Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Story of Manitoba
Chapter XXXIX Political Changes

The early years of Manitoba's history were characterized by frequent changes in the personnel of her governments. It was some time before the members of the legislature divided on the party lines recognized in the older provinces of Canada; but because of the racial divisions of the population, the legislature was divided into two sections, the English and the French, from the day it was first organized. At first these sections were about equal in numerical strength, and the earlier governments might be described as coalition governments, the English and French elements in them being evenly balanced. Nevertheless, there seems to have been a fairly compact opposition at times. After a few years the English members in the legislative assembly outnumbered their French confreres, and then the French had fewer representatives in the cabinet. It was inevitable that party government would soon follow, and that the political parties in Manitoba would adopt, with slight modifications, the policies of the liberal and conservative parties of the other provinces.

As has been said, the first cabinet of Manitoba was composed of Hon. H. J. Clarke, premier and attorney-general; Hon. Marc A. Girard, provincial treasurer; Hon. Thomas Howard, provincial secretary; Hon, A. Boyd, minister of public works and agriculture; .and Hon. James McKay without a portfolio. They were sworn in on January 10, 1871. On December 9 Hon. A. Boyd resigned his port folio, on the ground that the half-breed population of the province should be represented in the cabinet. He was succeeded by Hon. John Norquay, the member for High Bluff, who was to be a prominent figure in provincial politics for many years. Before the end of the month Hon. Mr. Girard was appointed one of Manitoba's representatives in the Dominion senate, the ;other being Sheriff Sutherland. In consequence Mr. Girard resigned his portfolio in the provincial government on March 18, 1872, and it was given to Hon. Mr. Howard, while the provincial secretary's portfolio was assigned to Hon. Joseph Royal.

Lieutenant-governor Archibald had not succeeded in making himself popular with all classes in the community, and the dissatisfaction of some of the people made his position doubly difficult. In the spring of 1872 he expressed a desire to give up his position, but the Dominion government persuaded him to hold it a few months longer. A rumor of what had occurred spread through the com munity, and the rougher element among the people who disapproved of the governor's course in public affairs burned him in effigy on the night of April 21. This rowdy-like action was severely condemned by the sober sense of the community, and an address, signed bv nearly two thousand citizens, was presented to his honor as a mark of respect and appreciation. Judge Francis Gh Johnson, who had been acting as presiding judge of the general quarterly court of the province, was selected to succeed Mr. Archibald in the gubernatorial chair; but because he had not resigned the judgeship when his commission as governor was issued, some members of the Dominion parliament held that his appointment was irregular, and it was withdrawn. He bade farewell to Manitoba at the close of the general court on May 29, 1872, and his duties were assumed by Hon. Alexander Morris, who was appointed chief justice of the province on July 2, and took the oath of office on August 14; but when Governor Archibald resigned in October, Chief Justice Morris was appointed as his successor.

The general elections for the Dominion house of commons were held in 1872. Mr. Robert Cunningham was returned for Marquette, Dr. Schultz for Lisgar, Sir George E. Cartier for Provencher, and Mr. Donald A. Smith for Selkirk. Mr. Smith's opponent was Mr. A. E. Wilson. In Winnipeg, which was then a part of the constituency of Selkirk, the election day was marked by much disorder Open voting was the rule in those days. Observers at the polls could tell pretty accurately how the vote stood, and early in the day it was plain that Mr. Smith would receive a majority in the provincial capital. This angered the element opposed to the Hudson's Bay Company and its officials, and they decided to interrupt the proceedings. As if by accident, one or two wagons loaded with axe-handles and spokes stopped near the polling-booth, and the mob promptly appropriated these handy weapons. Its opponents were driven away, the polling books seized, and the booth destroyed. The police force was unable to disperse the rioters, and Captain Plainval was seriously injured in attempting to keep the peace. Flushed with its success in Winnipeg, the mob crossed the Red River by the ferry to repeat its tactics in St. Boniface. The St. Boniface men, however, were too strong for the rioters and drove them back to the ferry. A gentleman on the Winnipeg bank, fearing that the battle would be transferred to that side of the river, cut the cable of the ferry, and the boat drifted helplessly down the stream and finally stuck in the mud on the St. Boniface shore. The rioters had been driven into the river, and all avenues of escape, except that of swimming, were cut off. They were in a bad position, but just in the nick of time a steamer came down the river, having on board a company of volunteers, which had been stationed at Pembina. The captain understood the situation at a glance and headed his ship for St. Boniface. The rioters were rescued from their perilous position and taken across to Winnipeg. Their wetting did not cool their ardor, however, and later in the day they sacked the offices of The Manitoban and Le Metis. All this did not save Mr. Wilson from defeat.

Sir George E. Cartier died on May 30, 1873, and Louis Riel was elected to the vacant seat for Provencher In consequence of the resignation of Sir John Macdonald's government in November of that year and the formation of a new ministry by Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, another Dominion election was held early in 1874. The four members sitting in the commons for Manitoban constituencies were all returned.

Hon. H. J. Clarke, the first premier of Manitoba, did not find the position an easy one. Many people were opposed to him on personal grounds; others charged him with making the administration of justice very expensive and increasing his own emoluments thereby. There was also friction between him and

his provincial secretary, Hon. Mr. Royal. Nor did Mr. Clarke escape public censure for the part taken by his department in the. "Gordon" case.

A man commonly called "Lord Gordon" was arrested in New York during the year 1872 at the instance of .Jay Gould in consequence of some dispute about the ownership of a large amount of Erie Railway stock. He was released on furnishing bonds to the large sum of $37,000 to appear in the courts of New York State to answer the charges against him. When the case was called, he did not appear, and his bail was escheated. Naturally angry at losing such a large sum, his bondsmen engaged two men named Michael Hoy and Owen Keegan to find the absconding prisoner and bring him back to New York. These men seem to have arranged with Loren Fletcher and G. W. Merriam, two prominent citizens of Minneapolis, and L. R. Bentley to assist in the enterprise.

In the meantime (cordon had reached Winnipeg and was enjoying life thoroughly there. In the early summer he became the guest of Hon. .James McKay at that gentlemen's residence in the parish of St. James. On the night of .July 1, 1873, he was decoyed from the house l)y Hoy and Keegan, made prisoner, and hurried off to Pembina. As soon as the facts were known, the officers of the law were put on the track of the abductors, and they and their accomplices were arrested before they reached the boundary. They were committed for trial, bail being refused. The prisoners were brought to trial in September. Hoy, Keegan, and Bentley pleaded guilty and were sentenced by Judge Betournay to twenty-four hours' imprisonment. Fletcher was admitted to bail, and the crown withdrew the charge against Merriam. Gordon was to have been tried at the same assizes on charges of forgery, perjury, etc.; but the trial was postponed, and before it could be held, he had committed suicide. There was much excitement over the arrest and trial of the kidnappers, both in Manitoba and Minnesota, and in the former many blamed the attorney-general for the outcome of the affair.

There were many causes for the friction between Mr. Clarke and Mr. Royal. Trouble arose over the, French printing and other matters, and probably each man wished to undermine the other's influence with the French members of the legislature. The climax came when Mr. Royal, leading the French members, opposed a redistribution bill introduced by the premier. The bill passed in November, 1873 ; but when the adjourned session of the assembly re-opened on July 2, 1874, Mr. Clarke announced that the redistribution act would be superseded by another which was considered more equitable. On the following day Mr. E. H. G. G. Hay and Mr. Joseph Dubuc moved a resolution of want of confidence in the ministry, which was carried by a vote of fourteen to six. The Clarke government resigned at once, and a new ministry was appointed. It included Hon. M. A. Girard, premier and provincial secretary'; Hon James McKay, president of the council; Hon. E. II. G. G. Hay, minister of public works and agriculture; Hon. R. A. Davis, provincial treasurer; Hon. Joseph Dubuc, attorney-general; and Hon. Francis Ogletree, minister without a portfolio. Mr. Davis was a hotel-keeper, who had been elected to represent Winnipeg a short time before his appointment to a cabinet position.

On December 9, 1874, the Girard ministry resigned, and Hon. A. R. Davis was called upon to form a government. It was composed of Hon. A. R. Davis, premier and provincial treasurer; Hon Joseph Royal, provincial secretary and minister of public works; and Hon. Colin Inkster, president of the council. Its policy was one of retrenchment in expenses. The number of ministers was reduced, the indemnity to members of the legislature was cut down, and the abolition of the legislative council was promised. The government also pledged itself to secure economy in the administration of justice, better schools, and an effective municipal system. A general election followed, in which the Davis government was sustained. Mr. Davis felt strong enough to increase his cabinet, in spite of earlier pledges, and in March, 1875, Mr. Norquay was made provincial secretary, and Mr. Charles Nolin became minister of agriculture.

On April 30, 1875, Hon. Mr. Norquay introduced into the legislative assembly the promised bill for the abolition of the legislative council. It passed the assembly, but in the legislative council itself it was defeated by the casting vote of the speaker, Hon. Dr. 0 'Donnell, and so that body obtained a short reprieve. In the following January the bill for its abolition was introduced again, and this time it passed both houses. Thus in 1876, after an existence of five years, Manitoba's upper house was abolished. Before this second session of the second legislature had passed, Hon. James McKay came back to the cabinet, taking Mr. Nolin's portfolio of agriculture.

Lieutenant-Governor Morris retired at the close of 1877, and the Hon. Joseph Cauchon was appointed to the vacant position. The appointment was popular with the French people of the province, but it displeased many of the English, and there was talk of making a demonstration against the new governor when he arrived. He reached "Winnipeg earlier than his arrival was anticipated, owing to the serious illness of Madame Cauchon, who had come to the city some time before. He took the oath of office on the day of his predecessor's departure, and three days later Madame Cauchon died. Sympathy with the bereaved governor did much to mitigate the harsh feelings toward him: but he never became, very popular with the English-speaking people of the province.

Hon. Alexander Morris came back to Manitoba in August of the next year, and was nominated as a candidate for the house of commons in opposition to Mr. Donald A. Smith. The electors of the constituency preferred their former representative, however, and he was returned when the election took place on September 26.

In October, 1878, Hon. R. A. Davis resigned the premiership of the province and retired from public life. Ilis minister of agriculture, Hon. James McKay, gave up his portfolio at the same time. At the request of the lieutenant-governor, Hon. Mr. Norquay formed a new ministry, composed of Hon. John Norquay, premier and provincial treasurer; Hon. Joseph Royal, minister of public works; Hon. D. M. "Walker, attorney-general; and Hon. C. P. Brown, provincial secretary. Later Hon. Pierre Delorme was made minister of agriculture and president of the council. People gave the retiring premier credit for carrying out his policy of economy in the public service, but he does not seem to have initiated much progressive legislation.

Having announced the leading features of his policyŚlocal aid to railroads, extension of the boundaries of the province, an increased subsidy from the Dominion, increased aid to schools, and a system of drainage for the low Ifujds of the country-- Mr., Norquay appealed to the electors. The elections were held

on December 18, 1878, and resulted in the return of the government. It secured sixteen seats, while six were held by opposition members and two by independents. The new house met on February 1, 1878, and after sitting a few days, adjourned in order to allow Messrs. Norquay and Royal an opportunity to go to Ottawa and press the claims of the province upon the Dominion government. The business took considerable time, and the provincial legislature did not re-assemble to hear the report of its delegates until May 27. This report and the agreement to which it led will be dealt with in a later chapter.

During the spring events took place that brought the assembly to the point which it had been approaching almost from the first, division on party lines. The steady stream of immigration flowing into the province had completely destroyed the numerical balance of its English and French populations. Settlements had spread to the western boundary of the province, the fertile lands m its northwestern corner were being occupied, many good farmers were, taking up lands east of the Red River, settlers were locating farms along the valley of the stream as far as the international line, and from the valley they were pushing out into the prairie to the west. Very few of these new settlers were French. The majority came from Canada and Great Britain, and few of the foreigners allied themselves with the French people of the province. As a result the French people were soon outnumbered by those of other races, and in the elections of 1878 their representatives secured but six out of the twenty-four seats in the provincial legislature.

It was soon apparent that there was friction between Mr. Royal and Mr. Norquay, just as there had been between Mr. Royal and Mr. Clarke a few years earlier. Once more the French printing seems to have been a cause of ministerial discord. Other possible causes may be found in Mr. Norquay's opinions regarding public schools and a redistribution of seats in the legislature. During the adjournment of the house, when both members of the cabinet were at Ottawa, it was rumored that, when the session was resumed, Mr. Royal would ally all the French members and the English members opposed to Mr. Norquay and thus embarrass the premier to such an extent that he would be. compelled to grant the demands made by Mr. Royal on behalf of the French. Tn this way it was hoped to retain for them most of their former prestige in the legislature.

To checkmate such a move Mr. Norquay called a caucus of all the English members of the assembly, and at the meeting they pledged themselves to support a number of enactments, among which those for the abolition of the printing of public documents in French, the redistribution of seats with a due regard to the area and population of the constituencies, an<l a better division of the government grant to schools were prominent. Mr. Royal called a meeting of his supporters and they agreed upon certain demands, which he, as their spokesman, presented to Mr. Norquay on May 28. The premier replied on the next day by asking Mr. Royal to give up his portfolio. After consulting with his followers, Mr. Royal sent in his resignation, and that of Hon. P. Delorme followed promptly. Mr. S. C. Biggs was then chosen as minister of public works and Mr. John Taylor as minister of agriculture.' In spite of Mr. Norquay's protest, "I believe that the interests of the province can be best served by eschewing party issues in our local affairs, "-party issues were gradually introduced into Manitoban politics from that time forward.

Having passed the promised acts for abolishing printing in French, a redistribution of seats, etc., Mr. Norquay once more appealed to the people. The elections were held on December 16, and the government was sustained by a large majority. Hon. Mr. Biggs had retired from the ministry about the time the legislature was dissolved, ami Hon. Mr. Taylor was defeated in the elections; so there were two vacancies in the cabinet to be filled. Mr. Girard came in once more and took the provincial secretary's portfolio, while Mr. Maxime Goulet became minister of agriculture. In the early years of its history Manitoba rivalled the republic of France in the matter of ministerial changes. Some important measures were passed at the ensuing session of the legislature, the Drainage Act being one of them. The house was prorogued on February 14, 1880, and a few days later Mr. Norquay, accompanied by Messrs. Brown and McMicken. made another pilgrimage to Ottawa to urge the claims of the province upon the Canadian government. He was not very successful, and indeed his periodic visits to Ottawa continued for several years with results which were never quite satisfactory.

In November of 1881 there was another readjustment in the cabinet, owing to the resignation of the minister of agriculture, Hon. Mr. Goulet. Mr. Girard took his place, and Hon. A. Lariviere became provincial secretary. Early ir 1882 Mr. Norquay and Mr. Lariviere went to Ottawa for another conference in regard to Manitoba's demands. The outcome of their mission was so unsatisfactory that the Free Press, which had previously supported Mr. Norquay, now denounced his administration for blunders and incompetence. The Times, a conservative paper, defended the government and advocated acceptance of the terms offered by the Dominion. When the legislature met on April 12, the tone of the member who moved the address to the speech from the throne indicated that the government had become a distinctly conservative one. During the recess an opposition had been organized under the leadership of Mr. Thomas Greenway, the member for Mountain. In defending the bargain which he had concluded with the Dominion, Premier Norquay was obliged to endorse to that extent the policy of Sir John Macdonald's government towards Manitoba; and during the debate on the speech from the throne Mr. Greenway moved a resolution which condemned the policy of the Dominion government towards Mam toba as well as the Manitoban government for accepting it. Thus the government and opposition members of the legislature divided squarely on party issues, and thereafter the political battles of Manitoba were fought between conservatives and liberals, as in the older provinces.

The elections for the Dominion parliament were held in June, 1882, and they resulted in the selection of five new members for Manitoba, Winnipeg having been made a separate constituency. In Lisgar Mr. A. W. Ross defeated Dr Schultz; Mr. Robert Watson defeated Mr. E. McDonald in Marquette; Mr. Hugh Sutherland defeated Mr. Stewart Mulvey in Selkirk; Captain Thomas Scott was elected in Winnipeg over two opponents; and in Provencher Hon. J. Royal was elected by acclamation.

In July, 1882, Hon. I). M Walker resigned his position as attorney-general to become a .judge of the county court, and he was succeeded by Hon. Alex. M. Sutherland. Later in the year Dr. Schultz was appointed, as one of Manitoba's representatives in the Dominion senate; and in December, when Lieutenant-Governor Cauchon's term of office expired, Hon. .Tames C. Aikins was appointed as his successor.

Through all these changes in Manitoba's governors, cabinets and parliamentary representatives, several important matters at issue between the province and the Dominion had been dominant in her public affairs. They grew out of the peculiar terms under which the province was confederated with Canada; and while they may be discussed in distinct chapters, they are so closely related as to be almost inseparable. Frequent readjustment of the relations between Manitoba and the Dominion lessened, but did not entirely remove, their unsatisfactory character; and even the arrangement made last year is not certain to prove a final settlement of the questions at issue. The most important of these problems have been better financial terms for the province, the extension of her boundaries, and her right to charter railways within her own territory. Other problems, not wholly unconnected with some of those named above, are the school question and the use of the French language in the legislature and the courts.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus