You can listen to this podcast episode on Canadian History Ehx
Every year is an important year in the history of Canada but some are more important than others. Perhaps there is an important invention that is made in a given year, or an iconic institution is created, or a notable birth.
For Canada, 1874 is a year with all of those things.
On Jan. 15, James David Stewart is born in Prince Edward Island. He would go on to become the leader of the Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island from 1921 to 1933. During that time, he would serve as the premier of the province from 1923 to 1927 and from 1931 to 1933.
On Jan. 16, Robert Service is born in England. He would go on to become known as the Bard of the Yukon for his poetry. His poems The Shooting Of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee were inspired by the Klondike Gold Rush, which he saw first hand after he was sent to the territory by the bank he worked for. Today, several schools are named for him and his poems have been recorded by musicians including Hank Snow.
On January 22, Alexander Mackenzie and his Liberals sweep their way to a majority in the government, defeating the Liberal-Conservative party of John A. Macdonald. This election came after the Pacific Scandal forced Macdonald to resign as prime minister the previous year. This election was notable for several reasons. It was the first election in which Prince Edward Island was a province, and the first election to use secret ballots in Canada. Voter turnout was 69.6 per cent, with the Liberals taking 129 seats, a gain of 35, and the Liberal-Conservatives dropping to 65 seats from their previous 100.
On Feb. 8, Joseph-Bruno Guigues passes away. He was the first bishop of the diocese of Bytown. During his life, it was said he was a simple man and as bishop, he would hear confession in his cathedral and visit the sick. He served as the bishop of Bytown from 1847 until his death.
On February 11, George Walkem became premier of British Columbia. He would serve for two years until 1876, before coming back as premier in 1878 and serving from 1882.
On March 9, Joseph Casavant passes away at the age of 67. He was a noted pipe organ manufacturer, who would build 17 organs that would be used in Catholic Cathedrals throughout Canada, including in Ottawa.
On April 14, Alexander Cambridge, is born in Middlesex, England to the Duke and Duchess of Teck. He would go on to serve as the Governor General from 1940 to 1946. During his time in the post, he helped to galvanize the Canadian war effort and was a host to British and American statesmen during the war.
On April 16, Louis Riel, who had been elected to the House of Commons despite being in exile after the Red River Rebellion, was barred from taking his seat in Ottawa. Wilfred Laurier, the future prime minister of Canada, would speak on behalf of Riel and against his expulsion from the House of Commons.
His speech was long, but he would say, “It has been said that Mr. Riel was only a rebel. How was it possible to use such language. What act of rebellion did he commit? Did he ever raise any other standard than the national flag. Did he ever proclaim any other authority than the sovereign authority of the Queen? No, never. His whole crime and the crime of his friends was they wanted to be treated like British subjects and not be bartered away like common cattle. If that be an act of rebellion, where is the one amongst us who, if he had happened to have been with them, would not have been rebels as they were?”
He would conclude his long speech thus, “Before sitting down, I may be allowed to sum up in a single word: We have no proof of the facts on which the motion of expulsion rests and to adopt the motion would be not only to commit an arbitrary act, but to establish a precedent which will be a perpetual danger to our free institutions.”
The New Brunswick provincial election was held in June and July, but there were no party labels at this time. In the election, the issue of the Common Schools Act was the main topic among candidates. Roman Catholics and Acadians were opposed to the legislation since it banned religious instruction in public schools. A total of 35 candidates supported the government, five were in the opposition and one was neutral. George Edwin King would serve as premier from 1872 to 1878.
On June 16, the first of two future prime ministers would be born. Arthur Meighen, the 9th prime minister of Canada from 1920 to 1921 and also during a brief portion of 1926.
On July 8, Marc-Amable Gerard becomes the premier of Manitoba, again. He had served as the second premier of the province from 1871 to 1872, and would serve again from July 8, 1874 to Dec. 2, 1874.
One of the biggest moments form this year happened on July 26, when Alexander Graham Bell told his father in Branford about his new invention, which he called the telephone.
On Sept. 22, Sir Charles-Eugene de Boucherville becomes the premier of Quebec. He will serve until 1878.
On Oct. 1, the North West Mounted Police, after completing their March West, found Fort Macleod. The community will become the headquarters of the NWMP in 1876, replacing Fort Livingstone.
On Oct. 10, Roland Fairbairn McWilliams is born. He would serve as Mayor of Peterborough from 1906 to 1910 and would lead the Young Men’s Christian Association from 1922 to 1929. In 1940, he was appointed as the Lt. Governor of Manitoba, a position he held until 1953. As a strict follower of temperance, he forbade alcohol being served in Government House. He was also a champion rugby player as a young man and won the Dominion title with the University of Toronto Juniors in 1893.
On Nov. 30, Lucy Maud Montgomery is born in Prince Edward Island. She will begin writing a series of novels in 1908 beginning with Anne of Green Gables, which will make her world famous. For her work, she would be honoured by King George V, named a National Historic Person, have stamps issued in her name, and a park named after her in Toronto. Anne of Green Gables would become one of the best selling books in history.
On Dec. 3, after only a few months in place, Marc-Amable Gerard is replaced by Robert Davis as the Manitoba premier. Gerard had been abandoned by his English ministers and was forced to resign. Davis would serve as premier for the next four years and would win the Dec. 30 election.
On Dec. 17, Philip Carteret Hill and his Liberals move to a second-consecutive majority in the Nova Scotia election. On this same day, William Lyon Mackenzie King was born in Kitchener. He would go on to become one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers, serving longer than any other person in the position. He would serve as leader of the Liberal Party from 1919 to 1948, and would serve as prime minister from 1921 to 1926, with a three month gap during that year, followed by 1926 to 1930. He would come back into power in 1935 and serve until 1948.
On the same day that a future prime minister was born and a new premier was elected in Nova Scotia, Hiram Blanchard would pass away. He had served as the first premier of Nova Scotia, serving from July 4, 1867 to Sept. 30, 1867. At the time of his death, he was serving as the leader of the opposition.