Canada A Yearly Journey: 1872

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In January 1872, John Young left his post as Governor General due to poor health. With no Governor General in place, there was talk of Sir John A. Macdonald, currently serving as the Prime Minister of Canada, would take over as Governor General. The Montreal Star reported quote:

“Lord Lisgar will immediately leave Canada and that Sir John A. Macdonald will be made a Privy Councilor and a Baronet and receive the appointment of Governor General of Canada.”

He would be replaced by Lord Dufferin. On June 25, 1872, he would be appointed as the Governor General of Canada, beginning a six-year career that would see many changes come to the country. The move could not have come soon enough for Dufferin, who was in danger of financial ruin due to his high spending and large debts.

Lord and Lady Dufferin arrived on the Queen Victoria and thousands of people came out to see them arrive. The Ottawa Daily Citizen would write quote:

“The mayor, looking exceedingly gorgeous in all the glory of a new toga and chain, awaited, with the respectability of the city at his back, the arrival of the nobleman, who henceforth, for a while, to represent the greatest of earthly sovereigns on the continent of America.”

The newspaper then described Lord Dufferin as he stepped off the boat, stating quote:

“He is about five feet eight inches in height, sparely built and does not weigh apparently more than 140 pounds. His face is expressive of power and thought and there is an air of quiet determination about him that inclines an observer to conclude he is a man who can decide and act for himself.”

After several speeches, Lord and Lady Dufferin then made their way to Rideau Hall. The Citizen would state quote:

“Lord Dufferin, standing up in the carriage to which he was escorted, bowed several times in acknowledgement but made no verbal reply and the party drove off towards Rideau Hall, amidst an intense display of enthusiasm, loyalty and welcome on the part of the multitude.”

On March 14, Henry Joseph Clarke becomes the third premier of Manitoba. He would only serve until 1874, during which time he defended Lord Gordon Gordon, a conman who pretended to be a Scottish lord and made a fortune in investment fraud. The revelation of who he actually was caused a great deal of public embarrassment for Clarke. Clarke would only serve in the Manitoba Legislature from 1870 to 1874 when he was defeated, half of which time he was premier.

On March 25, the Toronto Printers’ begin to strike, looking to get a nine-hour day. The printers were hoping to gain a shorter workday and they soon gathered many supporters.

The Ottawa Daily Citizen reported quote:

“The Printers have struck in all the offices in this city except the Leader. The movement takes no one by surprise as it has been contemplated for some time.”

On April 15, they held a rally in which 10,000 supporters showed up. George Brown of the Globe, the head of the Masters Printers’ Association, has the police arrest the entire 24-man strike committee. 

Three days later, Sir John A. Macdonald introduces a bill to legalize trade unions, which will become law and allow labour unions on June 14. When that becomes law, the Criminal Law Amendment Act also makes picketing illegal. 

On March 31, the first issue of the Toronto Mail is published. Over time, this newspaper will become the Globe and Mail, one of the most popular newspapers in Canada. 

On June 20, Phoebe Campbell would be hanged for the murder of her husband the previous year. I related this in the last episode, in which she stated other men had broken into her home and killed her husband, but the evidence seemed to point to her instead.

On June 22, a Grand Trunk Railway running from Toronto to Montreal derails near Shannonville, Ontario, killing 34 people. The flange of the driving wheel of the engine had broke, throwing the engine and tender off the track and running 200 yards on the ground and pulling the train with it. Upon crashing, cars smashed into each other, killing the occupants. The steam car also ruptured, sending boiling hot water and steam into the second-class car.

The Montreal Star relates quote:

“One who was at the scene of the disaster describes the groans and screams as terrific. Men, women and children being drawn out of the debris, either dead or dying.”

On July 5, George Luther Hathaway, the third premier of New Brunswick, would pass away. He had been seriously injured on June 25 when he suffered an injury to his hand after jumping from a moving train. He would die due to blood poisoning from the incident. 

On July 20, the 1872 federal election is held. The Liberal Party was still not lead by an official leader but Edward Blake took on the role as unofficial leader, while Sir John A. Macdonald continued to lead the Conservatives. By this point, the dual mandates had been abolished, which meant that a person could not serve in the House of Commons and a Legislature at the same time, which pushed Blake to focus on the House of Commons. At the time, the British Columbia had six seats in the House of Commons, while Manitoba had four. The size of the House of Commons had also increased, from 162 seats to 200. Over the previous five years, the fortunes of the Conservative Party had changed as well. The country was dealing with an economic recession and the country feeling divided over the promised railway to connect British Columbia to the rest of the country.

While the previous election had run for six weeks, the 1872 election would run for three months, from July 20, 1872 to Oct. 12, 1872.

Even though the House of Commons had increased its seat count, the Conservatives still only finished with 100 seats in the House of Commons, while the Liberals picked up 33, coming within six seats of defeating the Conservatives to lead the country. The new provinces were mostly split in votes. The Conservatives picked up four seats in BC, while the Liberals had two. In Manitoba, the Conservatives had two seats, while the Liberals had one, along with one independent. The real gain for the Liberals was in Ontario, where future prime minister Alexander Mackenzie campaigned heavily for the party. In that province, the party had 48 seats to 38 by the Conservatives. In Quebec, the Conservatives made up their ground with 37 seats to the Liberals 27.

At the time, there was still not ballot, and simply a proclamation of who one would vote for. Those who opposed the ballot, including an unnamed MP, stated, quote:

“A workman, for example, having promised his employer to vote one way would vote another.”

New Brunswick was the only province to have ballots, which it adopted in 1855 after several riots that led to deaths during elections.

With the Conservatives at 100 seats, and the Liberals at 95, along with five independents, this created Canada’s first minority government. Macdonald was forced to work with the independents in order to have a functional majority over the Liberals.

Of course the real story of this election would come out after and it would lead to one of the biggest scandals in Canadian history, the Pacific Scandal.

In the summer of 1872, Macdonald asked Hugh Allan to put a company together to build the railway and he was promised the presidency of that company. Allan, possibly without the knowledge of Macdonald, was also guaranteed the charter and the majority of stock in return for additional election funding, amount to $350,000. On April 2, 1873, the scandal broke in the House of Commons and there were calls for a committee of inquiry and charging that Allan’s company had been financed with American money and that Allan had given large sums of money to senior members of the government in the election. On July 18, telegrams published in Liberal newspapers showed that Macdonald and others had accepted large sums of money.

While Macdonald maintained that his hands were clean, stating he had not profited personally, his government would be forced to resign on Nov. 5, 1873, and the Conservatives would lose in the Jan. 22, 1874 election. Macdonald remained as leader, but his party lost 35 seats in that election. Macdonald would state that due to his heavy drinking in 1872, he did not remember periods of time during the election or negotiations with Allan. After losing his role as prime minister, Macdonald began to drink less.

On Sept. 1, John Kent, who served as the premier of Newfoundland from 1858 to 1861, would pass away in St. John’s at the age of 67.

On Oct. 2, the Halifax Morning Chronicle ran an ad looking for recruits for a new police force that would become the North West Mounted Police. It stated quote:

“Active, Healthy Young Men, for service in the Mounted Police Force in the North West Territory. They must be of good character, single between the ages of 20 and 36, capable of riding. They will have to serve a term of three years. Their pay will be 75 cents per dime and everything, (uniform, rations, board, etc) found, and on completion of service will receive a free grant of 160 acres of land, with right of choice.”

On Oct. 10, 1872, the San Juan Island were awarded to the United States, which would settle the Pig War that had begun in 1859 and continued, with no real resolution or conflict, for a decade and a half. This established the border between the United States and British Columbia in the Haro Straight.

In the decision, it was stated:

“Most in accordance with the true interpretations of the treaty concluded on the 15th of June, 1846, between the Governments of Her Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, is the claim of the Government of the United States that the boundary-line between the territories of her Britannia Majesty and the United States of America should be drawn through the Haro Channel.”

On Nov. 25, 1872, the British withdrew from the island.

On Oct. 31, Oliver Mowat would become the premier of Ontario, replacing of Edward Blake. Mowat would go on to serve as premier for the next 24 years, and would then become Lt. Governor of the province from 1897 to 1903. His time as premier is longer than anyone else in the province’s history. He will also be part of the last Liberal dynasty in Ontario’s political history as the Conservatives will dominate the provincial politics throughout the 20th century.

On Nov. 10, Frederick Alderdice is born in Belfast, Ireland. He would be the tenth and last prime minister of Newfoundland, serving in 1928 and from 1932 to 1934. His government was unable to deal with the growing economic crisis in Newfoundland and the dominion would have a partial default on its debts. Aid was provided by Canada and Britain in exchange for a royal commission that would determine the fate of the dominion. The commission recommended the suspension of responsible government and a Commission of Government appointed. Alderdice accepted this amid British pressure. He would pass away two years later in 1936. 

On Nov. 21, the Victoria Memorial was completed and unveiled by Lord Dufferin. The memorial, which is a sculpture of Queen Victoria, is located in Montreal and was built through donations from regular residents. 

On Nov. 30, John McCrae would be born Guelph, Ontario. He would write In Flanders Field in 1915, which has become a part of our heritage and an iconic poem related to the First World War. His poem has become a part of Remembrance Day celebrations throughout Canada. He would unfortunately die from pneumonia three weeks after the end of the war.

On Dec. 23, Amor De Cosmos would become the second premier of British Columbia. He would serve for the next two years. Cosmos, born William Alexander Smith, had his name changed in 1854 to be Love of Cosmos in Spanish. He said it was quote:

“To what I love most, love of order, beauty, the world, the universe.”

In 1858, he arrived in Victoria in the Colony of British Columbia and had served in the legislature since British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871. As premier, he would focus on economic expansion, the development of schools, the growth of the steel industry and political reform.

He would eventually be declared insane in 1895 and he would attempt to found a hot food delivery service company to prospectors in the Klondike. He would pass away on July 4, 1897.

Many important initiatives and events would happen this year as well.

On Nov. 30, 1872, Winnipeg Free Press was published for the first time this year, and is still published. It is currently the oldest newspaper in western Canada. 

An unfortunate law would be put through in British Columbia this year, banning all Asian and First Nation people from being able to vote in any election in the province.

George King would become the premier of New Brunswick for the second time, making him both the second and fourth premier of the province. He would serve until 1878.

Elijah McCoy would invent the first of several devices for oil engines that would be used in trains and factories. Related to that, in a roundabout way, is the new Patent Act that was introduced this year that encouraged the importing and licensing of technology and foreign patents by allowed the legal use of a patent in Canada if it was not registered within two years. 

It was also this year that negotiations for Treaty 3 would begin, although the process would take much longer than Treaty 1 and 2, which only took a few weeks.

Things would be different this time as the federal government put down limitations on the money that the commissioners negotiating the treaty could offer to the Saulteux people, in exchange for land. Whereas the previous treaties had provided $15 per family of five, this treaty would limit that to $12 per family. The negotiators for the government on this treaty would be Wemyss Simpson, Simon Dawson, who was an engineer and overseeing the road-waterway system project that would cut through the Saulteux land, and Hudson’s Bay Company representative Robert Pither. Treaty negotiations began in 1871 with the Saulteaux but the Saulteaux made it clear they were not interested in the deal of ceding land, but instead wanted payments for the right of way through their territory. Treaty negotiations quickly fell apart but both parties agreed to meet again in June of 1872.

When that meeting came around, the commissioners were again unsuccessful in securing a deal. The Saulteaux wanted an increase in annual payments due to the fact that gold and silver were found on their lands, greatly increasing their value. Simpson came to believe that the Saulteaux on the American side of the border were influencing their Canadian counterparts. After the negotiations fell apart, the federal government told Simpson to try again in the fall. They also stated that he could offer chiefs an annual salary of $25, and band leaders $15. When October 1872 came around, the two sides once again met but this time only a few of the Saulteaux showed up. Most had gone home for hunting, and the decision was made to try once again in the summer of 1873.

Information from Biographi, Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadian Labour Congress, Wikipedia, Ottawa Daily Citizen, Montreal Star,

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