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Lord Sydenham
Chapter XXI - The Close of a Session and a Life


ONE of the most important functions which Lord Sydenham had to perform, partly m consequence of the union of the provinces and partly in consequence of the new system of responsible government which was being introduced, was the reorganization of the government departments. On July 18th he reported to Lord John Russell the reorganization which he had effected, making as few changes as possible consistently with the securing of efficient service, and the requirement that the heads of executive departments should have seats in the legislature. Thus, as already stated, he had appointed Messrs. S. B. Harrison and D. Daly as joint secretaries for the province, the former for the west and the latter for the east.

"To these gentlemen will be entrusted the conduct of the whole internal management of the Province, which at one time belonged to the Provincial Secretaries of Upper and Lower Canada respectively, but which for many years past had been absorbed by the personal, or as he was termed the ' Civil' Secretary of the Lieutenant-Governors. It is evident that the officer who s, and always must be, the confidential servant of the Governor, and whose tenure of office should therefore terminate with the Governor's, can never on his first arrival, and scarcely indeed at any time, possess that intimate local knowledge which is necessary to carry on a correspondence of this nature. This difficulty will be met by appointing two gentlemen, residents >n the Province, and the tenures of whose offices will not end with the Governor but be on the same footing as any other officer in the Province.

"To the Personal Secretary of the Governor, whom I should propose to call the Private Secretary, will be entrusted the duty of assisting the Governor in the conduct of the correspondence with the Secretary of State, the Lieutenant-Governors, the British Minister at Washington and all Foreign Authorities or Individuals, as well as such general questions as pertain to both Provinces. This officer, as I have stated, being the confidential Servant of the Governor, must change with him."

Mr. R. G. Tucker was appointed provincial registrar, to attend to " matters of registry, affixing the great seal, and recording instruments." Mr. J. H. Dunn was retained as receiver-general, but his functions and responsibilities were to be curtailed and an improved system of inspection and audit of public moneys introduced.

"I have not yet been able to select a gentleman to fill permanently the important office of Inspector-General of Public Accounts. It will be necessary that that officer should be a member of the House of Assembly, and that he should be a man not only well acquainted with accounts and competent to superintend the routine business of his office, but also capable of proposing the principal financial arrangements from time to time necessary, and of explaining and vindicating those arrangements in the House of Assembly." To this position, now known as minister of finance, it was generally understood Lord Sydenham had intended to appoint Mr. Hincks, of whose financial ability he had formed a very high opinion, and justly so, as his subsequent career was to demonstrate. Mr. Hincks was already making a well-deserved reputation as chairman of the select committee on currency and banking. Lord Sydenham's reputed intention was carried out shortly afterwards by his successor, Sir Charles Bagot. When this change should be accomplished, Mr. Carey, who was then inspector-general, would become the deputy of the department. The position of commissioner of Crown lands was filled by Mr. Davidson, who had held a similar position in Lower Canada. For the position of surveyor-general. Lord Sydenham had selected Mr. Parke, member of the assembly for the county of Middlesex and a strong Reformer. The Board of Works which had been established in Lower Canada by an ordinance of the Special Council, was extended to the whole province by one of Lord Sydenham's special measures, and Mr. Killaly was continued as president.

"In the Executive Council I have made considerable changes. Your Lordship is aware that a very large portion of the business of that body has consisted in advising the Governor on applications or claims for land and cases of that description, or in reporting on the accounts of several public offices or Departments. I have for these services constituted a committee to be presided over by a President, to whom a salary of £1000 a year should be assigned, and I have conferred that appointment on the Hon. R. B. Sullivan, who was for several years presiding councillor of the Executive Council of Upper Canada. Mr. Sullivan, having also for some time held the office of Commissioner of Crown Lands in that Province, is peculiarly fitted for this situation.

"I have appointed to the Executive Council no one but the principal officers of the Government, who are responsible both to the Governor and the public for their Acts, and to them I continue the small salary of £100 a year which they have received since the first institution of that body in Canada

Colonel Fitzgibbon was appointed clerk of the legislative council, and Mr. W. B. Lindsay to the same position in the assembly, with Mr. F. S. Jarvis as usher of the black rod, and Mr. G. C. Chisholm as scrgeant-at-arms.

"By these arrangements the business of the Province will, I feel satisfied, be efficiently as well as economically performed, and above all, that responsibility, of the want of which I took occasion early to state the evil consequences, will be established in the different departments.

"For the satisfactory conduct of public affairs, it has appeared to me absolutely necessary, that, on the one hand, the Governor should be able to rely upon the zeal and attention of the Heads of Departments, not merely to act under his immediate directions upon every minute point, but also to feel themselves really responsible for the conduct of their different offices—and on the other, that by their being members of one or other House of Parliament, the public should possess a wholesome control over their acts, and a security should be obtained for the general administration of affairs being in accordance with the wishes of the Legislature.

"At present all the Heads of Departments are members of the Assembly with the exception of the President of the Committee of Council, who is in the Legislative Council.

"The four law-officers, the two Secretaries, the Receiver-General, the President of the Board of Works, and the Inspector-General, whom I propose shortly to appoint, will also be of that body. In future I should not consider it absolutely necessary that all these offices should be thus held, but at the same time it will ill my opinion be desirable that a considerable proportion should be thus filled, and if the gentlemen who may hold them cannot obtain seats there, they must give place to those who can."

Though Lord Sydenham was continually occupied with the internal problems of Canada and the other British North American colonies, yet he had frequently to deal with many scarcely less important matters affecting the relations of Canada with the United States and the mother country. He conducted an extensive correspondence with reference to the disputed territory on the Maine boundary. This problem had reached a very critical stage owing to the extension of settlement into the region in dispute, and Lord Sydenham had occasion for all his decision of character and diplomatic tact in bringing this thorny question to a stage which made possible the settlement arrived at by Lord Ashburton the following year. He had also to take part in the negotiations for an extradition treaty wiith the United States, the draft of which was prepared while he was in office. This, too, was incorporated in the Ashburton Treaty.

Trade relations between the colonies and the mother country also occupied his attention, and here his experience as president of the Board of Trade was of great value. As might be inferred from his policy in that office, his influence was used in favour of giving to the Canadian parliament a freer hand and more initiative in dealing with Canadian commercial interests, subject only to the maintenance of a policy in harmony with that of the mother country. This latter was amply provided for, as he maintained, by the imperial right to disallow objectionable colonial measures.

When we remember that Lord Sydenham's constitution was far from robust and that he was subject to periodic attacks of gout, we can understand how severely he had been taxing his strength by his constant application to the exceptionally important duties of his office at this critical stage in Canadian history. The rapidity with which he passed from one great problem to another left him no time in which to recuperate his strength. As a natural consequence, just before the opening of the first session of the united legislature, he was prostrated by an unusually severe attack which for a time threatened his life and compelled him to postpone for a week or two the opening of the session. Writing on May 25th, he says: "At last 1 can write to you with my own hand......I was ill in bed, and utterly unable either to write or dictate. Not gout merely, but fever, and horrible prostration both of mind and body. In fact I have been done by the work and the climate united, and God knows whether I shall see the other side of the Atlantic again !" Though he recovered sufficiently to permit him to take up with irrepressible determination and activity the problems in which he was so completely absorbed, yet it was plain that he would not be able to stand the strain much longer. On learning of his severe illness Lord John Russell, writing on July 6th, expressed great concern and gave him authority to return to Britain, as soon as the exigencies of the public service would permit, on leave of absence for six months. Before this reached him, however, Lord Sydenham found it necessary, on July 21st, to send in his formal resignation, to take effect as soon as the session was over. In a private letter to Lord John Russell he says: I shall of course stay here till everything to be done this session is well through and I have been enabled after its close to do what is required iii setting any new laws or institutions in operation. Nothing, therefore, can now prevent or mar the most complete success, and Canada must henceforward go on well, unless it is most terribly mismanaged.

As the session wore on and he saw his great plans for bringing order out of chaos in Canada coming to a triumphant realization, his spirits rose in spite of his physical ailments. In his private letters to intimate friends lie exhibits almost a boyish jubilation of spirit over his great success, where almost everyone familiar with the deep-rooted and far-reaching difficulties which at first confronted him were inclined to despair of a permanent solution. On August 28th, writing to his brother, he says: "My success has been triumphant, more so than I ever expected or had ventured to hope. 1 shall leave, I trust, a field which my successor, whoever he be, cannot mismanage. With a most difficult opening, almost a minority, with passions at boiling heat, and prejudices such as I never saw, to contend with, I have brought the Assembly by degrees into perfect order, ready to follow wherever I may lead; have carried all my measures, avoided or beaten off all disputed topics, and have got a ministry with an avowed and recognized majority, capable of doing what they think right, and not to be upset by my successor." Referring to the work of the session he continues: "I have now accomplished all I set much value on; for whether the rest be done now or some sessions hence, matters little. The five great works I aimed at have been got through: the establishment of a board of works with ample powers; the admission of aliens ; a new system of county courts; the regulation of the public lands ceded by the Crown under the Union Act; and lastly, this District Council Rill." Then, as he felt the pressure of his strenuous existence for the past two years relaxing, he realized something of the joy of successful struggle. "The worst of it is that I am afraid I shall never be good for quiet purposes hereafter; for I actually breathe, eat, drink, and sleep on nothing but government and politics, and my day is a lost one when I do not find that I have advanced some of these objects materially. That, in fact, is the secret of my success. The people know that I am ready at all hours and times to do business, and that what I have once undertaken I will carry through; so they follow my star.''

On August 18th Lord John Russell replied to his letter containing his resignation. The letter closes thus: "I avail myself of the opportunity of this day's mail to inform your Lordship that the Queen has been pleased to accept your resignation. Her Majesty has further commanded me to express to your Lordship her intention to confer on you the Order of the Grand Cross of the Bath, as a proof of Her Majesty's gracious appreciation of your services."

By the end of August he felt that his labours were nearly over. In a private letter to Lord John Russell, on the 28th of that month, the day on which Lord John and the Melbourne ministry went out of office, he closes as follows: "The parliament will, I hope, be in a state to prorogue in a fortnight or three weeks at farthest, and then it will take me nearly as much longer to wind up, as I am determined to leave nothing unsettled which I can do. Rut at the end of that time, the middle of October, I trust that I shall hear the guns pealing from the rock of Quebec; and a most delightful sound it will be to me." Rut that sound he was destined never to hear and a longer and deeper rest awaited him than that beyond the sea. A fer days after writing this letter, on September 4th, he was thrown from his horse, which stumbled While ascending a slight hill near his residence. His right leg was broken and badly lacerated. For a time it was thought that he might recover, but his constitution was too much impaired to withstand the strain. He still insisted, however, on devoting personal attention to the arrangements for the closing of the session and the subsequent continuation of the executive work of the government.

On September 11th he sent his last official and private letters to Lord John Russell. They were in acknowledgment of the letters accepting lis resignation and announcing the additional honour conferred upon him. In the official despatch he says: "I have to request your Lordship to lay at the foot of the throne, the expression of my feelings of deep gratitude to the Queen for the signification of Her Majesty's approval of my humble services, and my thanks for the distinguished mark of favour which it is Her Majesty's intention to confer upon me." In the private letter he writes: "I am much obliged to you for the red riband, and a great deal more for the kind manner m which you recommended it." The official despatch continues: "The business before the parliament is almost entirely completed, and I expect to prorogue both Houses on Wednesday next, the 15th instant, thus bringing to a close a session which, for the importance of the measures adopted as well as its general effect, affords me matter for the greatest satisfaction." He then refers to his accident, but still with the hope of returning to Britain that autumn. A few days later he developed alarming symptons and it was deemed expedient to arrange for the closing of the session by a deputy. General Clitherow, the senior military officer in Kingston, was chosen to officiate at the closing duties of the session, which took place on the eighteenth.

Inflammation, aggravated by gout and ending ultimately in lockjaw, afflicted the dying governor with increasing spasms of torture. Yet in the intervals of his sufferings he continued, with characteristic fortitude, to devote himself to his duties, public and private. Within forty-eight hours of his death he completed the speech with which he had expected to close the legislature. In this last message to the Canadian people, through tlie'r representatives, made public after his death, he expressed the spirit which had animated the whole course of his administration. He closed thus :—

"While I cannot look back on the two last years without feelings of the deepest emotion, my anticipations for the future are full of hope and confidence. In the manner in which the present session has been conducted, and in the results Which it has produced, I feel the fullest assurance that the anxiety of the Queen and the Imperial Parliament for the welfare of Canada will not be disappointed,—that the constitution which they have bestowed upon this country will be productive of peace, of happiness, and prosperity. To me it must ever be a source of the highest gratification that in the accomplishment of these great measures I have been permitted to bear a part. It now remains for you to carry out m your homes the good work you have so well begun; to obliterate past dissensions; to co-operate in giving effect to the new institutions; and to inculcate that spirit of enterprise and contentment which is essential to the well-being of a community.

"May Almighty God prosper your labours, and pour down upon this province all those blessings which in my heart I am desirous that it should enjoy."

Referring in his last moments to his friend and fellow-minister, Lord John Russell, who, as colonial secretary, had given him such whole-hearted encouragement and. support, he said, "He was the noblest man it was ever my good fortune to know."

On Saturday evening he enquired if the legislature were prorogued, and on learning that it was, he said, "Then all is right." As the peaceful Sunday morning of September 19th broke into the sufferer's room he was released from his agony. His death sealed the first session of the parliament of United Canada, and occurred exactly one year and eleven months from the day on which at Quebec he first set foot on Canadian soil.

When Lord Sydenham found that his life's work must close in Canada, be desired that here, too, his body should remain. It was accordingly arranged that he should be buried in a vault beneath the central aisle of St. George's Cathedral, Kingston. There, on September 4th, with the military accompaniments of a garrison city, and all the funeral pomp pertaining to his rank and official position, the body of Lord Sydenham was laid to rest. Among the clergymen who took the chief part in the services were the venerable Archdeacon Stuart, brother of the chief-justice on whom Lord Sydenham so often relied, and the Rev. Richard Cartwrigbt, then assistant minister of St. George's. Reflecting on the brief but crowded career of the governor and the sad circumstances of his death, many of those who were present on the occasion were deeply affected by the stately yet pathetic ceremony, which, as was said at the time, left " an impression which, even in future years, will never be forgotten." Even nature furnished an appropriate setting; for it was one of those mystically beautiful Canadian autumn days, when the soft haze and subdued sunlight, shorn of its heating rays, infuse receptive minds with a subtle and prophetic melancholy, which is apt to reveal for a moment the present and future in the face of the great historic scroll of time, whereon appear only the things that matter, while the pettiness of life, its personal bitterness and the eager grasp of selfishness, vanish, self-devoured.


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