L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia
[This text was written in 1880 by John Charles Dent. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]
MR. BROWN'S name has long been one of the most conspicuous in our politics, and it is safe to say that no man now living has made a more distinct or abiding mark upon the Canadian history of his time. Although a good many years have elapsed since his retirement, in a sense, from active participation in public life, there is no man whose character and principles have been more frequently discussed down to the present hour ; and there is certainly no man now living in Canada as to whom a wider divergence of sentiment has prevailed. It is proverbially difficult to do full justice to a biography during the lifetime of the subject of it, and the interval which has elapsed since Mr. Brown's lamented death is as yet too short to render the difficulty materially less. The time for reviewing his career with historic discrimination or comprehensiveness of detail is yet distant. The battles in which he took a foremost part were so fiercely contested, and the issues at stake were so momentous, that it is well nigh impossible, even for the most impartially-minded writer, to review them without taking either one side or the other. To persons familiar with the history of this country during the last thirty-five years, it will seem like a truism to say that Mr. Brown was a man of great energy, of indomitable will, of very distinctly pronounced opinions, and of very marked individuality of character generally. His opponents and even some of those who were not his opponents—have been wont to say of him that he was overbearing and dictatorial, that he was firmly wedded to his own way, and that he had scant toleration for the opinions of those who differed from him. To these accusations, whether well or ill-founded, it is only fair to reply that Mr. Brown's opinions on important public questions were generally held, not only conscientiously, but with a deep-rootedness and intensity such as few men ever know. To the consideration of every public question which engaged his attention he brought a fervour and enthusiam which had no affinity with the half-formed and lightly-held predilections of more shallow minds. When he had once passed judgment on a question, doubt as to the soundness of his conclusions was never permitted to intrude itself upon him. He had no conception of “possibilities beyond his own horizon," and not much faculty for receiving discipline at the hands of others. His convictions, right or wrong, were to him demonstrated propositions. They always found forcible expression, and did not always conduce to his popularity. They were often at variance with the prevalent sentiments of the community, and not seldom with the views of his own political adherents. Neither opposition on the part of his antagonists, nor remonstrance on the part of his friends, was ever found of sufficient weight to silence him when he felt that he had anything of importance to say. He was always accustomed to deliver his message after his own fashion, and the fashion was sometimes one which cannot be held up to unqualified admiration. No man ever more completely fulfilled in his own person all the essential conditions of “a good hater.” His denunciations of men to whom he was opposed, and of measures whereof he disapproved, were sometimes sweeping and unsparing. His advocacy of cherished opinions was vigorous and uncompromising. Such a man is tolerably certain to make warm friends and bitter foes. Mr. Brown was able to number among the public men of Canada a goodly array of both. As has already been intimated, the time has not yet arrived for a just and satisfactory analysis of his life's work. When such an analysis shall have been made, the verdict of history will follow. The purport of that verdict is not doubtful, though the process whereby it will be arrived at cannot yet be fully known. Here, it will be said, was a man who was possessed of genuine convictions. His ambition was high, and perhaps not always without alloy; but his statesmanship was a reality and not a sham, and he had always at heart the best interests of his country. He came to Canada as a young man, without friends or worldly wealth. By his energy and ability he speedily acquired an influence and a position which were second to those of none of his competitors. He spoke, wrote and fought for the people's rights with unwearying industry, irrepressible vigour, and dauntless courage. He took a prominent part in public life during many years, and there was no great reform of his time with which he was not honourably connected. If he was tenacious of his opinions, his opinions on public questions generally turned out to be sound. Though a strong and even violent party man, he could rise above party considerations, and join hands with the most uncommonpromising of his foes to bring about a scheme of government which bade fair to secure the country's lasting good. Such a man, what-ever his shortcomings, was both a patriot and a statesman, and must fill a high and honourable place in the history of Canada. This, or something like this, we believe, will be the purport of the verdict which posterity will pass upon the personal and public career of the Honourable George Brown.
He was, as most of our readers know, a native of Scotland, and a son of the late Mr. Peter Brown. His mother was Miss Mackenzie, the only daughter of Mr. George Mackenzie, of “The Cottage," Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis. At the time of his son's birth, and for many years previously, Peter Brown was a resident of Edinburgh, where he was engaged in various building and mercantile operations. He was a man of high native intelligence, great force of character, and good social standing. He possessed a sound education, had read much, and was especially well versed in the constitutional and political history of Great Britain. He was well known and highly respected in Edinburgh society, and though not addicted to letters at this period of his life, he had many friends among the literary men of the Modern Athens. He was on intimate terms with Cockburn and Jeffrey; and, notwithstanding his Liberal politics, was personally acquainted with Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, and John Gibson Lockhart. In addition to the members of his own family there are many persons still living in Canada who knew him well during the last twenty years of his life, and who cherish his memory with respect and affection. Both by descent and by predilection he was an avowed Liberal in politics, according to the tenets of Liberalism in those days, but was a zealous upholder of monarchy, and a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church.
His eldest son, the subject of this memoir, was born in Edinburgh on the 29th of November, 1818, and at the time of his death was sixty-one years and five months old. In his early boyhood he attended the High School of his native city, but as his educational progress at that seat of learning was not satisfactory to himself, he was transferred, at his own request, to the Southern Academy of Edinburgh. The latter institution was at that time presided over by Dr. William Gunn, a capable teacher and a very worthy man. Under the instruction of this gentleman young George Brown made rapid progress, and was particularly distinguished for his proficiency in mathematics. During his last session at the Academy he stood high in all his classes, and won flattering encomiums from his tutor. At the closing examination he was chosen to declaim an exercise, and Dr. Gunn, in introducing him to the audience, made a remark the appositeness of which must strike every one who is acquainted with the young scholar's subsequent career. “This young gentleman," said the Doctor, “is not only endowed with high enthusiasm, but he possesses the faculty of creating enthusiasm in others." Many of his school-fellows at this establishment have since risen to high dignities, both at home and abroad. He was also for a short time a pupil at a private school at Musselburgh, where he had for a fellow-pupil the present Mr. Justice Galt. His father wished him to enter the University, but the project did not meet with the son's approval. His mind was practical, and he determined that his school should thereafter be the world at large. He began to take part in his father's business, and to interest himself to some extent in political and municipal affairs. The father early discerned the bent of his son's mind, and doubtless did much in those early days to mould his opinions. They were wont to hold long discussions on the topics of the day, sometimes seated by the domestic fireside, and sometimes in the course of long walks through the devious ways and picturesque suburbs of the northern capital. In the course of one of these peregrinations they encountered an elderly, venerable, and most benevolent-looking gentleman who was saluted by the father with ceremonious respect. After they had passed on, the son was informed that the old gentleman was no less distinguished a personage than the author of “Waverley."
The family-circle at home was a singularly happy and harmonious one, and for some years nothing occurred to disturb its felicity. In process of time, however, through the misconduct of an agent, Mr. Brown the elder became involved in pecuniary difficulties. After a long and fruitless endeavour to extricate himself he determined to emigrate to America, and in 1838 he carried out his determination. Accompanied by his eldest son, and leaving the rest of his family behind, until he should be able to provide a new home for them beyond the Atlantic, he sailed for New York. The father, though by no means insensible to his reverse of fortune, was far from being dispirited by it ; and the son was possessed of a boundless energy and fertility of re-source which were not likely to fail him under such circumstances. Both father and son soon found congenial employment. Ere-long the family were comfortably settled down in New York, and looking forward with hope and confidence to the future. Peter Brown's wide reading and his comprehensive knowledge of British politics stood him in good stead. He became a contributor to The Albion, a weekly newspaper published in New York in the interest of the English population. The Albion had then been in existence nearly twenty years, having been founded in 1822 by Dr. John S. Bartlett, British Consul at New York, who managed it successfully for more than a quarter of a century. It was the principal medium whereby English ideas were disseminated through the United States, and had a political and social influence more than commensurate with its circulation, which was necessarily somewhat restricted. The proprietor of The Albion was glad to avail himself of the services of so well-informed a contributor as the elder Brown, who, in addition to his intimate acquaintance with English politics, was a ready and forcible writer, and a man whose opinions were of value. His articles at once attracted attention, and were eagerly read wherever the paper circulated. His style was clear, earnest and logical, and his views were liberal and enlightened without being ultra-radical. It was during his connection with The Albion that a very foolish book made its appearance at New York under the title of The Glory and Shame of England. The author was Mr. C. Edwards Lester, an American gentleman who for some time filled the post of United States Consul at Genoa. It professed to give an account of the writer's own experiences during a hurried visit to Great Britain, and was conceived in a style and spirit which would have been malevolent if they had not been feeble and childish. It abounded with errors and false logic, and contained not a few assertions which, to any one con-versant with British institutions and social life, were palpable misstatements of fact. It appeared in 1841, and, chiefly in consequence of its rabid republicanism and its denunciations of everything British, it attracted an attention altogether out of pro-portion to its intrinsic merits. Mr. Peter Brown, in emigrating from his native land, had by no means left his loyalty behind him, and he conceived it to be his duty as a British subject not to allow such a farrago of absurdities to remain unanswered. He wrote and published a reply to Mr. Lester's book under the title of The Fame and Glory of England Vindicated. It went over the ground previously traversed by Mr. Lester chapter by chapter, and almost page by page. It embodied a formidable array of statistics, and pointed out number-less absurdities and inconsistencies. This work appeared in 1842 from the press of Messrs. Wiley & Putnam, of New York, and was at once eagerly read and discussed by a wide circle. The all but unanimous verdict was that Mr. Lester stood convicted of gross ignorance and unfairness, if not of wilful falsehood. Mr. Brown's nom de plume on the title-page was “Libertas," but the real authorship was no secret, and the effect of his book was to make his name widely known through the Northern States as a writer of much keenness and force. His contributions to The Albion were read with greater interest than before, and there can be no doubt that his writings did much to extend the circulation of that paper. His position, however, did not in all respects fulfil his aspirations. He was merely an employé on the editorial staff, and probably had to submit to a certain amount of editorial dictation. New York and the Northern States generally contained a large Scottish population, and Mr. Brown conceived the idea that a paper which should occupy the same position towards them that The Albion occupied with respect to the English would meet with a fair degree of support. This view was participated in by many of Mr. Brown's friends and acquaintances in and about New York, and erelong he took up the project in earnest. A canvass was set on foot, and a considerable subscription-list was obtained. In the month of December, 1842, the new venture made its appearance under the title of The British Chronicle, with Peter Brown as its editor, and with George Brown as the publisher and general business manager. As the organ of the Scottish population of the United States it was without a competitor, and even as a British organ it threatened serious rivalry to The Albion. It discussed America and republican institutions with great freedom, and even with some severity, but it was always well written, and was regarded with respect even by the Americans themselves. As had been anticipated on its behalf, it obtained a fair share of support, but The Albion, which had been long established, had too firm a hold of the public to permit its young rival to achieve a remark-able success. The young publisher launched all his energy in the enterprise, and travelled over the greater part of New England and the neighbouring states, taking advertisements and subscribers, and making himself known to the class of persons to whom he chiefly looked for support. He had mean-while begun to take an interest in the affairs of Canada, where the vigorous articles in his paper were already attracting some attention among the Scottish Presbyterians. In the spring of 1843 he determined to try what could be done in the way of extending the circulation of the Chronicle in this country, and came over with that end in view. Could he have foreseen the result of his visit ; could he have foreseen that in less than ten years he would have become one of the best known and most influential of Canada's citizens, it is to be presumed that he would have come over with very high hopes. But he had not, and could not have, any such prescience. His ambition was of a much more modest character. He merely aspired to extend the circulation and influence of his father's paper. Upon his arrival in Toronto he presented himself to, and was well-received by, the Scottish Presbyterians. Young as he was—he was not yet twenty-five—his energy and force of character impressed all who came in contact with him. It was the period of the Disruption of the Scottish National Church. Both his father and himself had entered zealously into the dispute on the side of the Free Church. The adherents of that side in Canada felt the want of an organ which should espouse their interests in opposition to those of the Established Church of Scotland. This young man was evidently made of the precise kind of stuff they needed. Overtures were made to him to convert his paper into the organ of the Free Church Party. At this time there was no idea of removing the office of publication from New York to Canada, but it was intended that the Chronicle should circulate freely through this country, and definite promises of sup-port were given. The proposal was deemed worthy of consideration by Mr. Brown, and was by him forwarded to New York for his father's approval. Meanwhile he continued his tour through Canada, and having received the stamp of endorsement from the Free Church Party he was everywhere well received by their adherents. Upon reaching Kingston, which was then the seat of Government, he received overtures which promised better things still. Having come into contact with Samuel Bealey Harrison, who then held the office of Provincial Secretary for Upper Canada in the Lafontaine-Baldwin Administration, the political situation of the country was discussed between the two with considerable freedom. It has been intimated that Mr. Brown had for some time previously taken a good deal of interest in Canadian affairs, and he was thus able to take an intelligent part in such a discussion. It is almost unnecessary to say that both his sympathies and his training had made him an advanced Liberal in politics. The temper of his mind was such that political controversy was grateful to him, and he possessed a natural aptitude for dealing with constitutional questions. His ready and firm grasp of the situation astonished Mr. Harrison not a little. That a young man who had been only a few weeks in the country, and who was merely the business agent of a New York newspaper, should enter with such zest and appreciation into the issues of Canadian politics, and should take in the main points with such ready intelligence, seemed to the easy-going Provincial Secretary almost phenomenal. He was introduced to Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Francis Hincks, and other members of the Administration. This, it must be borne in mind, was in the early summer of 1843. Sir Charles Bagot had just been laid in the grave, and Sir Charles Metcalfe had been only about two months in this country. What course the latter would pursue was as yet an open question, as he had been remarkably reticent ever since his arrival ; but he had begun to coquet with Sir Allan Macnab and other prominent supporters of the ultra-Conservative Party, and several members of the Administration—Robert Baldwin, Francis Hincks and S. B. Harrison among them—had already begun to anticipate some measure of the trouble which subsequently ensued. It seemed not unlikely that the whole question of Responsible Government would be opened afresh, and that the battle would have to be fought over again. As may readily be supposed, the Government were very willing to secure the support of an additional newspaper. Young Mr. Brown had made a decided impression upon the various members of the Administration, and had given them the idea that he would be a potent ally of any political cause to which he might attach himself. It does not appear that any definite negotiations were entered into, but the feasibility of removing the Chronicle to Canada was discussed, and when Mr. Brown left Kingston he must have felt that in the event of his taking up his abode in this country he could count upon a pretty strong support from the Government. The Government, however, might not long remain in power, and if it were ousted there were several prominent members of it who would probably accept offices which would permanently remove them from political life. Cogitating on these and a hundred other possibilities of the near future, Mr. Brown continued his tour through Canada, and made himself and his paper known to many influential people in Montreal and Quebec. In due course he reached his home in New York, whither various overtures from Toronto and Kingston had preceded him. The overtures had by this time become urgent, and had not been without effect on Mr. Brown the elder, who, however, saw a fair share of prosperity before him in the land of his adoption, and did not at first feel disposed to try the experiment of another removal. But George came home from Canada with strong representations. The country, he said, was young, and persons of ability and education were not numerous there. There was no position to which a man of energy and good character might not reasonably hope to attain, if his will were strong and his brain sound. New York, he said, offered a competence and nothing more ; whereas Canada offered probable wealth and possible fame. The family, moreover, were all strongly British and anti-Republican in feeling, and as a mere matter of choice would much prefer to live under British laws, and among per-sons of British sympathies. The upshot was that the son got the best of the argument, and before the close of the summer the family had bidden adieu to the land of the stars and stripes, and were once more living under British dominion, at Toronto. The name of The British, Chronicle was changed to that of The Banner, the first number of which made its appearance on the 18th of August, 1843. It was a weekly paper, as the Chronicle had been, and it was above all things the organ of the Free Church Party ; but it was also strongly political, and supported the Ad-ministration, which in the course of the ensuing autumn entered on its memorable struggle with the Governor-General as to the true meaning of Responsible Government. The nature of that struggle has already been sufficiently referred to in the sketch of the life of Robert Baldwin. Sir Charles made appointments without consulting his Council, and when remonstrated with by the members for so doing he declined either to confess that he was in the wrong or to promise that he would not repeat the offence in future. The Ministry resigned, and formed themselves into a powerful Opposition under the leadership of Mr. Baldwin in Upper Canada and Mr. Lafontaine in the Lower Province. To keep pace with this Opposition, and with Mr. Brown's own strong political views, The Banner was soon found to be an inadequate medium. The theological element in it was developed at the expense of all other matters whatever, and its arguments were chiefly addressed to the adherents of the Free Church. It was felt that there must be a paper which should be above all things political, and the recognized organ of the Reform Party. This truth, as the struggle with Sir Charles Metcalfe waxed fiercer and fiercer, became more and more apparent. A well-conducted organ of Reform had become a political necessity of the time. Mr. George Brown was applied to by the leading Reformers of the country, and the result of the application was the establishment of The Globe.
The first number of the Globe—a weekly, like its predecessor, the Banner—was issued on the 5th of March, 1844. As compared with the Daily Globe of to-day, it was a very insignificant-looking sheet, both in size and typographical appearance. The subscription price was four dollars per annum, and the edition printed was ludicrously small as compared with the present issue. Upon its first appearance it had five competitors in Toronto as a political journal. It went on gaining steadily in circulation and influence for many years. It is a great power in the land at the present day, but its rivals have all long since ceased to exist. For these results there is a perfectly good reason. It would be impossible to conceive of a more apposite illustration of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. It was a foregone conclusion that Mr. Brown must be a successful man. He had now chosen a field where his tremendous energy could have full play ; where every exercise of it could be made to conduce to a practical result, and where, as a consequence, his success was doubly assured. At its commencement, the Globe was the joint property of Peter and George Brown, but the latter was the directing spirit, and the one upon whom its supporters chiefly relied. It soon became apparent that the sheet would be no despicable factor in the struggle with Sir Charles Metcalfe, and the efforts of his supporters were put strenuously forward to crush it. But the man at the helm was not one to be crushed. He assailed the members of the once formidable but now practically moribund Family Compact, as they had never been assailed before, even by Robert Gourlay or William Lyon Mackenzie. The time when an obnoxious newspaper proprietor's type and presses could be battered and thrown into the bay with impunity was long since past ; and as for bandying words with him, not even the most voluble member of the oligarchy would have cared to try such an experiment with George Brown in those days. He could always contrive to say three savage words where any of his opponents could find one. His vigorous articles began to produce an effect on all classes of society, and to stir up a feeling throughout the country that it was time to awaken out of sleep.
The ink was scarcely dry on the first number of the Globe ere Mr. George Brown was importuned to allow himself to be put in nomination for a seat in Parliament. Strange as it may seem, the proposal had no charms for him at that date. His resolve, however, was the result of careful consideration, and his own innate good sense. He was poor, and had a way to make in the world for others besides himself. He had entered on his career as a journalist with high hopes, and believed that he had found his true vocation in life. To that career he determined to devote all his energy, until it should have produced him an abundant crop of fruit. He determined that the Globe should have an individuality. We think it will be admitted on all hands that he acted up to his determination and fully realized his expectations. The tone of the articles in the Globe during the first few years of its existence is not the tone of the Pall Mall Gazette or the Saturday Review. Its style is not one which we would advise any young journalist to take for his model, for it is a style which in most hands would be inefficacious as well as offensive. But it realized the ideal of its proprietor, who both in and out of print was very much given to calling a spade a spade, as the saying is. Without laying any claim to eloquence or splendour of composition, the articles in the Globe were full of a lusty uncouth vigour which found a road to the understandings of readers from one end of this land to the other. The writer generally had justice on his side, and knew it, and it must be confessed that he was very little given to tempering justice with mercy in those days. A man who made a statement, on any public matter, which was not strictly borne out by the facts, was tolerably certain to be told in the next number of the Globe that he lied. And he was told this, not by implication or innuendo, but plainly, straightforwardly, and in so many words ; and he was fortunate if the words were not printed in capitals. The article, however, was pretty sure to be backed by unimpeachable evidence, and even by the bitterest of its opponents the Globe soon came to be recognized as a paper which generally told the truth, even if it had its own ungainly fashion of telling it. The paper, in the public mind, was identified with Mr. George Brown—and justly, for the Globe was Mr. George Brown. No paper, from the time of Roger L'Estrange's Observator downwards, ever more completely reflected the individuality of its editor. Mr. Peter Brown took a certain share in the business management, and also contributed occasional articles to its columns ; but the bone and sinew, the body and soul, the heart's blood and nerves of the enterprise were evolved from the son. The latter made himself acquainted with,,: the wants and sentiments of the people throughout this Upper Province as no man had ever done before. He circulated among them, rich and poor, gentle and simple ; went to their houses, visited their schools, inspected their crops and farm improvements, and placed himself fully in accord with their inner lives. In an incredibly short space of time he knew every Reformer in the Province who was worth knowing—as well as a good many who were perhaps hardly worth the trouble. From Amherstburgh to Cornwall, from Goderich to Niagara, he hurried hither and thither, making acquaintances and increasing his influence and his knowledge of the country every day. In this way he was able to gauge, and not unfrequently to mould public opinion. The Globe was soon a household word every-where in Upper Canada, and had a considerable circulation in the Lower Province. It was the recognized organ of the Reform Party, but was conducted with an independence and sometimes with an insubordination that knew no master, and would submit to no dictation. Its circulation and influence grew apace, and it soon (1846) became necessary to issue it twice a-week, though the subscription price remained unchanged. Three years later it began to be issued both tri-weekly and weekly, the price of the tri-weekly edition being four dollars a year, and that of the weekly edition two dollars. Satisfactory as this success must have been, there was as yet no room for a daily, and even the tri-weekly was considered as being in advance of the times.
Long before this time Sir Charles Metcalfe had succumbed to the terrible disease which had so long held him in its grasp. He had resigned his post, returned to England, and died. The policy which he had striven to maintain, and which had found so redoubt-able an opponent in Mr. Brown, did not totally disappear from the scene with the Governor-General. It cannot be said to have been effectually done away with until the elections of 1847, when it received its death-blow at the polls. To this result the Globe contributed more perhaps than any other factor whatever. Mr. Brown worked with an energy which, even for him, was tremendous, to secure a great triumph for the Liberal Party. He had established a western branch office of the Globe in London, and had taken personal charge of it during the busiest four months of the campaign. He had visited various constituencies in the interest of Reform candidates, and always with satisfactory results. His speeches from the hustings and on the stump were generally addressed to audiences where the Scottish element was predominant, and were always received with enthusiasm and tumultuous applause. His style of speaking was something altogether different from that to which Canadian electors had been accustomed. It possessed precisely the same qualities as his editorial articles. It was sinewy, tumultuous, impetuous, like the utterances of a man who must have his say out or perish in the attempt. It seldom failed to carry all before it, and he was often sent out as a forlorn hope. Dr. Gunn's characterization of his boyish effort at declamation at the Edinburgh Southern Academy would have applied with ten-fold felicity to the speeches of his manhood. Any one who is old enough to have heard him deliver one of his election speeches does not need to be told that he was endowed with high enthusiasm, or that he possessed the faculty of begetting enthusiasm in his hearers. By the time this election campaign was at an end George Brown was better known throughout the Province than any man in public life in Upper Canada. He was pressed again and again by various constituencies to enter Parliament, but he was not yet ready to do so, and continued to devote himself to his paper. Upon the formation of the Baldwin-Lafontaine Ad-ministration, in 1848, after the arrival of Lord Elgin, the Globe became the mouth-piece of the Government.
In 1849 Mr. Brown's residence in Toronto was attacked by the mob, in consequence of the agitation arising out of the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill—a Bill which of course had received the support of the Globe. Mr. Baldwin was subjected to a similar indignity in Montreal, as also were most of the prominent members of the Administration, as well as the Governor-General himself. During the same year Mr. Brown took a prominent part as one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the abuses connected with the Provincial Penitentiary at Kingston. The inquiry lasted several months, and resulted in important re-forms in the management of that institution.
Upon the opening of the Parliamentary session in May of the following year it soon began to be apparent that there was not perfect unanimity of sentiment among the supporters of the Government. The sources of discord were various, and the dissatisfaction of the members from the Lower Province did not arise from the same causes as those which produced the discontent in Upper Canada. Mr. Papineau's principal grievance arose from his desire to see the Legislative Council made elective. The Separate School question was another bone of contention. In the Upper Province a large section of the Reform Party began to clamour vehemently for the secularization of the Clergy Reserves. The agitation on these subjects was largely fomented by Mr. Brown, who advocated them in the columns of the Globe with the vigour and determination which he had always been wont to display with respect to matters on which he had fully made up his mind. The feelings of the Government on the question of the Clergy Reserves have been sufficiently indicated in the sketch of Robert Baldwin. The members were not unanimous on the matter, and some of them were even disposed to abide by the settlement made under Lord Sydenham. Not one of them was in any unseemly haste to see secularization accomplished. Mr. Brown, notwithstanding his strong desire for secularization, continued to give the Government a general support in the Globe. Not so the Examiner, a paper which had been founded twelve years before in Toronto by Mr. Hincks as an exponent of Reform principles, and which was at this time under the editorial control of Mr. Charles Lindsey, and the business control of Mr. James Lesslie. The Examiner now advocated many sweeping measures of reform with which the Administration was not disposed to deal, and erelong arrayed itself in Opposition. It supported the policy of Dr. Rolph, Peter Perry, Malcolm Cameron—who had held office in the Administration, but had resigned—and the extreme wing of the Reform Party. The adherents of this Party were distinguished by the name of “Clear Grits," and in addition to the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, advocated universal suffrage, vote by ballot, free trade and direct taxation, the abolition of the Court of Chancery, and many other root-and-branch reforms. Some of these measures—notably that of secularization—received support from the Globe, but the root-and-branch policy as a whole was regarded by Mr. Brown as in advance of the times, and its supporters were denounced as “a little miserable clique of office-seeking, buncombe-talking cormorants, who met in a certain lawyer's office on King Street, and announced their intention to form a new Party on ‘Clear Grit' principles." The Clear Grits were stigmatized by the Globe as republicans, and the war between the two Reform journals was fierce and bitter. The influence of the Examiner tended to weaken the hands of the Administration, which, however, was strong enough to retain a majority
in the House until the close of the session. This division in the Reform camp soon became so wide that a reconstruction of the Cabinet became necessary. In 1851 both Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Lafontaine retired from public life, and Mr. Hincks be-came Premier. Other changes took place in the composition of the Ministry, and its policy underwent such modification that the support of the Globe was entirely withdrawn from it. Two of the most prominent “Clear Grits "—Dr. Rolph and Malcolm Cameron—accepted seats in the reconstructed Administration. From this time it not only received no further support from the Globe, but became the object of that journal's determined opposition.
At the general election which followed the reconstruction of the Cabinet, Mr. Brown for the first time offered himself as a candidate for a seat in Parliament. The constituency chosen by him was the county of Haldimand. His principal opponent was Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie, who had re-turned to Canada in 1850. There was a third candidate in the field in the person of the late Mr. Ranald McKinnon, who was a resident of the county; but his opposition alone would not have presented any formidable obstacle to Mr. Brown's success. There were reasons which, at that time, made Mr. Brown an unpopular candidate in a constituency which contained a large Roman Catholic vote. His unpopularity was due to his having taken up what was in those days known as “the Broad Protestant Cry." In 1860 the Pope had put forth a bull creating, or professing to create, a Papal hierarchy in Great Britain, and had sent over Cardinal Wiseman to England from Rome, with the title of Archbishop of Westminster. The English Protestants resented the Pope's action with a vehemence and odium theologicum altogether out of proportion to the insignificance of the occasion. The resentment extended from the highest class of society to the lowest, and was not confined to any sect or creed. Addresses to Her Majesty poured in from all parts of the country, and never, perhaps, has the peace of mind of a large and intelligent community been so seriously disturbed about so trivial a matter. Lord John Russell put forth an indignant protest in the form of a letter addressed to the Bishop of Durham, which was copied and commented on throughout the Christian world. Lord Chancellor Camp-bell, at a public dinner given in London, called upon the Protestants of England to rouse themselves before it was too late, and to nip the insidious aggression of Rome in the bud. He quoted the line from the Duke of Gloster's speech to the Bishop of Winchester, in the First Part of King Henry VI.:
“Under my feet I'll stamp thy Cardinal's hat,”
and was cheered to the echo, both by Cabinet Ministers and city merchants. In the lower strata of society the talk was just as loud, but was not confined to talk alone, and took a more practical shape. At Stockport, in Lancashire, a number of Protestants got together and created almost a riot by be-labouring a squad of Irish Catholics who were employed in public works there. The Irish Catholics of Birkenhead retaliated by attacking and burning the houses of Protestants. The Government of the day took up the matter, and introduced a Bill prohibiting the assumption of English territorial titles by Catholic prelates in England. The Bill was opposed with splendid eloquence and sound argument by Gladstone, Bright and Cobden, who took the broad ground that the prohibition aimed at would involve an undue interference with religious liberty. The feeling of the House, however, was such that even these giants of debate did not inspire respect on this question, and for once their speeches were listened to with ill-suppressed impatience. The Bill was passed by a tremendous majority, and at once received the royal assent. It stands unrepealed to this day ; but, though both Cardinal Wiseman, Cardinal Manning, and others have repeatedly and fearlessly violated its provisions, no attempt has ever been made to enforce them.
The sentiment of ultra-Protestantism which rose to such a height of fervour in England was reflected with, if possible, increased fervour in Upper Canada. Mr., Brown caught the infection early, but for some time refrained from giving special prominence to the subject in the Globe. It was decreed, however, that if he continued to refrain, it should not be for want of an excellent opportunity for speaking out. Cardinal Wiseman, shortly after his arrival in England from Rome, and pending the debate on the Prohibition Bill, had put forth a pronunciamento in which the argument on the Roman Catholic side of the question was presented with much clearness and force. A copy of this document was handed to Mr. Brown by Colonel—afterwards the Honourable Sir—Etienne P. Taché, who held the office of Receiver-General in the Baldwin-Lafontaine Administration. Colonel Taché challenged Mr. Brown to publish it in the Globe, and jocularly expressed a doubt as to his having the courage and fairness to do so. Mr. Brown expressed his perfect willingness to publish the pronunciamento, but not unreasonably stipulated that, in case of his doing so he should also publish a reply, to be written by himself. To this Sir Etienne assented, and accordingly both pronunciamento and reply appeared at full length in the columns of the Globe. Mr. Brown, in replying to the Cardinal's specious arguments, was necessarily compelled to present the matter from a Protestant point of view, and in a light which was far from being acceptable to Roman Catholics. The question was taken up by the entire press of the country, and was argued with great bitterness on both sides. Mr. Brown thus came to be regarded as the Canadian champion of Protestantism, and the avowed opponent of Roman Catholic doctrines. The stand so taken by him, as might have been expected, was made the most of by his opponents in Haldimand. He was represented to the Roman Catholic electors there as a man whose dominant passion was to circumscribe the power of the Pope, and who, if he could have his own way, would make it a criminal offence to perform or attend mass. These tactics answered their purpose, and Mr. Brown sustained a defeat. There were other constituencies open to him, however, and in the following December he was returned for the county of Kent, which then included the present county of Lambton.
Upon the opening of the session at Quebec in August, 1852, he took his seat in the House, and was thenceforward one of the most conspicuous figures in it. He had no sympathy with the Government, and criticised its measures with much asperity. It was alleged by the members of the Government that his hostility arose from the fact that he had not been asked to join them. It was also said that he was angry because the Globe had ceased to be the organ of the Administration, which proclaimed its policy through the medium of the North American, edited by Mr. William Macdougall. There can be no manner of doubt that the action of the Government towards Mr. Brown at this juncture, whatever may have been the motive of it, was a political blunder. His personal qualities, and the great vigour and ability by which the editorials of the Globe were marked, had made him in many important respects the most influential man in the country. No Government to which he was opposed could expect to run with perfect smoothness. It is simple matter of fact that some of the most prominent members of the Government were jealous of Mr. Brown. His rapid rise, and his steadily increasing influence, were viewed by them with ill-concealed apprehension, and this feeling was doubtless increased by Mr. Brown's own impetuosity and unconciliatoriness of spirit. He could not brook contradiction, and never admitted distrust of himself. His opposition was severe and merciless, and was constantly breaking out in unexpected places. His “broad Protestantism” was specially distasteful to the French Roman Catholic members in the Goverment, between whom and himself there was scarcely anything in common.
In the month of October, 1853, the Globe first made its appearance as a daily paper, and it thenceforward became a more important factor than ever in the moulding of public opinion. It was clamorous in its demands for the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, the abolition of Separate Schools, and Representation by Population. It inveighed strongly against monopolies of every kind, and availed itself of every occasion to embarrass the Government. Opportunities for creating such embarrassment were neither few nor far between. The Ministry were accused by the Globe of being altogether too dilatory in dealing with the Clergy Reserves, and other important questions on which the public felt strongly. As matter of fact the Ministry were willing enough to pass a measure of secularization, but were unable to do so, owing to the delay of the Imperial Parliament in repealing the Act of 1840 (3 and 4 Vic., c. 78). Mr. Brown was by this time the recognized head of the most advanced wing of the Reform Party, the “Clear Grits” whom he had previously denounced. Advanced as were his views, however, he and his followers had one sentiment in common with the Conservatives, namely, hostility to the reigning Administration. This bond of union, slight as it was, was destined to bring about a change of Government. At the general election which followed the dissolution in 1854, Mr. Hincks, the Premier, was honoured by a double return. A great majority of the members returned for the new Parliament, however, were opposed to the policy of Mr. Hincks's Government. Mr. Malcolm Cameron, the Postmaster-General, was defeated by Mr. Brown in Lambton by a large majority, and other staunch supporters of the Government shared a similar fate. Upon the meeting of Parliament Mr. Hincks was compelled to resign, and he shortly afterwards retired from public life in this country, only to resume it many years after. He was succeeded by Sir Allan Macnab, who formed a Coalition Government, including himself as President of the Council and Minister of Agriculture, John A. Macdonald as Attorney-General West, and Commissioner of Crown Lands, William Cayley as Minister of Finance, Robert Spence as Postmaster-General, Etienne P. Taché as Receiver-General, and P. J. O. Chauveau as Provincial Secretary. Upon such a consummation as this Mr. Brown had not counted, and he opposed the new Government as vigorously as he had opposed the late one. The Opposition from the Lower Province was led by Mr. A. A. Dorion, and Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald arrayed himself on the same side, as the leader of part of the old Ministerial Party.
The Imperial Parliament had meanwhile paved the way to secularization of the Clergy Reserves by repealing the Act of 1840. The new Canadian Ministry were worldly wise, and bowed to the popular demand. They promptly passed a measure handing over the Clergy Reserve lands to the various municipal corporations, to be devoted to secular purposes. The Seignorial tenure—the last vestige of the feudal régime of New France —was abolished, and various other important reforms were enacted. Later on, after Mr. John A. Macdonald had supplanted Sir Allan Macnab, an Act was passed making the Legislative Council elective. The Globe, however, found abundant matter for criticism, both in the conduct of the Administration and in the personal character of some of its members. Though its criticisms may have sometimes been unduly harsh and wanting in discrimination, they seldom failed to tell upon the country. The Globe, merely as a newspaper, had now become a recognized necessity in the land, even by those who had no sympathy with the principles which it advocated. It was a daily, and on important occasions several editions of it were issued in the twenty-four hours. Its circulation was many thousands. The enterprise of its proprietor had placed it far in advance of any of its competitors as a medium of disseminating news. Its news was as trustworthy as current intelligence can possibly be ; and however bitterly it might assail hostile ministries, it was always on the side of law and order and good morals. This latter qualification, which at the present day would be assumed as a matter of course, was at that date a real distinction, as anyone who thinks proper to examine the Canadian newspapers of the period will readily perceive. The Globe, in a word, was the only paper which was read everywhere in Canada, and its influence on public opinion was incalculable. It will not be supposed that this splendid success had been achieved without effort. It is no slight task for a young man of limited experience and capital to establish a newspaper which shall affect the rise and fall of governments, the market price of stocks, the political, and even the religious faith of a large and heterogeneous community. Its proprietor possessed a boundless capacity for hard work. When any task of importance was to be performed, no one ever heard him complain of fatigue. He believed in himself. There is a not uncommon delusion in the public mind that a man, in order to be a successful journalist, should have no opinions of his own. He should be ready to take up any question, and any side of it, with equal zest. Never was there a greater fallacy. No man yet ever possessed genuine power without genuine convictions. A man who writes what he does not believe will never write well. He may write elegantly, and may cut capers and flourishes in philology with much alertness ; but he will never write what will stir the public blood and hold the public ear. No amount of rhetorical training will ever enable a man who has no beliefs to write a telling paragraph. As Macaulay puts it, “The art of saying things well is of no use to the man who has got nothing to say." When Dr. Johnson wrote Tory pamphlets like “Taxation no Tyranny," he was Samson shorn of his hair. George Brown had pretty nearly all his life had something to say; and when the case was otherwise—a rare contingency —he had been accustomed to hold his tongue. His editorial articles in the Globe had always been conspicuous for what is known among journalists as point. They were not unfrequently very personal and in very question-able taste, but they were always on subjects in which the public felt a real interest. Their pungency always made itself felt. It may be doubted whether the acridity of the editorials had not as much to do with building up a reputation for the paper as its enterprise in collecting and distributing news. To carry on such an undertaking as this would in itself have been sufficient for the energy of most men. It was merely one iron—the principal one, however—that Mr. Brown had in the fire. He was the leader of an exacting Party in Parliament, and its mouthpiece outside. He was busy with church matters, social matters, municipal matters. It was to be expected that there would at times be pecuniary embarrassments. Agents sometimes proved dishonest, and the outlay was sometimes—for those days—enormous. Nothing furnishes a more signal proof of Mr. Brown's dogged, unconquerable power of will and readiness of re-source, than the fact that he was always able to extricate himself from the manifold in-conveniences of a narrow income and a prodigious outlay, and this while he had a score of other matters on his hands imperatively demanding attention. These difficulties, however, had been in a great measure surmounted at the time to which we have brought the narrative down. He was now comparatively well-to-do in money matters, and able to depute a good many of his former duties to subordinates. His speeches in the House during this period were marked by all the vigour and impetuosity of his early youth, and by a ripeness of judgment to which his earlier efforts could lay no claim. Notwithstanding the multitude and variety of his ordinary pursuits, he had found time to make himself thoroughly acquainted with constitutional questions, and looked at things from a broader point of view. Some of his speeches at this date produce a powerful effect on the mind, even when read in the solitude of the study, and must have been particularly effective when accompanied by his own forcible delivery. One or two of the best of them must have been made with very little preparation. Their spirit is liberal, and their statesman-ship broad. His success as a Parliamentary speaker no longer admitted of dispute.
At the general election which took place in the autumn of 1857 he achieved the triumph of being elected for two constituencies —the City of Toronto and the North Riding of Oxford. The crucial question on which he offered himself to the electors was that of Representation by Population—currently known as Rep. by Pop. He elected to sit for Toronto. Parliament met in Toronto at the end of February, 1858. On the question of Rep. by Pop. the Government was sustained by a majority of twelve. On another matter they were less successful. The question as to the location of the seat of Government had recently been submitted to Her Majesty, and it was now proclaimed that she had given her decision in favour of Ottawa. The Opposition, with Mr. Brown at its head, disapproved of this selection, and brought forward a resolution expressive of its views. This resolution was carried by a majority of fourteen, and the Ministry promptly resigned. Sir Edmund Head, the Governor-General, in order that the business of the country might not be impeded, requested Mr. Brown to form a Ministry. Mr. Brown assented, and formed what is known as the Brown-Dorion Administration, which was made up as follows :—For Upper Canada : George Brown, Premier and Inspector-General ; James Morris, Speaker of the Legislative Council ; Michael Hamilton Foley, Postmaster-General ; John Sand-field Macdonald, Attorney-General West ; Oliver Mowat, Provincial Secretary ; and Dr. Skeffington Connor, Solicitor-General West. For Lower Canada : A. A. Dorion, Commissioner of Crown Lands ; L. T. Drummond, Attorney-General East ; M. Thibaudeau, Minister of Agriculture ; Luther H. Holton, Minister of Public Works ; and Charles Joseph Laberge, Solicitor-General East. This, the shortest Administration known to Canadian history, was fated to last only four days. Persons familiar with the past records of these gentlemen will readily understand that such a Ministry was composed of very incongruous materials, and could hardly have been expected to be of long duration. A vote of want of confidence was passed, and Mr. Brown requested the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament, upon the ground that it did not represent the feelings of the country. The Governor-General declined a dissolution, alleging that a general election had just taken place, and that the House sufficiently represented the popular will. The Government adopted the only alternative left—to resign office.
It was at this juncture that the episode known by the undignified name of the “Double Shuffle” took place. Mr.—now Sir Alexander—Galt was applied to by Sir Edmund Head to form a Government. Mr. Galt doubted his ability to form a Government which would command public confidence, and had no ambition to form one which, like its predecessor, would be compelled to resign in a few days. Upon his signifying his refusal to the Governor-General, the latter applied to Mr. George Etienne Cartier, the leader of the French-Canadian party in the House; whereupon Mr. Cartier, with the assistance of Mr. John A. Macdonald, formed the Cartier-Macdonald Cabinet. The composition of this Ministry was very much the same as that of the last Conservative Ministry, which had resigned just before the formation of the Brown-Dorion Administration, had been. The former had been known as the Macdonald-Cartier Administration. In the present one the names were simply reversed, and it became the Cartier-Macdonald Administration. It was composed of Messrs. John A. Macdonald, Attorney-General West ; John Ross, President of the Council ; P. M. M. S. Vankoughnet, Commissioner of Crown Lands ; Alexander T. Galt, Minister of Finance ; Sydney Smith, Postmaster-General ; George Sherwood, Receiver-General; Charles Alleyn, Provincial Secretary ; George Etienne Cartier, Attorney-General East ; Louis Victor Sicotte, Commissioner of Public Works ; John Rose, Solicitor-General ; and Narcisse F. Belleau, Speaker of the Legislative Council. The whole arrangement, indeed, was little more than a simple exchange of offices on the part of the members of the former Government. This would have been free from objection had the members of the new Cabinet returned to their constituencies for reelection, but they did nothing of the kind. By a clause in the Act to ensure the Independence of Parliament it was declared that a minister resigning one office and accepting another within a month after such resignation might continue to retain his new office without reelection. This is precisely what was done by the members of the Ministry at this juncture who had held office in the Macdonald-Cartier Administration. In doing so they kept within the strict letter of the law, but transgressed against the spirit of the Constitution, and the prevalent usage in Great Britain. Mr. Brown and the Reform Party generally denounced this conduct in unmeasured terms, and succeeded in creating a widespread feeling throughout the country on the subject. The matter was subsequently tested in the Courts, and the action of the ministers was upheld, as it could not be said that they had broken the law. The impropriety of such a proceeding, however, and the monstrous injustice to which it might give rise if allowed to be repeated, were so apparent that the Act was amended, and the obnoxious clause repealed. Mr. Brown after accepting office, had returned to his constituents in Toronto for reelection. He was opposed by the Hon. John Hillyard Cameron, and the contest that ensued was one of almost unexampled keenness. Mr. Brown, however, was successful, and continued to represent Toronto until the then existing Parliament expired by effluxion of time in the month of June, 1861.
The Cartier-Macdonald Government continued to hold the reins of power, though its membership underwent one or two modifications, until the close of the Parliament in 1861. In the fall of the year 1859 a Reform Convention was held in Toronto which was destined to have important results, not only with respect to the existing Administration, but with respect to the Canadian Constitution. Two resolutions were passed, the first of which declared that the existing Legislative Union of Upper and Lower Canada had failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters ; that it had resulted in a heavy debt, grave political abuses, and universal dissatisfaction; and that from the antagonism developed through difference of origin, local interest and other causes, the union in its present form could no longer be continued with advantage to the people. The second declared that the true remedy for those evils would be found in the formation of two or more local Governments, to which should be committed all matters of a sectional character, and in the erection of some joint authority to dispose of the affairs common to all. During the following session of Parliament, which opened at Quebec on the 28th of February, 1860, Mr. Brown moved these resolutions on the floor of the House. He supported them in a speech of great power. On the 8th of May a vote was taken on them, and they were both defeated by large majorities. As we all know, however, the country had not heard the last of them. The principles they enunciated came, in process of time, to be recognized as the only ones whereby the Government could be carried on, and they were subsequently embodied in the British North America Act of Confederation. Upon presenting himself as a candidate for Toronto East, at the general election of 1861, Mr. Brown was defeated by Mr. John Crawford, and did not offer himself to any other constituency. He was soon afterwards prostrated by a serious illness—the first and only constitutional ailment which, in the course of a long and amazingly active life, he was ever called upon to endure. Upon his recovery he went abroad with a view to the thorough reestablishment of his health, and was absent from Canada for nearly a year. During his absence he married, at Edinburgh, on the 27th of November, 1862, Miss Annie Nelson, a daughter of the eminent publisher Mr. Thomas Nelson. Immediately after his return he resumed his management of the Globe with all his old vigour. The Cartier-Macdonald Administration had meanwhile been defeated on the Bill respecting military defences, and had given place to the Sandfield Macdonald-Sicotte Government. The latter was now vehemently assailed by the Globe on various grounds, but chiefly for its non-adoption of Representation by Population, and its devices for securing the support of the French Canadian members. In 1863 Dr. Connor, the member for South Oxford, was elevated to a seat on the Judicial Bench, and thus left a vacancy in the House of which Mr. Brown determined to avail himself. His election for that constituency was a foregone conclusion, and he continued to represent it in Parliament until the Union. During the same year (1863) he delivered a speech in Toronto on the subject of “The American War and Slavery," which was subsequently published at Manchester under the auspices of the Union and Emancipation Society. It attracted much attention, not only in Canada and the United States, but in Great Britain, and received a warm eulogium from John Stuart Mill. This year was further rendered memorable to Mr. Brown by the death of his father, who died at his residence in Toronto on the 30th of June. The Globe contained an eloquent and touching tribute to his memory.
By this time the views which Mr. Brown had persistently advocated ever since his first entry into public life—more especially on the vexed question of Representation by Population and the “joint authority” scheme—had begun to commend themselves to the intelligence of his opponents. The Ministry from time to time underwent various modifications, but parties were so evenly divided that no Ministry could feel itself strong. Its majorities on every important measure were insignificant, and it was compelled to adopt a vacillating policy which satisfied nobody. There had been a considerable increase in taxation, accompanied by a steadily-increasing deficit in the public exchequer, and there was an uneasy feeling from one end of the country to the other. After the prorogation on the 12th of May, another reconstruction of the Cabinet took place, and the Sandfield Macdonald-Dorion Administration was formed. Parliament met in August. The debate on the address lasted fourteen days, and the motion was finally carried by a majority of only three—the vote standing sixty-three for the Ministry to sixty against. With this harassing majority the Government contrived to drag through the session, which came to an end on the 15th of October. The following spring ushered in a new Cabinet with Sir E. P. Taché as Premier. It was no stronger than the late one had been, and only existed a few weeks, when a vote of non-confidence was passed. Public feeling was more disturbed than ever. It was evident that if the Government of the country was to be carried on at all there must be a change, not of the Cabinet merely, but of the constitution itself. There was literally a “dead-lock” in public affairs. Even the strongest advocates of party began to stand aghast, and to seriously ask themselves whither this untoward state of things was leading them. The Government could no longer be carried on by either party. Neither dissolutions nor readjustments of the Ministry could effect any lasting good. Those devices had been repeatedly resorted to, and had accomplished nothing beyond prolonging an unseemly and useless struggle.
Mr. Brown's day of triumph was at hand. The “joint authority” scheme which he had so often brought forward; which had been made the subject of continued ridicule ; which had been voted down time and time again by overwhelming majorities; which had been jeered at as the chimera of an unpractical theorist with a bee in his bonnet —this scheme at last began to be seriously entertained. It soon came to be recognized as the one and only remedy for the existing dead-lock. Mr. John A. Macdonald, after taking counsel with his colleagues, made advances to Mr. Brown, and proposed that a Coalition Government should be formed for the purpose of carrying the project into effect. Mr. Brown consented to temporarily sink all past hostilities, and to join hands with his opponents for the public good. Three seats in the Cabinet were placed at his disposal, and were filled by himself, as President of the Council, William Macdougall, as Provincial Secretary, and Oliver Mowat, as Postmaster-General. “Thus,” says Mr. Macmullen, (See “Macmullen's History of Canada,” chap. xxvi.) “a strong Coalition Government was formed to carry out the newly-accepted policy of Confederation, and although extreme parties here and there grumbled at these arrangements, the great body of the people, of all shades of opinion, thankful that the dangerous crisis had been safely passed, gladly accepted the situation, and calmly and confidently waited the progress of events. Never before had a coalition been more opportune. It rendered the government of the country again respect-able, elevated it above the accidents of faction, and enabled it to wield the administrative power with that firmness and decision so requisite during the trying and critical period which speedily ensued."
A similar agitation had meanwhile sprung up in the Maritime Provinces, and during the following September a Conference of Delegates was held at Charlottetown, Prince Edward's Island, with a view to the Con-federation of those Provinces. At this Conference Messrs. George Brown, John A. Macdonald, George E. Cartier, A. T. Galt, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, H. L. Langevin, William Macdougall and Alexander Camp-bell were present, having attended for the purpose of urging a confederation not merely of the Maritime Provinces, but of all the Provinces of British America. This larger scheme met with favour, and the project of a mere Maritime Confederation was abandoned. After several days' discussion the Conference adjourned till the 10th of October, when the delegates agreed to meet at Quebec. Mr. Brown and his colleagues from Canada West spent a great part of the interval in making a progress through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where they addressed numerous public meetings, and unfolded the merits of the great project which they had in view. The adjourned Conference met at Quebec on the 10th of October, and was attended by thirty-three delegates, representing all shades of opinion, from the different Provinces. The session was held with closed doors, and lasted seven-teen days. During those seventeen days all the principal points of Confederation were agreed upon, and resolutions embodying them were adopted by the Conference. Mr. Brown's speeches during these seventeen days have been pronounced by persons who heard them, and who are capable of forming a disinterested opinion, to have been the most noteworthy utterances of his life. They were entirely devoid of party-feeling, and were marked by a lofty and disinterested patriotism in which his own personal politics and aspirations seemed to have no part. It is said that more than one of the delegates were for the first time awakened by those utterances to a true sense of the importance of the great task in which they had been called to take part.
The details of the scheme were soon afterwards published to the world. On the opening of Parliament in February of the following year, the resolutions which had been passed by the Conference were fully discussed. There were some malcontents, but the country at large recognized the merits of the scheme, and it was finally adopted. A deputation, consisting of Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier and Galt, and Mr. Brown himself, went over to England to confer with the Imperial Government, and the chief provisions of the Act of Confederation were there and then finally settled.
The question of Reciprocity between Canada and the United States began to come prominently forward at this time. The treaty negotiated in 1854 had been conditioned to continue in force for ten years from March, 1855, after which it might be put an end to by either party upon giving twelve months' notice. That notice had already been given by the United States, and the treaty would expire on the 17th of March, 1866. The people of Canada were all but unanimous in desiring a renewal, of reciprocity, and a deputation was sent to Washington for that purpose. Be-fore the departure of the deputation, how-ever, Mr. Brown had withdrawn from the Administration. He was not in accord with the other members as to the terms upon which it would be desirable to negotiate for reciprocity. His colleagues were disposed to yield more to the demands of the United States than he believed to be for the interests of the country. This was his ostensible reason for withdrawing from the Government ; but the probability is that he felt as though he had been in it long enough. As matter of fact, there was no good purpose to be served by his continuing to hold office with persons in whom he had no confidence, and to whom he had always been opposed. It was not without reluctance that he had amalgamated with them, and he had only consented to do so for a specific purpose—to bring about Confederation. That purpose had already been practically accomplished ; as, although the Act had not been passed, its terms had been settled, and there was nothing further to be done which could not be accomplished as well without his assistance as with it. His withdrawal, however, was much regretted by several members of the Cabinet. It may here be mentioned that the United States finally declined to entertain the project for a renewal of the treaty, except upon terms to which the Canadian deputation could not be expected to assent, and the negotiations came to nothing.
From the time of resigning his place in the Coalition Government Mr. Brown did not take an active part in Parliamentary life. At the first general election which took place after Confederation, in 1867, he contested the South Riding of Ontario with Mr. T. N. Gibbs, for the House of Commons. It was an act of great temerity on his part, for Mr. Gibbs was a local candidate of great influence. Mr. Brown was defeated, and did not afterwards make any similar attempt. On the 16th of December, 1873, he was called to the Senate, and subsequently attended from time to time the deliberations of that body, but did not take any specially prominent part in its proceedings. In the summer of 1874 he went to Washington on behalf of the Dominion and the Empire, as Joint Plenipotentiary with Sir Edward Thornton, to negotiate a new Reciprocity Treaty with Mr. Secretary Fish, on behalf of the United States. He took with him Mr. J. Saurin McMurray, barrister, of Toronto, in the capacity of Secretary, and during their stay in Washington, which extended over a period of several weeks, they were both busily employed in endeavouring to carry out the object of their mission. A draft treaty was prepared and approved of by the Governments of the Dominion and Great Britain ; but upon being submitted by President Grant to the United States Senate, that Body thought proper to reject it; and no attempt to obtain reciprocity between the two nations has since been made.
During the last few years of his life Mr. Brown's energies were principally directed to the conduct of the Globe and of the Model Farm called Bow Park, near Brantford. The latter establishment, which is owned by a Joint Stock Company called “The Canada West Farm Stock Association"—of which Mr. Brown was himself the manager, and in which he was the principal stockholder—is one of the principal attractions of Canada for all foreign visitors who take an interest in agricultural matters. It embraces a tract of nine hundred and thirteen acres of land, and is said to be in many respects the finest stock farm on this continent. It is resorted to every year by admiring visitors from Great Britain and the United States, and its establishment has done much to improve the quality of farm stock throughout the Do-minion. Mr. Brown was undoubtedly moved to enter upon this enterprise by a belief that he would aid in the development of Ontario agriculture by the introduction of the best breeds of cattle in large numbers ; but he loved farming for its own sake, and was never so happy as when walking through the cattle sheds, or roaming through the fields and copses of Bow Park with his children. Although city born and bred, he is said by those capable of forming an opinion to have been an excellent judge of the points of cattle, and he was eminently successful as a breeder. It is cause for congratulation that his work will be continued under the auspices of the company which he formed some years ago.
The circumstances under which Mr. Brown received the wound which produced his death are fresh in the public memory, and are well known to every reader of these pages. Some account of them, how-ever, is necessary to give completeness to the present sketch. For some years prior to the month of February last the Globe Printing Company had in their service a man named George Bennett, a native of Cobourg, Ontario. He was employed in the capacity of an assistant engineer, and was a man of dissipated habits and loose character. On the 5th of February last he was discharged, by Mr. Brown's orders, for neglect of duty. From Mr. Brown's own account of the subsequent course of events, and from the evidence adduced at the trial on the 22nd of June last, it appears that Bennett, on the day after his dismissal, called upon Mr. Brown personally, and urged the latter to give him another trial. With this request Mr. Brown refused to comply. A day or two later Bennett again called upon Mr. Brown, at his private office in the Globe building, and urged his restoration in the strongest terms, but with the same result as before. On both of these occasions Bennett was quite reasonable in his language and respectful in his demeanour. He showed no sign of vindictiveness or excitement, either in manner or word. Seven weeks passed away, and Bennett, on the afternoon of the 25th of March, again presented himself in Mr. Brown's office. When Bennett entered, Mr. Brown was writing at his desk, and on seeing who his visitor was he immediately rose from his seat and walked up to him. Bennett began to plead for re-instatement, when he was told that it was needless to urge the matter further. Bennett then drew a paper from his pocket, which he said contained a certificate to the effect that he had been five years in the Globe office, which he wished Mr. Brown to sign. This Mr. Brown refused to do, suggesting to him to go to the head of his department, who knew the length of time he had been employed, and the manner in which he had discharged his duty. Mr. Brown also suggested that he should go to the Treasurer of the Company, who knew from the books how long he had been in the office. Bennett was not content with this, but still persisted, saying, “Sign, sign"—at the same time stretching the paper over towards the desk at which Mr. Brown had been sitting. Mr. Brown thereupon told Bennett that he could have no more discussion, as he was very busy. Mr. Brown then walked towards the door, facing Bennett, when he observed the latter slowly put his right arm around his back, and then his left hand, the purpose of which was suggested when a click was heard. Swiftly a revolver was produced, and was on the point of being raised to fire, within a few inches of Mr. Brown's body, when Mr. Brown instantly grasped the assassin's pistol-arm with his left hand, and forced the muzzle down, while he clutched the man closely with his right arm. The pistol went off before Mr. Brown had time to turn it away from his person, and he received a bullet through his thigh, which entered at the front, and came out behind. A scuffle then ensued, Bennett trying to get the pistol turned towards Mr. Brown's body, and to get away from Mr. Brown's grasp. This struggle carried the parties through the doorway and across the hall, when Mr. Brown forced Bennett's head through a pane of glass, which threatened serious consequences to him. Bennett struggled desperately to get his pistol free from Mr. Brown's grasp, which held pistol and hand together. Mr. Brown met this effort by an equally earnest one to wrest the pistol from his hand, and at the same time raised the cry of “Murder." Assistance speedily came, but by this time Mr. Brown was master of the situation. The police were speedily on the spot, and took Bennett into custody. It was not until Mr. Brown had walked back into his room, and was surrounded by numbers of anxious friends asking particulars of the affair, that he became fully aware that he had been shot. Meantime one of the gentlemen of the establishment had started off to bring his family physician, Dr. Thorburn, who in a few minutes made his appearance. The necessary examinations having been made, Dr. Thorburn was enabled to state that no serious injury had been inflicted, and that a few days' rest and quiet were probably all that would be required to restore Mr. Brown to full health and vigour. Shortly after, Mr. Brown left the office in a carriage, to which he walked without assistance, amid the hearty congratulations of his friends at his escape from sudden death.
For some days afterwards, no serious apprehensions were felt as to the result. Mr. Brown was not a man given to magnifying his personal ailments, and it will surprise no one who knew him well to learn that he treated his wound as trifling. When he was borne home from his office on the day of the catastrophe, he laughed at the solicitude of those near and dear to him, and for some time afterwards devoted a portion of every day to business matters. He continued thus hopeful so long as the full measure of his intelligence remained to him. The members of his family, however, were more keenly alive to the shock to which his system had been subjected, and from the first took a less sanguine view of his situation. As time passed by, his condition became critical. Large abscesses formed around the wound, which continued to discharge after being opened by the surgeons. Fever and delirium ensued, and for six weeks the contest continued, until his natural strength gave way. Modern appliances for relieving long confinement, for administering food, and for dressing wounds were used with skill and assiduity. All that professional skill could do was done, but all was of no avail. Mr. Brown possessed great energy, and had all the appearance of health, but long years of earnest labour had made him older than this years, and the assassin's bullet did its work. About two o'clock in the morning of the 9th of May the end came. He sank quietly to rest, without a struggle, in the presence of several members of his family. The news of his death spread rapidly over the country, and created a deep and general feeling of sorrow. Messages expressive of sympathy and regret were received by the family from all quarters of the Dominion. The funeral took place on Wednesday, the 12th, and was the most numerously at-tended that has ever been seen in Toronto. The place of sepulture was the family burial-plot in the Necropolis.
Mr. Brown was a member and regular attendant of the Presbyterian Church. Whether or -not his religious convictions were strong, the writer is unable to say. They were at all events not unduly paraded. According to the testimony of those who attended him in his last hours, he lived and died in the faith of his fathers. He left a wife and three children, a brother and three sisters, to mourn his loss, and the unhappy catastrophe which led to it.
Mr. Brown was a man of large views in business, in works of benevolence, and in public enterprises. He had little time to act on committees or boards, but no good enterprise was presented to him without securing his influence and his contribution. His friendships were strong and enduring, and he never forgot a kindness.
The foregoing pages embody such particulars in Mr. Brown's life as may reasonably be supposed to possess an interest for the general reading public of the present day. The facts with reference to his Parliamentary career have necessarily been given in the merest outline. To go fully into details would not only occupy a space much greater than the scheme of this work will admit of, but would render it necessary to adopt an attitude inconsistent with perfect historic impartiality. Such an attitude the writer does not conceive it to be his duty to assume. It is believed, however, that enough has been said to enable the impartial reader to form something like a correct estimate as to what manner of man this was who occupied so large a space on the political canvas of our country for the last thirty years. The writer's own estimate has been sufficiently indicated in the opening paragraphs ; and that estimate—though it may not commend itself to every reader—will, it is believed, be sanctioned by the verdict of posterity. Fortunately, political prejudices are for an age, and not for all time. When the asperities of the present shall have become merged in the recollections of the past, it can hardly fail to be conceded that George Brown's influence upon his chosen country was on the whole exerted for that country's good. His enemies have often unjustly stigmatized him as a tyrant. Unjustly; because it is the quality of a tyrant to attack the weak, and his attacks were always directed against the strong. His imperious will, his occasional wrong-headedness and infirmities of temper raised up for him bitter and formidable enemies. They even prevented many of his friends who judged him only from the outside from recognizing the great and genuine manliness—and even kindness —of his character. But when all deductions have been made : when the debtor and creditor side of his account shall have been fully made out : the balance will be found to be a large one, and on the right side.
Source: John Charles DENT, "The Hon. George Brown", in The Canadian Portrait Gallery, Toronto, John B. Magurn, 1880, 224p., pp. 3-24.
© 2006 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College