, and was living at the house of a citizen named Mackintosh. The mob went to the house, threatened to pull it down, and burned an effigy of Mackenzie. The windows of the house were broken and stones and bricks thrown in. The Globe office was apparently not molested, but about midnight the mob went to the dwelling-house of the Browns, battered at the door and broke some windows. The Globe in this trying time stood staunchly by the government and Lord Elgin, and powerfully influenced the public opinion of Upper Canada in their favour. Addresses calling for the withdrawal of Lord Elgin were met by addresses supporting his action, and the signatures to the friendly addresses outnumbered the other by one hundred and twenty thousand. George Brown, Col. C. T. Baldwin, and W. P. Howland were deputed to present an address from the Reformers of Upper Canada. Sir William Howland has said that Lord Elgin was so much affected that he shed tears.

This is not the place, however great the temptation may be, to describe the stirring scenes that were enacted in Montreal; the stormy debate, the fiery speech in which William Hume Blake hurled back at the Tories the charge of disloyalty; the tumult in the galleries, the burning of the parliament buildings, and the mobbing and stoning of the governor-general.

Lord Elgin's bearing under this severe trial was admirable. He was most desirous that blood should not be shed, and for this reason avoided the use of troops or the proclamation of martial law; and he had the satisfaction of seeing the storm gradually subside. A less dangerous evidence of discontent was a manifesto signed by leading citizens of Montreal advocating annexation to the United States, not only to relieve commercial depression, but "to settle the race question forever, by bringing to bear on the French-Canadians the powerful assimilating forces of the republic." The signers of this document were leniently dealt with; but those among them who afterwards took a prominent part in politics, were not permitted to forget their error. Elgin was of opinion that there was ground for discontent on commercial grounds, and he advocated the removal of imperial restriction on navigation, and the establishment of reciprocity between the United States and the British North American provinces. The annexation movement was confined chiefly to Montreal. In Upper Canada an association called the British American League was formed, and a convention held at Kingston in 1849. The familiar topics of commercial depression and French domination were discussed; some violent language was used, but the remedies proposed were sane enough; they were protection, retrenchment, and the union of the British provinces. Union, it was said, would put an end to French domination, and would give Canada better access to the sea and increased commerce. The British American League figures in the old, and not very profitable, controversy as to the share of credit to be allotted to each political party for the work of confederation. It is part of the Conservative case. But the platform was abandoned for the time, and confederation remained in the realm of speculation rather than of action.



Within the limits of one parliament, less than four years, the Baldwin-Lafontaine government achieved a large amount of useful work, including the establishment of cheap and uniform postage, the reforming of the courts of law, the remodelling of the municipal system, the establishment of the University of Toronto on a non-sectarian basis, and the inauguration of a policy by which the province was covered with a network of railways. With such a record, the government hardly seemed to be open to a charge of lack of energy and progressiveness, but it was a time when radicalism was in the air. It may be more than a coincidence that Chartism in England and a revolution in France were followed by radical movements in both Canadas.

The counterpart to the Rouge party in Lower Canada, elsewhere referred to, was the Clear Grit party in Upper Canada. Among its leaders were Peter Perry, one of the founders of the Reform party in Upper Canada, Caleb Hopkins, David Christie, James Lesslie, Dr. John Rolph and William Macdougall. Rolph had played a leading part in the movement for reform before the rebellion, and is the leading figure in Dent's history of that period. Macdougall was a young lawyer and journalist fighting his way into prominence.

"Grit" afterwards became a nickname for a member of the Reform or Liberal party, and especially for the enthusiastic followers of George Brown. Yet in all the history of a quarrelsome period in politics there is no more violent quarrel than that between Brown and the Clear Grits. It is said that Brown and Christie were one day discussing the movement, and that Brown had mentioned the name of a leading Reformer as one of the opponents of the new party. Christie replied that the party did not want such men, they wanted only those who were "Clear Grit." This is one of several theories as to the derivation of the name. The Globe denounced the party as "a miserable clique of office-seeking, bunkum-talking cormorants, who met in a certain lawyer's office on King Street [Macdougall's] and announced their intention to form a new party on Clear Grit principles." The North American, edited by Macdougall, denounced Brown with equal fury as a servile adherent of the Baldwin government. Brown for several years was in this position of hostility to the Radical wing of the party. He was defeated in Haldimand by William Lyon Mackenzie, who stood on an advanced Radical platform; and in 1851 his opponent in Kent and Lambton was Malcolm Cameron, a Clear Grit, who had joined the Hincks-Morin government. The nature of their relations is shown by a letter in which Cameron called on one of his friends to come out and oppose Brown: "I will be out and we will show him up, and let him know what stuff Liberal Reformers are made of, and how they would treat fanatical beasts who would allow no one liberty but themselves."

The Clear Grits advocated, (1) the application of the elective principle to all the officials and institutions of the country, from the head of the government downwards; (2) universal suffrage; (3) vote by ballot; (4) biennial parliaments; (5) the abolition of property qualification for parliamentary representations; (6) a fixed term for the holding of general elections and for the assembling of the legislature; (7) retrenchment; (8) the abolition of pensions to judges; (9) the abolition of the Courts of Common Pleas and Chancery and the giving of an enlarged jurisdiction to the Court of Queen's Bench; (10) reduction of lawyers' fees; (11) free trade and direct taxation; (12) an amended jury law; (13) the abolition or modification of the usury laws; (14) the abolition of primogeniture; (15) the secularization of the clergy reserves, and the abolition of the rectories. The movement was opposed by the Globe. No new party, it said, was required for the advocacy of reform of the suffrage, retrenchment, law reform, free trade or the liberation of the clergy reserves. These were practical questions, on which the Reform party was united. But these were placed on the programme merely to cloak its revolutionary features, features that simply meant the adoption of republican institutions, and the taking of the first step towards annexation. The British system of responsible government was upheld by the Globe as far superior to the American system in the security it afforded to life and property.

But while Brown defended the government from the attacks of the Clear Grits, he was himself growing impatient at their delay in dealing with certain questions that he had at heart, especially the secularization of the clergy reserves. He tried, as we should say to-day, "to reform the party from within." He was attacked for his continued support of a ministry accused of abandoning principles while "he was endeavouring to influence the members to a right course without an open rupture." There was an undercurrent of discontent drawing him away from the government. In October, 1850, the Globe contained a series of articles on the subject. It was pointed out that there were four parties in the country: the old-time Tories, the opponents of responsible government, whose members were fast diminishing; the new party led by John A. Macdonald; the Ministerialists; and the Clear Grits, who were described as composed of English Radicals, Republicans and annexationists. The Ministerialists had an overwhelming majority over all, but were disunited. What was the trouble? The ministers might be a little slow, a little wanting in tact, a little less democratic than some of their followers. They were not traitors to the Reform cause, and intemperate attacks on them might be disastrous to that cause. A union of French-Canadians with Upper Canadian Conservatives would, it was prophesied, make the Reform party powerless. Though in later years George Brown became known as the chief opponent of French-Canadian influence, he was well aware of the value of the alliance, and he gave the French-Canadians full credit for their support to measures of reform. "Let the truth be known," said the Globe at this time, "to the French-Canadians of Lower Canada are the Reformers of Upper Canada indebted for the sweeping majorities which carried their best measures." He gave the government credit for an immense mass of useful legislation enacted in a very short period. But more remained to be done. The clergy reserves must be abolished, and all connection between Church and State swept away. "The party in power has no policy before the country. No one knows what measures are to be brought forward by the leaders. Each man fancies a policy for himself. The conductors of the public press must take ground on all the questions of the day, and each accordingly strikes out such a line as suits his own leanings, the palates of his readers, or what he deems for the good of the country. All sorts of vague schemes are thus thrown on the sea of public opinion to agitate the waters, with the triple result of poisoning the public mind, producing unnecessary divisions, and committing sections of the party to views and principles which they might never have contemplated under a better system."

For some time the articles in the Globe did not pass the bounds of friendly, though outspoken, criticism. The events that drew Brown into opposition were his breach with the Roman Catholic Church, the campaign in Haldimand in which he was defeated by William Lyon Mackenzie, the retirement of Baldwin and the accession to power of the Hincks-Morin administration.

Towards the end of 1850 there arrived in Canada copies of a pastoral letter by Cardinal Wiseman, defending the famous papal bull which divided England into sees of the Roman Catholic Church, and gave territorial titles to the bishops. Sir E. P. Tache, a member of the government, showed one of these to Mr. Brown, and jocularly challenged him to publish it in the Globe. Brown accepted the challenge, declaring that he would also publish a reply, to be written by himself. The reply, which will be found in the Globe of December 10th, 1850, is argumentative in tone, and probably would not of itself have involved Brown in a violent quarrel with the Church. The following passage was afterwards cited by the Globe as defining its position: "In offering a few remarks upon Dr. Wiseman's production, we have no intention to discuss the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, but merely to look at the question in its secular aspect. As advocates of the voluntary principle we give to every man full liberty to worship as his conscience dictates, and without penalty, civil or ecclesiastical, attaching to his exercise thereof. We would allow each sect to give to its pastors what titles it sees fit, and to prescribe the extent of spiritual duties; but we would have the State recognize no ecclesiastical titles or boundaries whatever. The public may, from courtesy, award what titles they please; but the statute-book should recognize none. The voluntary principle is the great cure for such dissensions as now agitate Great Britain."

The cause of conflict lay outside the bounds of that article. Cardinal Wiseman's letter and Lord John Russell's reply had thrown England into a ferment of religious excitement. "Lord John Russell," says Justin McCarthy, "who had more than any man living been identified with the principles of religious liberty, who had sat at the feet of Fox and had for his closest friend the poet, Thomas Moore, came to be regarded by the Roman Catholics as the bitterest enemy of their creed and their rights of worship."

It is evident that this hatred of Russell was carried across the Atlantic, and that Brown was regarded as his ally. In the Haldimand election a hand-bill signed, "An Irish Roman Catholic" was circulated. It assailed Brown fiercely for the support he had given to Russell, and for the general course of the Globe in regard to Catholic questions. Russell was described as attempting "to twine again around the writhing limbs of ten millions of Catholics the chains that our own O'Connell rescued us from in 1829." A vote for George Brown would help to rivet these spiritual chains round the souls of Irishmen, and to crush the religion for which Ireland had wept oceans of blood; those who voted for Brown would be prostrating themselves like cowardly slaves or beasts of burden before the avowed enemies of their country, their religion and their God. "You will think of the gibbets, the triangles, the lime-pits, the tortures, the hangings of the past. You will reflect on the struggles of the present against the new penal bill. You will look forward to the dangers, the triumphs, the hopes of the future, and then you will go to the polls and vote against George Brown."

This was not the only handicap with which Brown entered on his first election contest. There was no cordial sympathy between him and the government, yet he was hampered by his connection with the government. The dissatisfied Radicals rallied to the support of William Lyon Mackenzie, whose sufferings in exile also made a strong appeal to the hearts of Reformers, and Mackenzie was elected.

In his election address Brown declared himself for perfect religious equality, the separation of Church and State, and the diversion of the clergy reserves from denominational to educational purposes. "I am in favour of national school education free from sectarian teaching, and available without charge to every child in the province. I desire to see efficient grammar schools established in each county, and that the fees of these institutions and of the national university should be placed on such a scale as will bring a high literary and scientific education within the reach of men of talent in any rank of life." He advocated free trade in the fullest sense, expressing the hope that the revenue from public lands and canals, with strict economy, would enable Canada "to dispense with the whole customs department."

Brown's estrangement from the government did not become an open rupture so long as Baldwin and Lafontaine were at the head of affairs. In the summer following Brown's defeat in Haldimand, Baldwin resigned owing to a resolution introduced by William Lyon Mackenzie, for the abolition of the Court of Chancery. The resolution was defeated, but obtained the votes of a majority of the Upper Canadian members, and Mr. Baldwin regarded their action as an indication of want of confidence in himself. He dropped some expressions, too, which indicated that he was moved by larger considerations. He was conservative in his views, and he regarded the Mackenzie vote as a sign of a flood of radicalism which he felt powerless to stay. Shortly afterwards Lafontaine retired. He, also, was conservative in his temperament, and weary of public life. The passing of Baldwin and Lafontaine from the scene helped to clear the way for Mr. Brown to take his own course, and it was not long before the open breach occurred. When Mr. Hincks became premier, Mr. Brown judged that the time had come for him to speak out. He felt that he must make a fair start with the new government, and have a clear understanding at the outset. A new general election was approaching, and he thought that the issue of separation of Church and State must be clearly placed before the country. In an article in the Globe entitled "The Crisis," it was declared that the time for action had come. One parliament had been lost to the friends of religious equality; they could not afford to lose another. It was contended that the Upper Canadian Reformers suffered by their connection with the Lower Canadian party. Complaint was made that the Hon. E. P. Tache had advised Roman Catholics to make common cause with Anglicans in resisting the secularization of the clergy reserves, had described the advocates of secularization as "pharisaical brawlers," and had said that the Church of England need not fear their hostility, because the "contra-balancing power" of the Lower Canadians would be used to protect the Anglican Church. This, said the Globe, was a challenge which the friends of religious equality could not refuse. Later on, Mr. Brown wrote a series of letters to Mr. Hincks, setting forth fully his grounds of complaint against the government: failure to reform the representation of Upper Canada, slackness in dealing with the secularization of the clergy reserves, weakness in yielding to the demand for separate schools. All this he attributed to Roman Catholic or French-Canadian influence.



The clergy reserves were for many years a fruitful source of discontent and agitation in Canada. They had their origin in a provision of the Constitutional Act of 1791, that there should be reserved for the maintenance and support of a "Protestant clergy" in Upper and Lower Canada "a quantity of land equal in value to a seventh part of grants that had been made in the past or might be made in the future." It was provided also that rectories might be erected and endowed according to the establishment of the Church of England. The legislatures were to be allowed to vary or repeal these enactments, but such legislation was not to receive the royal assent before it had been laid before both Houses of the imperial parliament.

Did the words "Protestant clergy" apply to any other body than the Church of England? A vast amount of legal learning was expended on this question; but there can be little doubt that the intention to establish and endow the Church of England was thoroughly in accord with the ideas of colonial government prevailing from the conquest to the end of the eighteenth century. In the instructions to Murray and other early governors there are constant injunctions for the support of a Protestant clergy and Protestant schools, "to the end that the Church of England may be established both in principles and practice."[3] Governor Simcoe, we are told, attached much importance to "every establishment of Church and State that upholds a distinction of ranks and lessens the undue weight of the democratic influence." "The episcopal system was interwoven and connected with the monarchical foundations of our government."[4] In pursuance of this idea, which was also that of the ruling class in Canada, the country was to be made as much unlike the United States as possible by the intrenchment of class and ecclesiastical privileges, and this was the policy pursued up to the time that responsible government was obtained. Those outside the dominant caste, in religion as in politics, were branded as rebels, annexationists, Yankees, republicans. And as this dominant caste, until the arrival of Lord Elgin, had the ear of the authorities at home, it is altogether likely that the Act of 1791 was framed in accordance with their views.

The law was unjust, improvident, and altogether unsuited to the circumstances of the colony. Lord Durham estimated that the members and adherents of the Church of England, allowing its largest claim, were not more than one-third, probably not more than one-fourth, of the population of Upper Canada. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics, each claimed a larger membership. He declared that the sanction given to the exclusive claims of the Church of England by Sir John Colborne's establishment of fifty-seven rectories, was, in the opinion of many persons, the chief pre-disposing cause of the rebellion, and it was an abiding and unabated cause of discontent.[5]

Not only was the spirit of the colony opposed to the establishment and domination of any Church, but settlement was retarded and the hardships of the settler increased by the locking up of enormous tracts of land. In addition to the clergy reserves, grants were made to officials, to militia men, to the children of United Empire Loyalists and others, in the hope that these persons would settle on the land. Many of these fell into the hands of speculators and jobbers, who bought farms of two hundred acres for prices ranging from a gallon of rum to L5. "The greater part of these grants," said Mr. Hawke, a government official whose evidence is given in the appendix to Durham's Report, "remain in an unimproved state. These blocks of wild land place the actual settler in an almost hopeless condition; he can hardly expect during his lifetime to see his neighbourhood contain a population sufficiently dense to support mills, schools, post-offices, places of worship, markets or shops, without which civilization retrogrades. Roads, under such circumstances, can neither be opened by the settlers nor kept in proper repair. In 1834 I met a settler from the township of Warwick, on the Caradoc Plains, returning from the grist mill at Westminster, with the flour and bran of thirteen bushels of wheat. He had a yoke of oxen and a horse attached to his wagon, and had been absent nine days and did not expect to reach home until the following evening. Light as his load was, he assured me that he had to unload, wholly or in part, several times, and after driving his wagon through the swamps, to pick out a road through the woods where the swamps or gullies were fordable, and to carry the bags on his back and replace them in the wagon."

It is unnecessary here to discuss differences of opinion as to the interpretation of the law, attempts to divide the endowment among various denominations, or other efforts at compromise. The radical wing of the Reform party demanded that the special provision for the support of the Church of England should be abolished, and a system of free popular education established. With this part of their platform Brown was heartily in accord; on this point he agreed with the Clear Grits that the Baldwin-Lafontaine government was moving too slowly, and when Baldwin was succeeded by Hincks in 1851, the restraining influence of his respect for Baldwin being removed, his discontent was converted into open and determined opposition.

Largely by the influence of Brown and the Globe, public opinion in 1851 was aroused to a high degree, and meetings were held to advocate the secularization of the clergy reserves. The friends of the old order were singularly unfortunate in their mode of expressing their opinions. Opposition to responsible government was signalized by the burning of the parliament buildings, and the mobbing of Lord Elgin in Montreal. Opposition to religious equality was signalized by the mobbing of an orderly assembly in Toronto. One meeting of the opponents of the clergy reserves was broken up by these means, and a second meeting was attacked by a mob with such violence as to necessitate the calling out of a company of British soldiers. This meeting was held in St. Lawrence Hall, over the city market bearing that name. Mr. Brown was chosen to move a resolution denouncing State endowments of religion, and did so in a speech of earnestness and argumentative power. He compared the results of Church establishments with those of voluntary effort in England, in Scotland, in France, and in Canada, and denounced "State-churchism" as the author of pride, intolerance and spiritual coldness. "When," he said, "I read the history of the human race, and trace the dark record of wars and carnage, of tyranny, robbery and injustice in every shape, which have been the fruits of State-churchism in every age; when I observe the degenerating effect which it has ever had on the purity and simplicity of the Gospel of Christ, turning men's minds from its great truths, as a religion of the heart, to the mere outward tinsel, to the forms and ceremonies on which priestcraft flourishes; when I see that at all times it has been made the instrument of the rich and powerful in oppressing the poor and weak, I cannot but reject it utterly as in direct hostility to the whole spirit of the Gospel, to that glorious system which teaches men to set not their hearts on this world, and to walk humbly before God." He held that it was utterly impossible for the State to teach religious truth. "There is no standard for truth. We cannot even agree on the meaning of words." Setting aside the injustice of forcing men to pay money for the support of what they deemed religious error, it was "most dangerous to admit that the magistrate is to decide for God—for that is the plain meaning of the establishment principle. Once admit that principle, and no curb can be set upon its operation. Who shall restrict what God has appointed? And thus the extent to which the conscience of men may be constrained, or persecution for truth's sake may be carried, depends entirely on the ignorance or enlightenment of the civil magistrate. There is no safety out of the principle that religion is a matter entirely between man and his God, and that the whole duty of the magistrate is to secure every one in the peaceful observance of it. Anything else leads to oppression and injustice, but this can never lead to either."

A notable part of the speech was a defence of free, non-sectarian education. "I can conceive," he said, "nothing more unprincipled than a scheme to array the youth of the province in sectarian bands—to teach them, from the cradle up, to know each other as Methodist boys, and Presbyterian boys, and Episcopal boys. Surely, surely, we have enough of this most wretched sectarianism in our churches without carrying it further."

To protect themselves from interruption, the advocates of secularization had taken advantage of a law which allowed them to declare their meeting as private, and exclude disturbers. Their opponents held another meeting in the adjoining market-place where by resolution they expressed indignation at the repeated attempts of "a Godless association" to stir up religious strife, and declared that the purposes of the association, if carried out, would bring about not only the severance of British connection, but socialism, republicanism, and infidelity. The horrified listeners were told how Rousseau and Voltaire had corrupted France, how religion was overthrown and the naked Goddess of Reason set up as an object of worship. They were told that the clergy reserves were a gift to the nation from "our good King George the Third." Abolish them and the British flag would refuse to float over anarchy and confusion. Finally, they were assured that they could thrash the St. Lawrence Hall audience in a stand-up fight, but were nevertheless advised to go quietly home. This advice was apparently accepted in the spirit of the admonition: "Don't nail his ears to the pump," for the crowd immediately marched to St. Lawrence Hall, cheering, groaning, and shouting. They were met by the mayor, two aldermen, and the chief constable, and told that they could not be admitted. Stones and bricks were thrown through the windows of the hall. The Riot Act was read by an alderman, and the British regiment then quartered in the town, the 71st, was sent for. There was considerable delay in bringing the troops, and in the meantime there was great disorder; persons leaving the hall were assaulted, and the mayor was struck in the face with a stone and severely cut. A company of the 71st arrived at midnight, after which the violence of the mob abated.[6]

The steps leading up to the settlement of the question may be briefly referred to. In 1850 the Canadian parliament had asked for power to dispose of the reserves, with the understanding that emoluments derived by existing incumbents should be guaranteed during their lives. The address having been forwarded to England, Lord John Russell informed the governor-general that a bill would be introduced in compliance with the wish of the Canadian parliament. But in 1852 the Russell government resigned, and was succeeded by that of the Earl of Derby. Derby (Lord Stanley) had been colonial secretary in the Peel government, which had shown a strong bias against Canadian self-government. Sir John Pakington declared that the advisers of Her Majesty were not inclined to aid in the diversion to other purposes of the only public fund for the support of divine worship and religious instruction in Canada, though they would entertain proposals for new dispositions of the fund. Hincks, who was then in England, protested vigorously against the disregard of the wishes of the Canadian people. When the legislature assembled in 1852, it carried, at his instance, an address to the Crown strongly upholding the Canadian demand. Brown contended that the language was too strong and the action too weak. He made a counter proposal, which found little support, that the Canadian parliament itself enact a measure providing for the sale of the clergy lands to actual settlers, and the appropriation of the funds for the maintenance of common schools.

With the fall of the Derby administration in England, ended the opposition from that source to the Canadian demands. But Hincks, who had firmly vindicated the right of the Canadian parliament to legislate on the matter, now hesitated to use the power placed in his hands, and declared that legislation should be deferred until a new parliament had been chosen. The result was that the work of framing the measure of settlement fell into the hands of John A. Macdonald, the rising star of the Conservative party. The fund, after provision had been made for the vested rights of incumbents, was turned over to the municipalities.


[3] Instructions to Governor Murray, Canadian Archives of 1904, p. 218.

[4] Professor Shortt in the Canadian Magazine, September, 1901.

[5] Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America. Methuen's reprint, pp. 125, 126.

[6] The Globe, July, 1851.



In the autumn of 1851 parliament was dissolved, and in September Mr. Brown received a requisition from the Reformers of Kent to stand as their candidate, one of the signatures being that of Alexander Mackenzie, afterwards premier of Canada. In accepting the nomination he said that he anticipated that he would be attacked as an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church; that he cordially adhered to the principles of the Protestant reformation; that he objected to the Roman Catholic Church trenching on the civil rights of the community, but that he would be ashamed to advocate any principle or measure which would restrict the liberty of any man, or deprive him on account of his faith of any right or advantage enjoyed by his fellow-subjects. In his election address he advocated religious equality, the entire separation of Church and State, the secularization of the clergy reserves, the proceeds to go to national schools, which were thus to be made free. He advocated, also, the building of a railway from Quebec to Windsor and Sarnia, the improvement of the canals and waterways, reciprocity with the Maritime Provinces and the United States, a commission for the reform of law procedure, the extension of the franchise and the reform of representation. Representation by population afterwards came to be the watchword of those who demanded that Upper Canada should have a larger representation than Lower Canada; but as yet this question had not arisen definitely. The population of Upper Canada was nearly doubled between 1842 and 1851, but it did not appear until 1852 that it had passed the lower province in population.

The advocacy of free schools was an important part of the platform. During the month of January, 1852, the Globe contained frequent articles, reports of public meetings, and letters on the subject. It was contended by some of the opponents of free schools that the poor could obtain free education by pleading their poverty; but the Globe replied that education should not be a matter of charity, but should be regarded as a right, like the use of pavements. The matter was made an issue in the election of school trustees in several places, and in the Toronto election the advocates of free schools were successful.

It will be convenient to note here that Brown's views on higher education corresponded with his views on public schools. In each case he opposed sectarian control, on the ground that it would dissipate the energies of the people, and divide among half a dozen sects the money which might maintain one efficient system. These views were fully set forth in a speech made on February 25th, 1853, upon a bill introduced by Mr. Hincks to amend the law relating to the University of Toronto. Brown denounced the measure as a surrender to the sectaries. There were two distinct ideas, he said, in regard to higher education in Upper Canada. One was that a university must be connected with a Church and under the management of the clergy, without whose control infidelity would prevail. The Reform party, led by Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Hincks, had denounced these views as the mere clap-trap of priestcraft. They held that there should be one great literary and scientific institution, to which all Canadians might resort on equal terms. This position was founded, not on contempt for religion, but on respect for religion, liberty, and conscience. "To no one principle does the Liberal party owe so many triumphs as to that of non-sectarian university education." Until 1843 Anglican control prevailed; then various unsuccessful efforts at compromise were made, and finally, in 1849, after twenty years of agitation, the desire of the Liberal party was fulfilled, and a noble institute of learning established. This act alone would have entitled Robert Baldwin to the lasting gratitude of his countrymen.

Continuing, Brown said that the Hincks bill was reactionary—that the original draft even contained a reference to the godless character of the institution—that the plan would fritter away the endowment by dividing it among sects and among localities. He opposed the abolition of the faculties of law and medicine. Rightly directed, the study of law was ennobling, and jurists should receive an education which would give them broad and generous views of the principles of justice. The endowment of the university ought to be sufficient to attract eminent teachers, and to encourage students by scholarships. "We are laying the foundations of a great political and social system. Our vote to-day may deeply affect, for good or evil, the future of the country. I adjure the House to pause ere destroying an institution which may one day be among the chief glories of a great and wise people."

Brown was elected by a good majority. The general result of the election was favourable to the Hincks-Morin administration. A large part of the interval between the election and the first session of the new parliament was spent by Mr. Hincks in England, where he made some progress in the settlement of the clergy reserve question, and where he also made arrangements for the building of the Grand Trunk Railway from Montreal westward through Upper Canada. Negotiations for the building of the Intercolonial Railway, connecting Lower Canada with the Maritime Provinces, fell through, and the enterprise was delayed for some years.

It was a matter of some importance that the first parliament in which Mr. Brown took part was held in the city of Quebec. He had entered on a course which made Catholics and French-Canadians regard him as their enemy, and in Quebec French and Catholic influence was dominant. Brown felt keenly the hostility of his surroundings, and there are frequent references in his speeches and in the correspondence of the Globe to the unfriendly faces in the gallery of the chamber, and to the social power exercised by the Church. "Nothing," says the Hon. James Young, "could exceed the courage and eloquence with which Brown stood up night after night, demanding justice for Upper Canada in the face of a hostile majority on the floor of the chamber and still more hostile auditors in the galleries above. So high, indeed, did public feeling run on some occasions that fears were entertained for his personal safety, and his friends occasionally insisted after late and exciting debates, lasting often till long after midnight, on accompanying him."[7] Mr. Young adds that these fears were not shared by Mr. Brown, and that they proved to be groundless. Mr. Brown, in fact, did not regard the Quebec influence as a personal grievance, but he argued that on public grounds the legislature ought not to meet in a city where freedom of speech might be impaired by local sentiment. That he harboured no malice was very finely shown when parliament met four years afterwards in Toronto. He had just concluded a powerful speech. The galleries were crowded, this time with a friendly audience, which at length broke into applause. Brown checked the demonstration. "I have addressed none," he said, "but members of this House, and trust that members from Lower Canada will not be overawed by any manifestation of feeling in this chamber. I shall be ready on all occasions to discourage it. In Lower Canada I stood almost alone in supporting my views, and I well know how painful these manifestations are to a stranger in a strange place. I do sincerely trust that gentlemen of French origin will feel as free to speak here as if they were in Quebec."

Brown made his maiden speech during the debate on the address. It is described in a contemporary account as "a terrible onslaught on the government." An idea of violence conveyed in this and other comments would appear to have been derived from the extreme energy of Brown's gestures. The printed report of the speech does not give that impression. Though severe, it was in the main historical and argumentative. It contained a review of the political history of Canada from the time of the rupture between Metcalfe and his ministers, up to the time when the principle of responsible government was conceded. Brown argued that Reformers were bound to stand by that principle, and to accept all its obligations. In his judgment it was essential to the right working of responsible government that parties should declare their principles clearly and stand or fall by them. If they held one set of principles out of office and another set in office they would reduce responsible government to a farce. He acknowledged the services which Hincks and Morin had rendered in fighting for responsible government; but he charged them with betraying that principle by their own conduct in office. Two systems of government, he said, were being tested on this continent. The American system contained checks and balances. The British system could be carried on only by the observance of certain unwritten laws, and especially a strict good faith and adherence to principle. Brown, as a party man, adhered firmly to Burke's definition of party: "A body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle on which they are all agreed." Office-holding, with him, was a minor consideration. "There is no theory in the principle of responsible government more vital to its right working than that parties shall take their stand on the prominent questions of the day, and mount to office or resign it through the success or failure of principles to which they are attached. This is the great safeguard for the public against clap-trap professions."


[7] Young's Public Men and Public Life in Canada, p. 83.



The condition of parties in the legislature was peculiar. The most formidable antagonist of the Reform government was the man who was rapidly rising to the leadership of the Reform party. The old Tory party was dead, and its leader, Sir Allan MacNab, was almost inactive. Macdonald, who was to re-organize and lead the new Conservative party, was playing a waiting game, taking advantage of Brown's tremendous blows at the ministry, and for the time being satisfied with a less prominent part in the conflict. Brown rapidly rose to a commanding position in the assembly. He did this without any finesse or skill in the management of men, with scarcely any assistance, and almost entirely by his own energy and force of conviction. His industry and capacity for work were prodigious. He spoke frequently, and on a wide range of subjects requiring careful study and mastery of facts. In the divisions he obtained little support. He had antagonized the French-Canadians, the Clear Grits of Upper Canada were for the time determined to stand by the government, and his views were usually not such as the Conservatives could endorse, although they occasionally followed him in order to embarrass the government.

Brown's course in parliament, however, was pointing to a far more important result than changes in the personnel of office-holders. Hincks once told him that the logical conclusion of that course was the dissolution of the union. There was a measure of truth in this. If he had said dissolution or modification, he would have been absolutely right. Between the ideas of Upper Canada and Lower Canada there was a difference so great that a legislative union was foredoomed to failure, and separation could be avoided only by a federation which allowed each community to take its own way. Brown did not create these difficulties, but he emphasized them, and so forced and hastened the application of the remedy. Up to the time of his entering parliament, his policy had related mainly to Upper Canada. In parliament, however, a mass of legislation emanating from Lower Canada aroused his strong opposition. In the main it was ecclesiastical legislation incorporating Roman Catholic institutions, giving them power to hold lands, to control education, and otherwise to strengthen the authority of the Church over the people. It is not necessary to discuss these measures in detail. The object is to arrive at Brown's point of view, and it was this: That the seat of government was a Catholic city, and that legislation and administration were largely controlled by the French-Canadian priesthood. He complained that Upper Canada was unfairly treated in regard to legislation and expenditure; that its public opinion was disregarded, and that it was not fairly represented. The question of representation steadily assumed more importance in his mind, and he finally came to the conclusion that representation by population was the true remedy for all the grievances of which he complained. Lower Canada, being now numerically the weaker, naturally clung to the system which gave it equality of representation.

In all these matters the breach between George Brown and the Lower Canadian representatives was widening, while he was becoming more and more the voice of Upper Canadian opinion. When, in the intervals between parliamentary sessions, he visited various places in Upper Canada, he found himself the most popular man in the community. He addressed great public meetings. Banquets were given in his honour. The prominent part taken by ministers of the Gospel at these gatherings illustrates at once the weakness and the strength of his position. He satisfied the "Nonconformist conscience" of Upper Canada by his advocacy not only of religious equality but of the prohibition of the liquor traffic and of the cessation of Sunday labour by public servants. But this very attitude made it difficult for him to work with any political party in Lower Canada.

In 1853 there was a remarkable article in the Cobourg Star, a Conservative journal, illustrating the hold which Brown had obtained upon Upper Canadian sentiment. This attitude was called forth by a banquet given to Brown by the Reformers of the neighbourhood. It expressed regret that the honour was given on party grounds. "Had it been given on the ground of his services to Protestantism, it would have brought out every Orangeman in the country. Conservatives disagreed with Brown about the clergy reserves, but if the reserves must be secularized, every Conservative in Canada would join Brown in his crusade against Roman Catholic endowments." Then follows this estimate of Brown's character: "In George Brown we see no agitator or demagogue, but the strivings of common sense, a sober will to attain the useful, the practical and the needful. He has patient courage, stubborn endurance, and obstinate resistance, and desperate daring in attacking what he believes to be wrong and in defending what he believes to be right. There is no cant or parade or tinsel or clap-trap about him. He takes his stand against open, palpable, tangible wrongs, against the tyranny which violates men's roofs, and the intolerance which vexes their consciences. True, he is wrong on the reserves question, but then he is honest, we know where to find him. He does not, like some of our Reformers, give us to understand that he will support us and then turn his back. He does not slip the word of promise to the ear and then break it to the lips. Leaving the reserves out of the question, George Brown is eminently conservative in his spirit. His leading principle, as all his writings will show, is to reconcile progress with preservation, change with stability, the alteration of incidents with the maintenance of essentials. Change, for the sake of change, agitation for vanity, for applause or mischief, he has contemptuously repudiated. He is not like the Clear Grit, a republican of the first water, but on the contrary looks to the connection with the mother country, not as fable or unreality or fleeting vision, but as alike our interest and our duty, as that which should ever be our beacon, our guide and our goal."

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