Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Canadian Pacific Scandal


 - I -

Pacific Scandal , the name applied to the episode which resulted in 1873 in the resignation of the first government of the Dominion of Canada. In the general elections of 1872, Sir John Macdonald was so indiscreet as to seek contributions to the funds of the Liberal-Conservative party from Sir Hugh Allan, who headed the syndicate to which had been granted the charter for building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Liberal opposition obtained evidence of this fact, and charged that Macdonald had sold the charter for building the railway in return for large contributions to his party's campaign funds. This led to the resignation of the Macdonald government in 1873, owing to the defection of some of its supporters, who were not prepared to defend at the polls the government's action. In the general elections that followed, the Liberal-Conservative party was overwhelmingly defeated; but in five years' time the Canadian people either forgot the episode or changed their opinion about it, and Macdonald was returned to power by a majority as great as that by which he had been defeated in 1873. Sir Charles Tupper always maintained that the "Pacific Scandal" should have been known as the "Pacific Slander"; and it is possible that Macdonald's acceptance of campaign funds from Sir Hugh Allan was merely a grave indiscretion, rather than a serious moral offence.


Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. V, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, p. 78.


- II -

Pacific Scandal. On April 2nd, 1873, Lucius Seth Huntington moved in the Dominion House of Commons that a special committee be appointed to enquire into certain charges made by himself to the effect that Sir Hugh Allan and his Canadian and American associates in the Canadian Pacific Railway project had advanced a large sum of money to aid in the election of Sir John Macdonald and his Conservative sup­porters. The motion was defeated on a party vote. The next day Macdonald gave notice of a similar motion for a select committee, which was carried five days later. The committee met in July, but through a technicality was unable to proceed. On Macdonald's advice, a royal commission was issued to three judges to investigate the charges. The commission reported to Parliament, which met late in October. The charges had been proved correct. Alexander Mackenzie moved a vote of censure, which was followed by a week of fierce discussion. Recognizing that the vote would go against him, Macdonald, on November 5th, placed his resignation in the hands of the governor-general, and announced in the House that the government had resigned. In the general election that followed, overwhelming defeat fell upon Macdonald and his party.


Source: Lawrence J. BURPEE, The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Canadian History, London and Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1926, 699p., p. 478.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College