Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
February 2005

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


The "Double Shuffle" Cabinet


"Double Shuffle", the term applied to a famous incident of Canadian political history in 1858. When George Brown formed his short-lived administration in that year, the members of his cabinet, under a rule which still [as of 1935] operates in Canadian politics, were compelled to resign their seats in the Assembly and to go back to their constituents for re-election. This left Brown's supporters in a minority in the House, and enabled the Conservatives to carry a vote of want of confidence in the newly-formed ministry. Brown thereupon asked for a dissolution of the House, but was refused this by the governor. Sir Edmund Head, and thereupon he resigned. He expected, no doubt, that John A. Macdonald and his colleagues, on resuming office, would likewise have to go back to their constituents for re-election, and that he would then be able to turn the tables on them. But Macdonald found in the statutes a provision whereby ministers were permitted to change from one portfolio to another, provided that not more than one month elapsed in the interval. He therefore appointed his old colleagues to new portfolios, and then within twenty-four hours he shuffled them back into their former departments, thus obviating the necessity of their appealing to their constituents for re-election.

Source: W. Styewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., p. 228.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College