Sir John A. Macdonald

by John G. Diefenbaker

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 25, 1968-69 Season

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It is wonderful to be here with you again. I’ve been here on more than one occasion with the Manitoba Historical Society, but I have never spoken of Sir John A. Macdonald. I’ve been a long time admirer of his. Mr. Molgat [1] mentioned Mackenzie King, and that’s of interest too, because my father taught two prime ministers of Canada. He taught Mackenzie King in the primer, and he taught me. Only history will be able to say in which case he made the worst mistake!

Meetings like this make it possible to look over the history of those who have gone before, for in the perspective of history partisanship ceases. Tonight we have had an example of that in the finest measure. [2] But in the light of history, the shortcomings, the difficulties, the ups and downs of life, are forgotten as each and everyone in his turn and generation takes his place in the tradition and fabric of our country.

Sir John had very close links with Manitoba. I met his son Hugh John in 1927 at the convention in Winnipeg. Mention was made earlier tonight of his great-grandson who can look back on four generations, two of which were intimately connected with the Province of Manitoba. Sir Hugh John was a Premier of Manitoba. [3] Sir John A. represented a constituency in Manitoba [4] in the House of Commons.

While we get together on an occasion such as this, we always realize that tomorrow we may have other views to express which are essential to democracy. In this connection I think of Sir John in the election of 1891. A few weeks before he passed away, he was speaking near the City of Ottawa. It was a noisy meeting and those who had preceded him found themselves howled down. When Sir John got up to speak, he too was howled at. But in the back of the hall there was a big Irishman with a deep voice and he rose and bellowed: “Let’s have order, let’s have silence, let’s listen to Sir John.” He got order. Then Sir John thanked him for his support, to which the man replied: “Sir John, don’t run away with the idea that I’d vote for you. I’d never vote for you. Further than that I wouldn’t vote for you if you were the angel Gabriel; that’s how strong a Grit I am.” Sir John’s reply to this outburst was: “You certainly wouldn’t vote for me; you wouldn’t be in my constituency.”

Sir John must have been an unusual character on the stump; able to carry an audience by the power of his humor, without which no man or woman can fully discharge the responsibilities of public life. However, Sir John belonged to those who can laugh at themselves.

The following story was told to me by Smeaton Smith who was a member of the parliamentary press gallery in 1891. For forty years thereafter he had remained in private life until in 1930 when he was elected to the House of Commons. His memory was still clear on an incident in 1891 involving Sir John and a delegation from Montreal. The head of this delegation was President of the Temperance Society of the Province of Quebec, and Smeaton Smith was very much afraid that if Sir John found out about his identity in advance, there would be little chance of securing what they came after. When the delegation arrived in Sir John’s office, the head of the group was placed in a chair to the right of Sir John. The meeting was apparently proceeding in good order when he turned to Sir John and said: “I don’t know whether you realize it, but I am President of the Temperance Society of Quebec.” Whereupon Sir John immediately retorted: “Move over here; sit away from me. Your breath is positively offensive. It smells of water.” Well, that is the way Sir John was able to brush aside those things that normally constitute difficulties or irritations for those in public life.

Stories of Sir John remain unchanged with the years, and more and more are becoming a part and parcel of the legends and history of our country. He could laugh at himself! This morning when I entered my office there was a large volume waiting for me. It was the Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald from 1836 to 1857. The first of those letters, the original of which was given to me by a friend, embodies Sir John’s philosophy. Somebody asked him once: “What is your attitude towards political foes?” Those were the words that were used. He replied: “As far as I am concerned, I’ve gone through life with one principle: ‘Be to our faults a little blind, and to our virtues always kind.’”

That’s a wonderful philosophy. It is epitomized tonight by these two representatives [5] meeting here in a spirit of fellowship and Canadianism. I have often told the following story, but it bears repeating again. I think of the British House of Commons, where the challenge and thrust of debate is often harsh. That was particularly so between Mr. Attlee and Mr. Churchill, and some of the things that Mr. Churchill said about Mr. Attlee were frightful.

My wife and I, the Prime Minister and Mrs. Pearson, represented Canada at the funeral of Sir Winston. At the conclusion of the ceremony I wanted to go back through St. Paul’s before going elsewhere. I wondered how many would still be around. There was only one. He was sitting on the top step leading into the cathedral. It was “that man” Attlee, Labour Leader, pacifist, gallant soldier, who went to the front in 1914, never carrying a revolver, always his cane, yet, as a lieutenant, won the D.S.O. [6] He had come back to honour his political opponent. That’s the concept I have tried to emulate all through the years with more or less success.

Sir John A. Macdonald had a way of speaking of politicians and of being a politician. In the year 1884, I think it was, he attended McGill University for a convocation at which Lord Dufferin delivered an address entirely in Greek. Next day, a reporter on the Montreal Gazette wrote that His Excellency spoke Greek perfectly; he never mispronounced a word or committed the slightest grammatical solecism. Speaking to Macdonald about this, Lord Dufferin asked: “I wonder where that reporter got his information?” Sir John replied: “I gave it to him.” “But you don’t know any Greek,” retorted Lord Dufferin. “Perhaps not,” replied Macdonald, “but I sure know my politics.” That was the man who gave Canada that something which has become greater in the passing years.

I think of Sir John in 1888 in the House of Commons. He had a habit of pointing his finger at the government or opposition, as the case might be, (whether as prime minister or leader of the opposition), and on this occasion an opposition member rose and strongly objected to Sir John’s remarks and gestures. “Mr. Speaker, he pointed at me!” Sir John immediately replied: “I certainly will withdraw the finger but nothing else.”

So through the years he built for himself that something that has made him today the living embodiment of the principles of parliamentary government. And he could be tough. Donald Smith, afterwards Lord Strathcona, left him early in the 1870s and went over to the opposition. Sir John didn’t like that. You see, it wasn’t abnormal for people to leave the government even in those days. Nonetheless, Sir John was so annoyed with Donald Smith in the House one day that he snorted: “Just let me at him, I could lick that man quicker than hell would frizzle a feather.” Now there is something to that! You can see it; you can feel it! The opposition could understand it!

Well those are just some of the lighter things at the moment. Oh yes! One of those from the other party who had supported him at the time of confederation was attacking him one day in the House. He led off by saying: “I never trust the prime minister.” Then continued: “He said when he was getting ready to bring about this confederation idea, that he had baited a most attractive menu.” To which old Sir John replied: “And the Right Honourable gentleman was the biggest rat I caught.” There was clarity. There was understanding.

Now then, what of Macdonald in the eyes of the opposition? Sir Wilfrid Laurier was leader of the opposition when Sir John passed away in 1891. There had been bitter words between these two political foes. Yet Laurier’s tribute [7] rings as movingly today as it did on that 8th of June, 1891, when he said: “I think it can be asserted that for the supreme art of governing men, Sir John A. Macdonald was gifted as few men in many lands or in any age. As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of Canada. It may be said without exaggeration that the life of Sir John A. Macdonald from the day he entered parliament is the history of Canada. He was connected and associated with all events, all the facts, which brought Canada from the position it then occupied to the present state of development. Today we deplore the loss of him, and we all unite in saying he was the foremost Canadian of his time, who has filled the largest place in Canadian history.”

Sir John’s parents were driven out of Sutherland shire by the Duchess of Sutherland in 1812. They went to Glasgow where John A. was born in 1815. I went to Scotland last summer in company with the Reverend Canon Taylor, whose parents left the Orkneys at the same time as the Sutherland crofters. While I was in Scotland, I unveiled a cairn to the memory of the parents of Sir John A. Macdonald, also a plaque to the memory of my great grandfather and great grandmother, the George Bannermans, and all the Selkirk Settlers of the year 1812, who were driven out at the same time.

It is strange how history operates. It if hadn’t been for the Duchess of Sutherland, who preferred sheep to people, the first and thirteenth Prime Ministers of Canada would not have been who they were. History is a great teacher.

Sir John, in his own words, “had no boyhood.” From the age of seven he had to earn his own living. He made his first speech at the age of five. He got up on a table to make a political speech, fell down;’, and bore the scar until his last days. Much later [8] he decided to become a lawyer. He started in as a Counsel for the Defence, and his first case in Kingston gave him national recognition. He defended a Polish patriot by the name of Schultz. [9] Sir John was advised not to take the case under any circumstances. “He deserves a defence,” said Sir John. Macdonald made an eloquent but unsuccessful plea. Schultz was sentenced to hang on the common scaffold in Kingston, but so eloquent had been Sir John’s appeal that the court decided to give a special dispensation to Schultz and set up a scaffold just for him.

A few months ago in Vancouver the Jewish people gave me the tree of life. [10] I didn’t know what this was, so had to make enquiry. I was told that it meant I would live as long as Moses. I asked how long that would be and was told 130 years. When that news got back to Ottawa there was consternation, and now, Molgat and Paulley, I pass it on to you.

Sir John had his victories and defeats, but like Churchill, he was unbowed in defeat. Adversity was but a spur to him. He was resolute when political disaster seemed to have engulfed him. He had his days of glory and his days of despondency. You should read some of the attacks that were made on him. In one editorial in the Toronto Globe, before it became independent, a tirade ran: “Macdonald is mentally unwell; he tried to commit suicide at Riviere du Loup; he has few lucid moments.” The next day he spoke in that place and began his remarks with: “Ladies and gentlemen, in one of my lucid moments, I now address you.”

Macdonald had the genius to bring together those who disagreed with him. He had the cooperation of Sir George Etienne Cartier, George Brown, and others. He saw Canada as one Canada, independent under the Crown. He molded the form of our nation. He taught Canadians to walk upright in pride and confidence when many were preaching annexation to the United States. He saw Canada in a position internationally and within the Empire that no one else saw. He predicted the Commonwealth. He said the day would come when Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries would join together with the mother country on behalf of freedom.

Sir John was the one who brought about the first high commissioner ship in London. The Tories were very angry with him. They said he was going to break up the Empire relationship. At the same time he was having a great deal of trouble with Sir Alexander Galt. Because it would be better all round to have Galt out of the country, he decided to send him to London. Sir John wanted to have Galt appointed a Minister, but the British Government demurred. Sir John then appointed Galt High Commissioner. After Galt had been in England a couple of years, he got a New Year’s message from Sir John: “Sir Alexander Galt, High Commissioner’s Office, London. I have just been looking over the list of those in the highest positions in our country and I notice you’re no longer included.” Now, there’s a touch about that! Macdonald was able to engender great affection, even greater hatred.

He was a person to whom the cartoonists paid particular attention. He had a Lincolnesque likeness. His appearance, like those of us who are unafflicted with masculine pulchritude, inspire the cartoonists to their greatest efforts. He was a simple man. Read some of his speeches in the House of Commons. He was never a great orator, but he was rich in human sympathy and understanding. I would like to have known him.

I think of Sir John in Washington in 1873 when he insisted on the right of Canada to be present at a fisheries conference [11] convened by the American and British governments. The British said he had no right to be there. But Sir John said: “Here I am.” When arrangements were made by the president for a trip down the Potomac, Macdonald sat beside the wife of a United States senator. She opened the conversation by asking him if he was from Canada, and when he said he was, she said: “They tell me that you have a frightful old rascal there as the head of your country?” “Yes ma’m, that’s what they say,” was Sir John’s reply. Then the woman continued: “You know, they tell me he’s clever but a complete scalawag.” “That’s what they say,” Sir John replied. A few minutes later the woman’s husband came along and introduced her to the Honourable John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada. She was greatly embarrassed, but Macdonald, in understanding, said: “Don’t worry about it, madam. That’s what everybody thinks about me in Canada, but they vote for me just the same.”

He was what the highlanders call “a little fey.” [12] When he was here in Winnipeg in 1886, travelling over the Canadian Pacific Railway for the first time, he said: “I am so glad to be here. It is finished five years before it was expected. I thought I would be looking down from above before it was finished. I’m so happy here in Winnipeg to see both the railway and myself in a horizontal position.” [13]

He believed in the equality of the basic races, but he did not believe in intimidation on the part of either of them. The British North America Act was largely his handiwork. He vigorously asserted the right of this country to determine its own policies made in Canada. That was something! It was most unusual. When one looks back over the years, one wonders how different the history of Western Canada might have been had it not been for Macdonald.

I am not here to rake up the coals of 1870 and 1885 and the rebellions of those times. It is easy to go back over it and say that things should have been different. I have never been one of those who regarded Louis Riel as a martyr because of the fact that when he came back to Canada in 1884 he made it clear to one of Macdonald’s representatives that he was prepared to go back to the United States and forget about the Indians and the Métis if he got $100,000 from the Canadian government. [14] Finally, in March of 1885, he had reduced the amount to $35,000. On the other hand, I have always contended that he should have been found “not guilty” by reason of insanity, but he wouldn’t let his lawyers advance that argument. He claimed that he was sane and that they had no business to proceed on other grounds.

Sir John prevented Western Canada from becoming lawless as were the western states when they were opened up. It was his idea that the North West Mounted Police be established. [15] He wanted to call them the North West Mounted Militia. But the United States took strong objection to this terminology. They argued that they did not want a warlike country next to them.

Macdonald was the first to refer to the Queen as the Queen of Canada. [16] He was the man who brought about unions in Canada. [17] He had them legalized at a time when it was an offense for labour to be organized. His chief opponent was George Brown of the Toronto Globe who had a controversy with some of his employees over the forming of a union. And so I could go on. He looked ahead with something of that vision all statesmen must possess. In 1886 he said that the day was not far distant when a railroad would be built to Hudson Bay. It was twenty-two years later before that railroad was begun. He also said he looked forward to something being done to open up that fine northern centre of Prince Albert. This in no way detracts from my view of his statesmanship.

He was an amazing person. He thought that women should have the vote, but he also realized that it would be very difficult to give them the vote. Few people realize that women had the vote in Canada before any other part of the Commonwealth. They had the vote in Ontario—Upper Canada and Lower Canada—between 1830 and 1838. But the men put an end to that business because they came to the conclusion that women did not have the quality of political knowledge and perspicacity that assured that they would vote the same as their husbands.

What about Macdonald, the man, the person, the one for whom little things meant so much? He spent a lot of time with his little daughter who was incapacitated. [18] Some ridiculed him for this. They said there was too much simplicity in his make-up. Others said it was evidence of guile. These are some of the stories that I have gathered from people in all parts of Canada, of all political parties, who have sent me these living things from Macdonald’s life. I sleep in the bed he slept in, but we had to enlarge and lengthen it. You can imagine what people said about that. Macdonald’s bed being too small for Diefenbaker. I have in my room the clock that ticked away his last hours in Ottawa.

My father was in Ottawa in 1891 attending model school when Sir John lay dangerously ill at Earnscliffe. He often used to tell me how different were those days from today. There was only one newsman in a little tent keeping watch on Sir John’s condition. There was only one telegrapher waiting for the end. How times have changed! But some of the old problems still remain. One Canada, a United Canada, that’s still the major problem of our nation. The problem of national development is still with us. Macdonald predicted that Canada would have a population of 40 million by 1940. We have failed to live up to his hopes, expectations, and prophesies. Nonetheless, all of us endeavour in our day and generation to leave something good behind. Sir John also had his views on this subject, and in 1889 he gave expression to them as follows: “I hope that I shall have been able during my time to leave a Canada in which men and women will dream dreams and will make their contribution to what has been my dream.”

Editor’s Notes

In the foregoing address, Mr. Diefenbaker was speaking to a group of friends to whom he had spoken before. He used no notes nor narrative, but spoke from subject headings, drawing largely on memory for anecdotes and quotations. If he was not always right in letter, he was always right in spirit, and that’s what mattered most at this commemorative dinner.

The following notes are provided to enlarge or clarify some major points of interest. Some notes about local references have been provided for the benefit of readers outside of Manitoba to whom this or that allusion is not common knowledge.

1. Gildas Molgat, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party; Leader of the Opposition in the Manitoba Legislature, introduced Mr. Diefenbaker.

2. The reference is to the presence at the head table of leaders of various shades of political opinion. Mr. Molgat (1) has already been mentioned; the Honourable J. B. Carroll (c), Minister of Consumer Affairs, Government of Manitoba, brought greetings from the province; Mr. Russell Paulley, Leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, thanked Mr. Diefenbaker.

3. Sir Hugh John Macdonald succeeded Honourable Thomas Greenaway as Premier of Manitoba on January 8, 1900. He held this office until October 29, 1900, when he resigned to contest a seat in the federal election. He was succeeded as Premier by Honourable Rodmond P. Roblin.

4. When Sir John was defeated in his own riding of Kingston in 1878, he stood for election in the Manitoba riding of Marquette. There he was elected by acclamation.

5. See 2 overleaf.

6. D.S.O.—Distinguished Service Order, a British award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. In order of precedence, originally ranked next to the Victoria Cross. When the George Cross was struck as an award for gallantry in circumstances not involving enemy action, the Distinguished Service Order was placed third in line as an award for distinguished bravery.

7. In joining Sir Hector Langevin and Nicholas Flood Davin in paying the tribute of the House of Commons to Sir John, Wilfrid Laurier’s eloquence rose to heights of simple directness and deep sincerity: “The place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the politics of this country-the fate of this country -will continue without him. His loss overwhelms us. For my part, I say, with truth, his loss overwhelms me, and that it also overwhelms this parliament, as if indeed one of the institutions of the land had given way.”—Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier; Oscar Douglas Skelton, Oxford University Press, 1922; v. 1, p. 425. Mr. Diefenbaker’s quote, beginning: “I think it can be asserted ...” is a combination of several detached elements from Sir Wilfrid’s eulogy-elements which follow the above introductory passage and which in turn are followed by the striking peroration: “Although my political views compel me to say that, in my judgment, his actions were not always the best that could have been taken in the interest of Canada, although my conscience compels me to say that of late he has imputed to his opponents motives which I must say in my heart he has misconceived, yet, I am only too glad to sink these differences, and to remember only the great services he has performed for his country-to remember that his actions displayed unbounded fertility or resource, a high level of intellectual conception, and, above all, a far-reaching vision beyond the event of the day, and still higher, permeating the whole, a broad patriotism, a devotion to Canada’s welfare, Canada’s advancement, and Canada’s glory ...” Ibid., p. 426.

8. John A. Macdonald was articled to a young Scottish lawyer, George Mackenzie, of Kingston, in 1830. Later that year he went up to York [Toronto] to confront the Benchers of the Law Society. Following the examination he was given his certificate and formally admitted to the society as a student at law. He opened his own law office in Kingston on 24 August 1835.

9. Following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, a small party of republican sympathizers crossed into Canada at Kingston, and at a place called Windmill Point engaged the local militia in a bloody battle. Sixty were wounded, sixteen killed. The body of one of the slain, that of Lieutenant Johnson, was subsequently discovered to have been mutilated, supposedly by the invaders. One of the leaders of this absortive foray was General Nils Szoltevcky von Schoultz. “It was the trial of the captured American prisoners which gave Macdonald his last important case of the year (1837). The trial was, of course, by court martial ... in which civilian counsel had no legal status whatsoever. They could not plead; they could do nothing more than advise and assist the prisoners, who quite literally had to conduct their own defence ... Macdonald may very well have hesitated to take the case. It was a difficult, unprofessional, unpopular, and possibly dangerous task. In a court martial, bereft of his usual status and prerogatives, he would be a nobody in an alien perhaps hostile world. It would be almost impossible for him to secure an acquittal, or even to mitigate the death sentence. Yet even an ineffectual defence might arouse the whole community against him. The prisoners were hated, as only foreigners who interfere by force in the affairs of others can be hated. The town was mad with grief and rage and horror ... It was surely wisdom to have nothing to do with the whole affair. And yet he took the case ... Von Schoultz was condemned to death by hanging ... and long afterwards it remained in Macdonald’s memory ... like a deep wound under strong summer sunlight.” Creighton, op. cit., v. 1, p. 62.

10. Tree of Life—Hebrew Aitzchayyir. Some scholars see in the ceremony of the awarding of the Tree of life a dual significance: a reference to the long life of Moses—120 years; a reference to the indestructible nature of scripture.

11. At the fisheries conference, Earl De Gray, head of the British High Commission, “instinctively feared that the Dominion would try to assert its special claims against the imperial interests. It was exactly the counterpart of Macdonald’s own apprehension. The Canadian feared that his country’s rights would be sacrificed to the achievement of Anglo-American concord; the Englishman was perturbed lest the welfare of the Empire should be imperiled by the intransigence of Canadian claims.” Ibid., v. 2, p. 84.

12. Fey (Sc.) disordered in mind, (often with over confidence) ... like person about to die.

13. On July 13, 1886, Sir John arrived in Winnipeg. He was the first Prime Minister to visit the city while in office. “Macdonald told an audience [at the Royal Roller Rink] that when the contract for the Canadian Pacific was being negotiated in 1880 he had scarcely dared to hope that he would live long enough to travel in the flesh along the entire route to its terminus. His friends had regretfully expected that he might have to view the completed work from the serene heights of heaven above. His enemies had naturally supposed that he would be compelled to gaze upward from the pit beneath. ’I have now disappointed both friends and foes,’ he continued gaily, ’and am now taking the horizontal view.’ His horizontal view, he explained, did not end at Port Moody or Victoria, but continued westward, in imagination at least, across the rim of the Pacific Ocean to the Far East.” There was hope that a Canadian Pacific Steamship Service would be established. Ibid., v. 2, pp. 459-460.

14. (NWT 1885) “Previously, in the presence of Bishop Grandon and Amedee Forget, [two unofficial French-speaking emissaries], Riel had held forth eloquently about his altruistic purposes and merely hinted about his private claims. But now before McDowell, [member for Lorne in the North West Council], and Andre [Father Andre, the local priest], he was cynically, almost brutally selfish. While early in the interview he announced that he had come back to Canada to press his own personal claims as well as to advocate the interests of the half-breeds: he left his listeners clearly to infer that he hoped, by renewing and increasing his strong influence with the Métis, to bring effective pressure to bear on the government in his own behalf. He then proceeded to state that if the government would consider his personal claims, he would arrange to make his illiterate and unreasoning followers well satisfied with almost any settlement of their claims for land grants that the government might be willing to make, and also that he would leave the north-west never to return.”—Ibid., v. 2, p. 143.

15. Sir John made his first reference to a police force in the west during the debate on the Manitoba Bill in May 1870. In reply to a probe by Alexander Mackenzie, Sir John said: “It was intended to have a body of mounted rifles to protect the people from the chance of an Indian war. Under the beneficent rule of the Hudson’s Bay Company there was peace in the Territory, while across the line there were frequent wars, and the Indians were shot down by emigrants going west—shot down ruthlessly. As the expectation was that there would be a large influx of emigrants from the American states, accustomed to deal with the Indians as enemies, shooting them down and causing great disturbance, the necessity arose to have a small but active force of cavalry as mounted police, so that they could move rapidly along the frontier to repress disturbances; and it was proposed to make the force more than 200 men. They would be drilled as cavalry, or rather as mounted riflemen, and be disciplined as a military body, but act as constabulary. Such a force would be amply sufficient for the purpose and be enough to secure order.”—Manitoba: Birth of A Province, W. L. Morton, p. 177. “Early in the summer of 1872, Mr. McDonald [Archibald McDonald, clerk in charge at Fort Qu’Appelle] went as usual to Fort Garry, and having business with Mr. McKay at Fort Ellice, as I was nearing it he met me on the road to the crossing of the trail to Carlton, accompanied by Colonel Robertson Ross, Adjutant-General of Canada, who was on his way across the plains on horseback on a tour of investigation. The Colonel stated that the Government intended to form a force for the Territories, and asked me what kind of troops would be most suitable. I told him the men would require to be mounted and good shots with the rifle to be of use. “Like the Cape Mounted Rifles,” he asked approvingly?”—The Company of Adventurers, Isaac Cowie, p. 438.

16. (1875) “Alliance! It was the word which he had been using most frequently over the last decade to describe the probable future relationship between the United Kingdom and the country which he called the Kingdom of Canada. England, he of course assumed, would still be the central power and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, would remain auxiliary nations. But these auxiliary nations were ceasing to be dependencies; they were becoming associated and allied powers ... The auxiliary British nations would be ranged around a central power, but they would remain separate nations nevertheless. At Toronto he spoke of Queen Victoria as the ’Queen of Canada.”—Creighton, op. cit., p. 207. “Macdonald was an interesting combination: his political beliefs were British, but his political techniques were Canadian and he was not without sympathy for a colonial nationality. He never believed in Britain, right or wrong, and his robust affirmations of British loyalty have to be read in the light of definitions of what a British subject was and what British loyalty meant. There is no doubt he believed in the imperial connection; but he was also a nationalist in the sense that he sought to build on the North American continent `a British nation under a British flag and under British institutions.’ When in 1891 he affirmed `a British subject I was born and a British subject I will die,’ he was referring to Canada as well as Britain. The word British had two meanings, and Macdonald was a conspicuous instance of the double loyalty it represented.”—The Life and Times of Confederation, P. B. Waite, p. 22.

17. “On the evening of July 11, 1872, Sir John and Lady Macdonald went to the Toronto Music Hall to keep an engagement with the Toronto Trades Assembly. They were there in response to an invitation from the Trades Unions of Canada who ’wished to make a presentation to Lady Macdonald as a slight token of appreciation of your timely efforts in the interests of the operatives of the Dominion.’ Sir John thanked the assembly and promised that he would give respectful and prompt attention ’to any representations of the Trades Assemblies on the subject of Canadian labour legislation ...”’ Creighton, op. cit., v. 2, p. 134.

18. “Mary, the child of his mature years, made no youthful demands or assertions; but she was the tragic exception to all rules of growth and life. A wheel-chair carried her about; standing, she had to be supported; and every significant development of human childhood came to her with difficulty, imperfectly, or not at all. He fussed over her health, worried about her childhood illnesses; and on most afternoons, in the still hour before dinner, she waited, in the heart-breaking pose of stiff composure, while he told or read her a story.” Ibid., v. 2, p. 200.

Page revised: 7 March 2011