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