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Feb 22 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, February 22, 1902

King Edward VII. has now been on the throne for more than a year, and he has so comported himself as to win universal respect. He has been a constitutional King in the widest sense, and has followed, as he promised, in the footsteps of his illustrious mother. What is most remarkable about his reign is the fact that he began it at an age when most English Kings had retired from business. The Kings of England, with the exception of those of the House of Hanover, have not been long-lived. Edward VII was in his sixtieth year when he ascended the throne; William the Conqueror was 60 when he died. Between the Conqueror's time and the accession of George I only four English Kings, lived to be more than 60. These were Henry I, Henry III, Edward I and Edward III. The term of human life has been so much lengthened in modern times that what was old age a few centuries ago is now only middle age. We think of Henry VI as an old, worn-out man when he was murdered by Richard, but his years were only 60. Henry VII appears in history as very grave and venerable, yet when he died he was but 52. Henry II, whose reign forms an epoch in English history, died at the age of 56. The lives of all men, including kings, were harder in those days than they are now, and so were briefer.

The Reform Bill of '32

A very estimable mediaeval gentleman, who contributes a literary department to a contemporary, has been denouncing the English Reform Bill of 1832 as "the most fraudulent of all modern impostures." The reason he puts forward to justify this strong language is that " the working classes were simply fooled. They had no more power than before. The middle class Whigs got all the advantage." I suppose we are to infer from this that if the Reform Bill of 1832 had given votes to all the workingmen in England the Tories would have supported it. Any person is welcome to believe this if he can. Just seventy years ago on this very month and day the battle for reform was being waged in the British House of Commons. All the forces of Toryism were rallied to oppose it. All sorts of obstructive tactics were resorted to for the purpose of defeating the will of the people. It took more than three months to get the bill through the House of Commons, although at every division the majority in favor of it exceeded 100.

The Good Old Days

Every Canadian youth should study the story of the Reform Bill, for unless he does so he will never understand what Toryism really means. In that contest we see Toryism in all its naked hideousness, and stripped of those adornments which disguise its real aspect. Before the passing of the Reform Bill two-thirds of the House of Commons were appointed by peers or other influential persons. Every great nobleman had a number of seats at his unquestioned disposal. The Duke of Norfolk owned eleven members, Lord Lonsdale owned nine, the Duke of Rutland owned six. Seventy members were returned by thirty-five places where there were scarcely any voters at all. Old Sarum had two members, but not one solitary inhabitant; Gatton had two members, but only seven electors. Three hundred members, it was estimated, were returned by one hundred and sixty persons. All this time such great cities of industry and commerce as Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester were wholly unrepresented. The Reform Bill of 1832 proposed to change all this, and did change it; and now it is denounced by an unforgiving modern Canadian Tory as the "most fraudulent of all impostures." Briefly stated, what the Reform Bill accomplished was this: In towns it gave the franchise to occupants who paid a rental of ten pounds; in counties, to those who paid a rental of forty pounds. In England, fifty-six boroughs with a population under two thousand, and returning one hundred and eleven members were disfranchised; thirty boroughs with a population under four thousand, and returning each two members, were reduced to one member. Twenty new boroughs received each one member; twenty-two were increased each two members; the county members were increased from ninety-four to one hundred and fifty-nine. Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester each received two members.

Poor Old Eldon

This was not a very sweeping reform, but it was all that could be got at the time, and it was a great deal more than the Tories wanted to yield. Old Lord Eldon, the greatest of the Tories of that day, opposed the Reform Bill because it interfered with the rights of property. Those rotten boroughs, as they were called, which returned members to Parliament, were sold in open market just like any other property. The borough of Gatton had been sold for 100,000, not that it was worth that sum, but because its owner could also own two members of Parliament. Lord Eldon, therefore, argued that these boroughs were property and could not be taken away. He said:-"Is it possible for any man to have the boldness to say that property is secure when we are sweeping away near one hundred boroughs, and almost all the corporations in the country, because we have a notion that those who are connected with them have not executed their trust properly?" Here we have no mention of the workingman or his right to the franchise. On the contrary, Lord Eldon, in closing his speech in the House of Lords against the bill, said:- "The bill will be found to go the length of introducing in its train, if passed, universal suffrage, annual parliaments and vote by ballot. It will unhinge the whole frame of society as now constituted." Poor old Eldon, he was the son of an honest Newcastle working man, yet he could see nothing but ruin for England in an act which gave to great industrial communities a voice in the affairs of the nation. Yet there was this excuse for him, that he was a product of a bygone age. What can be said in palliation of a modern Canadian Tory who, in the year 1902, denounces the Reform Bill and would go back to old Sarum and Gatton.

B.C. Canneries

I met on a train a man from British Columbia the other day who gave me some valuable information in regard to the salmon canneries of that province. I had read a good deal last year about the strike of the men who supplied the canneries on the Columbia River with salmon, but I did not know until I met this gentleman that the strike was prompted and encouraged by the American canners, who would like very much to drive the Canadians out of business. They are now doing their best to ruin the salmon fisheries by the use of traps, in which the salmon are taken in enormous numbers. These traps line the American coast of Juan de Fuca Straits and intercept millions of salmon on their way to Fraser River. The Canadian authorities will not allow traps on the Canadian shore or along the southern coast of Vancouver Island, although they have been strongly urged by the British Columbia canners. The matter is again to be placed before the government and it is quite possible that a different decision will be reached for it is clear that if the British Columbia salmon fisheries are to be ruined by traps, the people of Canada might as well share in the spoils. It is claimed that if the Canadians were allowed to use traps the Americans would have to abandon them because the fish pass through Canadian waters first.

Wellington and His Brother

I was reading the other day the life of the Marquess Wellesley, eldest brother of the Duke of Wellington and Governor-General of India. The Marquess was a far more brilliant man than his brother, the Duke, and if there had been no Marquess, the General who won such renown in India, the Peninsula and at Waterloo would never have been heard of outside his regiment. His position as Governor-General of India enabled the Marquess to give his brother the command of an army in the war with the Mahrattas, and Arthur Wellesley took the first step in his long and brilliant military career by winning the victories of Assaye and Argaum. It was the influence of the Marquess that obtained for the future Duke the command of the army in the Spanish Peninsula, and as he was Foreign Secretary and a member of the Cabinet he was able to give his brother his best support for several momentous years. Without that support the General would have been displaced long before he had an opportunity of proving his great ability as a strategist and tactician. In this Instance, family influence worked for the benefit of the country. Now the Marquess, although he had so brilliant a career in India, is almost forgotten, while his brother, with a much narrower understanding, is known to every person as England's greatest general.

We hear a good deal in these days about electoral corruption and crooked election methods, but I fancy there is no election trick of modern times which our venerable ancestors could not have matched. To those who are looking for something really clever in the shape of an election device, the case of New Shoreham may be commended. This borough had but a small number of voters, and nearly all of them formed themselves into a society called the "Christian Club," the objects of which were avowed to be the promotion of religion and charity. The real object of the club was to sell the seat for the borough to the highest bidder. This was done by the agency of a secret committee, which concluded a sale with the candidate who was willing to pay the most money, and divided the cash thus realized among the members of the club generally. As the members of this committee abstained from voting themselves, on the ground of conscientious scruples, they escaped the imputation of bribery, until a disagreement with the returning officer, who was in their confidence led him to reveal all their plans. It appeared, by evidence laid before the House of Commons in 1771 that at the election there were five candidates only two of whom came near the terms of the committee with their offer. General Smith offered 3,000 down, and to benefit the place by building shipping. Mr. Rumbold bid 35 a vote to all the freemen, and was consequently chosen by the committee. The returning officer, however, preferred the General, and the agreement led to an open quarrel, which ended by the scandal coming before the House of Commons. The Opposition of the day wished to disfranchise the borough, but were outvoted, the House resolving instead that eighty-one of the freemen should forfeit the franchise forever.

Canadian Ports

At the opening of the St. John (N.B.) exhibition in 1896, Sir Wilfrid Laurier made a declaration in favor of building up the ports of Canada that will ever be memorable. He said: "I will never be content until every dollar's worth of the produce of Canada is exported through the ports of Canada." Here is a fine clear-cut statement of the hope and aspirations of the leader of the Government, which is slowly but surely becoming a reality. Hereafter there will be no building up of foreign ports at the expense of our own. There is no doubt that desperate efforts have been made by men interested in foreign ports to discredit the ports of Canada, especially Montreal, and we have seen the result of their efforts in the increased insurance rates at Lloyds on vessels coming to Canadian ports. But out of this temporary difficulty good will come in the end, for with the help of the Government, the navigation of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence will be so greatly improved as to silence all criticism. In the meantime we see an indication of the final outcome of the struggle in the position of St. John, N.B. and Portland, Me., as I respects Canadian trade. If any one had predicted even two years ago that St. John would do a greater Canadian business than Portland within any reasonable number of years he would; have been looked upon as an over-sanguine individual and a false prophet. But it appears from the published reports that this winter St. John is doing twice as much business as Portland, Me., and has six lines of ocean steamships running regularly to Europe against three for the American port.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurtier has the faculty of saying the right thing upon all occasions, and this is a great source of popularity and strength. Of the four Canadian Premiers whom I have seen leading the House of Commons, Sir Wilfrid Laurier is without doubt the most capable. In saying this I do not forget the great reputation enjoyed by Sir John A. Macdonald, but while I fully recognize his great ability, I never saw anything remarkable in his way of leading the House. It was in council and management of men that Sir John mostly shone. I have a very vivid impression of the first time I saw Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It was at the session of 1879, the on immediately proceeding the Liberal defeat of 1878, and he then occupied one of the front seats to the left of the Speaker. He was standing at his desk, and I was much struck by his appearance; although then approaching 40 years, he looked much younger than his age, and his face was that of a student rather than a public man. Although his talents were then recognized, no one thought that he would attain the leadership of the Liberal party and be the means of carrying it to victory. In those days Mr. Alex. Mackenzie and Mr. Blake were the mighty men of the Liberal party, and all good liberals were expected to march under their banners. Both were good men, but it may be very properly said that from the moment Sir Wilfrid became the leader of the party it was inspired with new hopes of victory, and marched forth to battle with greater confidence. Sir Wilfrid Laurier is an ideal leader, invariably courteous, equal to any emergency, thoroughly conversant with every point of parliamentary law and familiar with the history of every important measure. He is one of the few men now living whose speaking confutes the statement so often made that eloquence is no longer a force in politics.

A Conspicuous Figure

Some of the Conservative papers seem to be offended at the statement that Sir. Wilfred Laurier will be a conspicuous figure at the King's coronation. It is difficult to understand why any Canadian should object to such a remark or endeavor to reduce the importance of our Premier in the eyes of the British people. Sir. Wilfred will not go as the representative of any party, but of all Canada. Whatever honors he receives will be given to him as leader of the Government of Canada, and the first man England's greatest colony. More than that, he will illustrate in his own person the settlement of a race question far more difficult than the one that is now troubling South Africa. Nor is there any candid man who will venture to deny that Sir. Wilfred Laurier, by reason of his intellectual gifts, his country and refinement, and his wide views on all Imperial questions, is pre-eminently qualified to represent Canada at the coronation. Neither Canadian prestige nor Canadian interests will suffer in his hands, and every Conservative knows just as well as every Liberal.


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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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