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Title: Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Author: McArthur, Peter
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 Speaking at Strathroy, Ont., September 19th., 1908]

                         _Sir_ WILFRID LAURIER

                             PETER McARTHUR

                 THE WARDER SILENT ON THE HILL!”


                       J. M. DENT & SONS, LIMITED
                          LONDON       TORONTO
                       PARIS: J. M. DENT ET FILS


This book is dedicated to my fellow-writers of the Canadian Press. The
merits of the book are due to their efforts for I have helped myself
lavishly to their best brains.

I have long been of the opinion that a genius is a man who knows a good
thing when he steals it, and this is the first time I have had a chance
to steal on an ambitious scale. I have stolen much, and if I had had
more time, I would have stolen more.

                                                         PETER MCARTHUR.

ERRATA. Page 119, line 17, word “conquer” should read “contend”

                          Sir Wilfrid Laurier

The length of Sir Wilfrid’s public career alone challenges admiration
and respect. He had been almost half a century in active politics;
forty-six years a salient figure in Parliament; a leader of the Liberal
party for thirty years; Prime Minister for fifteen years. He saw
generations of men and generations of statesmen. He saw Confederation in
its cradle and watched it grow to nationhood. Since he entered public
life England has had three Monarchs, while the figures of Disraeli and
Gladstone, of Salisbury and Campbell-Bannerman have passed across its
national stage. He witnessed the rise of Cavour and saw the sword of
Garibaldi flash, and he sympathized with their aspirations for an United
Italy. He saw the German States confederated by Bismarck into blood and
iron, saw France, his Motherland, crushed and bleeding at the feet of
the Teuton conqueror, and lived to see the structure which Bismarck
reared crumbled into utter dust. Since he entered public life, Russia
has had two Emperors, emancipated its slaves, fought three great wars,
overthrown the House of Czars and plunged into anarchy and ruin. France
has been an Empire and a Republic, and countless rulers and statesmen
have appeared and vanished from her national life. During that period
the United States has developed into a great power, fought four wars,
and the figures of Lincoln and Grant, of Blaine and Garfield, of
McKinley and Roosevelt, have left their imprint and passed away.
Meanwhile the British Empire has grown and expanded in size and strength
and liberty, and Canada, from the feeble infancy into which the Fathers
of Confederation tried to infuse the vitality of unity, has become the
great Dominion of 1919. And during all those years, while rulers have
come and gone, while statesmen have flourished and faded, while empires
have sprung up or been destroyed, Sir Wilfrid remained a central figure
on the international stage.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Wilfrid Laurier was born at St. Lin, Quebec, on November 20th., 1841, of
a family that had settled in Lower Canada, six generations before. His
forebears came from Anjou, France, and originally bore the family name
of Cottineau. A marriage contract, drawn up in Montreal in 1666, bears
the signature of the first representative of the family in
Canada—Francois Cottineau, dit Champlauriet, or translated literally,
Francis Cottineau, said, or called, Champlauriet. Apparently this latter
appellation was subsequently adopted by the family, and after Louis XIV
had, by royal decree, proclaimed the land to be French territory. They
first established themselves in the forest of Ile Jesus, an island
immediately north of the Island of Montreal, and at the mouth of the
Ottawa River, and a little later removed to the Parish of Lechenaie, on
the north bank of the same river. Charles Laurier, the grandfather of
Sir Wilfrid was a man of remarkable energy and ability, and in the face
of many obstacles taught himself surveying, and was master of
mathematics in his scholastic district. At the beginning of the 19th.
century he established his son, Carolus Laurier, on farm land which he
had cleared in the bush near the little village of St. Lin, which
nestles in the foothills of the Laurentide range, north of Montreal.
Carolus Laurier, like his father, was a surveyor by profession, and a
farmer by habit, and followed both occupations to his best advantage. He
wanted some of the strong personality of his father, but was of a
generous and friendly nature, and of an inventive turn of mind, as is
evidenced by the fact that he was the first person in the colony to
devise what then passed for a threshing machine, and which replaced the
flail, which he had inherited from his father. Born in a quiet backwoods
settlement, Carolus Laurier was a radical in the strongest sense of the
word, and perhaps it was the father who laid the foundations of the
son’s political faith. In one respect Carolus Laurier is particularly
deserving of praise. He was sufficiently acute to realize that his son
had unusual aptitudes, and to make the best of those mental endowments
provided him with a good classical education. In those days this was no
light undertaking for a man of the station and means of Carolus Laurier.
The father realized, too, that it would be of inestimable advantage to
this son to have a thorough knowledge of the English language, and of
English customs, and to this end he carefully directed the son’s

Wilfrid Laurier’s mother, née Marcelle Martineau, was a relative of the
mother of the French-Canadian poet Frechette, one of the most gifted
sons of Lower Canada, and it may be that the same family strain which
produced the poet, showed itself in another way in the unusual qualities
of the French-Canadian statesman. Five years after Wilfrid Laurier was
born his mother passed away. Some time after Carolus Laurier married
Adelaine Ethier, and she brought up young Wilfrid. The second offspring
of the first marriage, Malvina Laurier, died at an early age. Of the
second marriage, three sons were born: Uheld, a physician, who died at
Arthabaska in 1898; Charlemagne, merchant, and until his death in 1907,
member for the county of Ottawa, and Henri, prothonotary of Arthabaska,
who died in 1906. Carolus Laurier, the father, died in 1881.

Young Laurier commenced his studies in the parochial school of St. Lin,
where he learned reading and writing and the rudiments of arithmetic.
His father then decided to extend his son’s horizon so as to permit of
his seeing something of the life and learning the language of his
English compatriots. About eight miles west of St. Lin, and on the bank
of the river Achigan, is the village of New Glasgow. This settlement was
established about 1820 by a number of Scotch Protestants who came to
Canada with English regiments. Carolus Laurier had done surveying in
this neighbourhood and was well acquainted with many of the families,
and thus an arrangement to have his son resident among them for a period
was easily brought about. Shortly after young Wilfrid Laurier was a
figure in the intimate life of the Murrays, the Guthries, the Macleans,
the Bennetts and other families of the settlement. For a time he boarded
with an Irish Catholic family, named Kirk, and later he lived with the
Murrays, giving, in return for lodging and food, his services as a clerk
in the general store kept by the head of the household.

The school which young Laurier attended for two terms, 1852-53 and
1853-54, was brusquely closed during the first term because of the
departure for other parts of the teacher, one Thompson. He was quickly
replaced by a man of considerable rough talent, one, “Sandy” Maclean,
who possessed a pronounced and good taste for literature, and who in
many ways made an admirable teacher. His young French-Canadian pupil,
learning English at play, at work, at home and at school, aroused in the
good Scot a kindly concern, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier in later years never
failed to attribute his knowledge of English literature to the man who
first opened his eyes to the wealth of English letters.

These two years at New Glasgow proved of inestimable benefit to young
Laurier. Not only did he secure a good foundation for further study of
the English language, but he had inculcated in him a broadness of
vision, an understanding of his English compatriots and a spirit of
tolerance and good will, which ever afterwards proved a great asset. In
September, 1854, at the age of thirteen years, Wilfrid Laurier was sent
to college at L’Assomption. There he passed seven rigorous years of
study. His health was delicate, and his physique did not permit of his
taking part in the ordinary sports of his fellow-students. His favourite
recreation was to visit the village court house when the judicial
assizes were in progress and to listen there to the pleadings of the
village lawyers. Sir Wilfrid often recalled of this period of his life
that a contradictory meeting of two political opponents always afforded
him the keenest enjoyment. In fact, in his anxiety to miss none of such
delightful and auspicious events as court sessions and public meetings
he often ran foul of the school authorities.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Wilfrid Laurier’s mother died when the boy was but six years old. His
earlier years were spent under the constant supervision of the village
curé. He knew no language but the French. St. Lin slept quite a distance
from the centre of the earth—Montreal. It heard only echoes of the
outer world. But like every other French-Canadian village, it had its
church, its curé, and its dream. It prayed for a French-Canadian

They say that something in the boy’s temperament raised a vague hope in
the heart of the parish priest. The priest was one of the dreamers of
St. Lin, one who helped keep alive the name of New France. It is said
that one afternoon he invited the lad Laurier into the garden of the
presbytery, and there tested as best he could the drift of his
imagination, whether he loved the heroic, whether he would make a
patriot or not. He let himself hope that the little imaginative son of
the land-surveyor might be of use to his race by writing songs, perhaps,
that they could chant on the day of their re-establishment, or
perhaps—. He took the boy into his study, where the black crucifix hung
upon the wall. From the bottom of an ancient chest of drawers, one that
had come from Brittany, he drew forth an object carefully folded so as
to conceal certain gaping holes and frayed edges. He lifted it and let
the folds slip out, so that the colored cloth hung before the eyes of
the boy.

“Do you know what that is, my son?” he demanded.

“It is the French flag, Father.”

“It is our flag,” corrected the priest.

On various occasions he took the boy to the study and told him stories
connected with the flag. The visits became a sort of ceremony. Each day
the boy learned a new fact about the piece of silk. It had been carried
not far from Montcalm himself on the day that he rode out of Quebec to
meet Wolfe and defeat upon the Plains of Abraham. It was marked by
British bullets. There were stains on it, almost faded out, that had
come from French veins. This, it is said, was the strange first training
which Laurier received for the works which he afterwards accomplished.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was amid such associations that the future Prime Minister of Canada
first learned the English tongue—“with a bit of Scotch accent,” as he
once himself described it—and religious breadth and tolerance, two
endowments which helped to give to the man of French descent and Roman
Catholic faith the grace and facility of expression and the breadth of
vision irresistibly appealing alike to both the great races in Canada,
British and French, Protestant and Catholic.

The powerful influence of the years spent under the shadow of the little
Presbyterian church of New Glasgow was demonstrated throughout his whole
career, while his life-long affection—almost amounting to
reverence—for Murray, the sturdy Scot who “fathered” him at this time,
resembled the deep sentiment entertained by David Lloyd George for the
worthy Welsh cobbler-uncle who did so much to make his career possible.
Wilfrid Laurier never alluded to Malcolm Murray without evidences of the
deepest appreciation and admiration.

That he also enjoyed with all the enthusiasm of boyhood, his stay in
this Scottish settlement he has recalled on more than one occasion. “I
remember,” he once observed after he had become a national figure, “I
remember how I fought with the Scotch boys and made school-boy love to
the Scotch girls, with more success in the latter than in the former.”

From his earliest boyhood, Laurier gave evidence of an independent
character. While at college in L’Assomption, a debating society was
formed, and there are men living to-day at the base of the Laurentides
who remember the debating qualities of the man who was to shine later on
as a Rupert in debate, in the home of the elder daughter of the mother
of parliaments—the Canadian Commons Chamber. An instance of this comes
to mind. A resolution had been submitted to the effect that the old
kings in the interest of Canada should have permitted the Huguenots to
settle here. Opposition was, of course, manifest in the debate, but
young Laurier espoused the affirmative side in the discussion which
waxed very warm, and his speech, which followed, was of so aggressive a
character that the prefect of studies was scandalized, and at one fell
swoop stopped the debate, and threw such societies into the discard.

Up to his last days Sir Wilfrid used to laugh over this incident, and he
often remarked that it was a great pity the debate was stopped, as the
entire international situation in Europe might have been affected by the
result of that discussion, participated in by the boys of L’Assomption
College. “Of course,” every ready with a joke at his own expense, “very
few of us knew what a Huguenot was, but that made no difference. We had
started in to settle questions affecting the religious future of
humanity, and should have been allowed to accomplish our mission.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

St. Valentine could not reproduce an incident so romantic, nor the gods
that preside over the efficacy of Mistletoe, narrate one of their
well-known triumphs more picturesque, than that which Fra Cupid could
delineate when first he interfered with the heart and pulse beat, as
well as with the slumbers of young Laurier trying to rest himself at
Arthabaskaville! In the words of Senator David, it appropriately
happened as follows:—

During his clerkship at Montreal, he made the acquaintance of a
beautiful and good natured young girl, who refused a very advantageous
marriage in preference to Laurier. Having heard one day, to what a
degree she still remained faithful and devoted to him, he made his way
to Montreal, got married on the following day, returned immediately to
Arthabaska, and came a few weeks later to get his wife. Their union was
a beautiful instance of unity of aim and interest. Lady Laurier proved
to be a helpmate in the fullest sense, and to her love and devotion to
him throughout life Sir Wilfrid paid many a proud and touching tribute.
Lady Laurier, though quiet and retiring, took part in many activities
and held office as vice-president of the St. John’s Ambulance
Association; vice-president of the Local Council of Women;
vice-president of the National Council of Women; honorary president of
the Canadian Immigration Guild; and honorary president of the Women’s
Canadian Historical Society.

In his home Sir Wilfrid Laurier was an exponent of the simple life. As a
young man he cared little or nothing for games, preferring to devote his
spare time to his books, and as he grew older none of the various forms
of amusement to which Canadians are accustomed to devote much of their
time appealed strongly to his fancy. He did not even succumb to the
fascination of golf, the favourite pastime of many men of brain, and to
the last was a “home” man in the truest sense of the word.

Although for fifteen years the first citizen of Canada, his residence on
Laurier Avenue, Ottawa, was by no means the most imposing private
dwelling in the Capital. It was comfortable and commodious, but not
pretentious. Naturally within its walls entertainment was furnished to
many, but it was all done without ostentation. Therein Lady Laurier
presided, with an amiable and kindly grace, and what undoubtedly struck
the observant guests was the note of domestic felicity and a freedom
from the exactions of officialdom.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In the quiet of his library at home Sir Wilfrid spent a great deal of
his time, and often burned the midnight oil. In fact, it was seldom he
retired before the day had run its course. Only on very rare occasions
did he go out in a social way in the evening, and on even rare occasions
was seen at the theatre. The mimic world of the stage had little
attraction for him. Nevertheless, he was fond of music, and few are more
talented in that line than his partner in life, but the aesthetic side
of things possibly appealed to him in a greater degree. He was very fond
of art and painting, and his home was beautifully decorated.

A sketch of Sir Wilfrid’s home life and habits would be very incomplete
without more than a passing reference to his beautiful and restful
domicile at Arthabaskaville, Quebec, where he always went as soon as it
was possible to get away from the Capital after the close of the
sessions. There it was his almost invariable custom to spend his
Christmas holidays. Many were the invitations he received to be the
honoured guest at more pretentious residences at the seaside and in the
mountains, but these were nearly always rejected in favor of
Arthabaskaville. There it was possible to get real rest and respite from
the cares of a busy world. He preferred to go home back to the quaint
little French-Canadian village and its restful influence. His
Arthabaskaville home is a beautiful place, and it was kept open nearly
all the year round. There are lovely shade trees and a beautiful lawn,
and, once there, Sir Wilfrid always put on the conventional summer
attire and took it easy on the lawn or in the garden. He got all the
leading Canadian newspapers, and in this way kept in touch with the
outside world.

His arrival in the little home village always caused a good deal of
excitement. All Quebec was proud of her distinguished son, but he was
particularly adored in the village in which he spent so large a part of
his life. His neighbours, knowing that he sought Arthabaskaville for the
blessed privilege of a rest, did not intrude on him, but none of them
ever missed an opportunity to exchange a greeting with the famous

Every Sunday spent at Arthabaskaville saw Sir Wilfrid at the little
parish church where he would attend the mass and hear a sermon to the
faithful by the curé. After church the villagers would crowd around to
clasp the hand of the distinguished Canadian statesman. No barrier of
haughty reserve surrounded Sir Wilfrid. It was “Bon Jour, Baptiste”
here, “Comment ça va” there, and there was general handshaking. Nowhere
more markedly than at his old Arthabaskaville home were the qualities
which contributed to Sir Wilfrid’s success brought out—the simple
manner, the genial ways and the indefinable grâce which drew people to
him, and won their admiration and devotion.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid once said that his sympathy and respect always went out to
the working newspaper man, as he had in his early life followed the
business, being editor of “Le Defricheur,” of Arthabaska, succeeding
Eric Dorion, well-known as L’Enfant Terrible, and as Laurier was a very
advanced Liberal he made things quite lively in the editorial columns of
that newspaper, so hot, in fact, that his bishop, who was no other than
Mgr. Lafleche, at Three Rivers, forbade the reading of Laurier’s
newspaper, with the result that a very large percentage of the
subscription list was withdrawn, and the future leader saw his first
journalistic enterprise go out of business. It is not necessary to say
that the articles so severely condemned by the Bishop of Three Rivers
would not be considered very radical these days, but his Lordship was a
staunch Tory, as well as a churchman, and, no doubt, thought that the
sheet in question could be dispensed with easily enough. Later on,
however, Sir Wilfrid was a successful contributor to “L’Electeur,” the
predecessor of “Le Soleil,” of Quebec, his article on “the den of forty
thieves” creating a sensation, and a libel suit at the time. That was
during the Chapleau-Senecal-Densereau regime at Quebec, and party
feeling ran very high, the cause célèbre having been tried in Montreal
before the late Mr. Justice Ramsay, resulting in the defendants being
acquitted. There was intense excitement in political and journalistic
circles, when it became known that Laurier was the author of the article
in question, and, in fact, the paper pleaded justification through its

                 *        *        *        *        *

About fifty-five years ago the Undergraduates’ Society, faculty of law
of McGill, was holding a general meeting. The students attending this
meeting had the opportunity of hearing their elder confreres of the
class of 1864, bidding farewell to old McGill.

Curiously enough, the proposer of the address of farewell was a young
man, who in the years to come had the good fortune to reach to the
height of honour, which a country can confer upon her sons, and whose
name was to be written in golden letters upon the register of the
faculty. This name was Wilfrid Laurier.

In his address, this talented young lawyer said among other things,
that: “I pledge my honour that I will give the whole of my life to the
cause of conciliation, harmony and concord amongst the different
elements of this country of ours.”

The routine of his student days was wise, modest, studious and sober. He
employed his leisure moments, that is to say, as many as he could snatch
away from his office and university work, in reading, in studying
literature and great speeches and the art of eloquence, in the political
or literary clubs, just as at McGill, he was counted amongst the first
rank and was the means of compelling others to recognize in him the
first rays of an eloquence which, later on, was to shed so much lustre.

The steady and persistent preparation of Sir Wilfrid for that which was
his heritage, was early noted by his admirers. He was stamped as an
orator in his speech-making address to the throne, in 1871, when he
spoke on the timely topic of “National Industry.” It is interesting to
have the testimony of one of his contemporaries who thus describes Sir
Wilfrid at that time:

Tall, slender frame, pallid face, brownish hair, supple, approachable,
steadfast and convincing look, slightly a dreamer, a sort of
pleasantness about his facial expression, modest and yet distinguished,
a certain demeanour of confidence or of melancholy which tended to call
forth sympathy.

Before Laurier left Montreal to take up his residence in the Townships,
he was a prominent member of the institution known as L’Institut
Canadian, which in time came under the episcopal condemnation of the
late Mgr. Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, and became very
prominently before the public by the death of Guibord, a well-known
Montreal printer, and the subsequent refusal of the head of the diocese
to allow his internment in the family lot at Côté des Neiges. This
incident belongs to the religious history of Montreal, but Hon. L. O.
David is authority for the statement that had Wilfrid Laurier died under
the same circumstances as Guibord, his remains would have been also
denied entry into the Catholic city of the dead, as he never retracted
following the fulmination of the then Bishop of Montreal.

Sir Wilfrid was the one man, perhaps, in French-Canada who was opposed,
through most of his political career by the bishops of his race, yet he
had the satisfaction of seeing the clergy, both high and low, rally to
his side during the crowning act of his life, and oppose conscription.
He proved to the world that his race could sacrifice their religious
sentiments, but that there was no surrender in matters of race or tongue
as he was the one man in Canada who could repeat before the Orangemen of
Toronto, with Henry VIII: “No Italian priest will ever tithe or toll in
my dominions,” and hold the Province of Quebec in the hollow of his hand
at the same time. He carried his French followers successfully through
several elections, in spite of episcopal opposition, and died mourned
and beloved by the whole Province.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Since 1871, Sir Wilfrid has been actively before the public. That date
marked his entrance into the Quebec Assembly on his election in the
Riding of Drummond and Arthabaska. His first appearance in public life
revealed the qualities that were to make him famous. The effect of his
fluent, cultivated and charming discourse is described by Frechette, the
poet, as magical, “On the following day,” he writes, “the name of
Laurier was on every lip, and all who then heard it will remember how
those two syllables rang out true and clear, their tone that of a coin
of gold, pure from all alloy, and bearing the impress of sterling

Of his triumph in the House of Commons the same author writes:—

“His début before the House produced a sensation. Who could be this
young politician, not yet thirty years of age, who thus, in a maiden
speech, handled the deepest public questions, with such boldness and
authority? Whence had this new orator come—so fluent, so cultivated,
and charming—who awed even his adversaries into respect by language so
polished, so elevated in tone, so strong and yet so moderate, even in
the heat of discussion?

“On the following day, the name of Laurier was on every lip. From this
initial point of his stirring career, the future Prime Minister
proceeded by master-strokes. Thus, as the resounding triumph of his
début in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, had placed him in the
highest rank among the most brilliant French orators of his province,
that which marked his entrance into the House of Commons, in 1874,
carried him at one bound to the distinction of being one of the chief
English-speaking debaters of the Dominion. The occasion was a solemn
one, and never to be forgotten by any who were present. The subject
before the House was the expulsion of Louis Riel, the rebel of the
Northwest; who, though under accusation for the murder of Thomas Scott,
and a fugitive from justice, had just been elected member for
Provencher. The question was a burning one, and the public mind was
greatly inflamed over it. It required, in very truth, a master of
eloquence to take the case in hand and thread his way without falling or
stumbling among the masses and mazes of prejudice which rose up around
the Metis chief. The debate, which was violent, and heated, had been
going on for two days when at last Laurier took the floor.

“He was known to be eloquent. He had already addressed the House in his
own tongue at the opening of the session.

“No one dreamed, however, that he would risk his reputation by
attempting a speech in English under such hazardous circumstances. Great
as was the general surprise, the revelation was greater. In the belief
of many who heard him that day, no orator—unless indeed it be
himself—has since achieved a like success in any of our deliberative
assemblies. As in the elegance and academic language of which he is so
thorough a master, the brilliant speaker entered calmly into the heart
of his subject, a great silence spread itself through the chamber and
the English members listened in amazement to this charmer who wielded
their own language with such grace, and who dealt them such cold
home-truths, in a tone they could not resist applauding. Astonished
glances were exchanged on every side.

“Laurier kept his whole audience hanging upon his lips for over an hour.
Not for a single moment did his eloquence fail him. He expounded the
doctrines and elucidated the principles of legal and constitutional
right with the ease of a parliamentary veteran and the precision of a
practised dialectician. He grouped his facts so skilfully, adduced his
proofs and authorities with such cumulative force, reared his arguments
one upon the foundation of another with such quick inexorable logic,
that his conclusions seemed to flash out of their own accord, unfolded
but irresistible.

“Every part of his speech, moreover, was linked to the rest in admirably
reasoned sequence and the oration from beginning to end flowed freely,
without hesitation, without a moment’s groping for words, and at the
same time, with never one useless sentence, with never one superfluous
syllable. No less was the manner of its delivery; the resounding and
vibrating voice, the wealth and variety of intonation, the chaste
simplicity and appropriateness of gesture, and finally the attitude of
the speaker, as full of natural self-command as it was of personal
dignity. Everything contributed an indescribable enthusiasm. The
outburst of applause which greeted the speaker as he resumed his seat
continued for fully five minutes afterwards, while the Ministers of the
Crown flocked around him, eager to offer their congratulations. It
seemed as if every one realized that a future chieftain had just
proclaimed himself and asserted his right to leadership by the _Ego
nominor leo_ that had rung through every sentence of his speech. The
cause was a lost one, of course, but Laurier had won the day, so far as
he personally was concerned. From that moment a place in the Cabinet was
virtually assigned him; and he was called upon to fill it as Minister of
Inland Revenue in 1877, on the retirement of M. Cauchon, who had been
appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.

“Then occurred a singular mishap, which furnishes a striking example of
the aberrations of the popular mind, as well as the often unaccountable
vicissitudes of political life. The new Minister, although he had been
returned at previous elections by a majority of over seven hundred votes
over a distinguished member of the legal profession, found himself
unable to secure his re-election, and was defeated by a worthy and
inoffensive village tradesman, who distanced him by a majority of 21
votes. This was one of the repulses to the Mackenzie Government from
which it never recovered. Laurier, indeed, returned to the Capital as
the chosen representative of Quebec East, but it was in vain. The
impulse had been given and the political seesaw had begun to sway. The
young Minister’s popularity in the province at large was powerless to
check it in any way. Nevertheless the crushing defeat which was suffered
by the Liberals did not in the least degree affect Laurier’s personal
influence, as may be inferred from the fact of his appointment a few
years later to the position of leader of the party for the whole

                 *        *        *        *        *

An interesting account has been given of the first interview that Sir
Wilfrid ever gave out. This was on the morrow of his great victory in
1896, which gave him a long lease of power, and the opportunity to
impress the country with the policies which he had advocated so long and
fervently. When asked for an interview he replied:

“I am never interviewed, you know.”

“But, Sir,” persisted the correspondent, “considering the magnitude of
your victory and the unique place you now occupy, would it not be meet
that you should say a word or two to the public, who are desirous of
getting an indication from you of the policies you will carry out?”

He hesitated, yielded at last to persuasion, and gave a column and a
quarter of copy, at once exceedingly interesting and valuable. He could
not commit the party to any particular policy at the moment of victory.
He would have to consult his colleagues, but nevertheless, he outlined
in general terms what the party would stand for now that it had received
the public mandate. He made it plain that he stood for the principle of
harmony between the two great races in the Dominion. That had been his
aim in life, and it would remain his aim as long as he lived. He had his
principles which he considered those of progress, but he did not want
any bitterness. He wanted co-operation and concord. It would be the
realization of his life dream if he could bring the two races together.

At the time when the interview was granted the rotunda of the old St.
Lawrence Hall was filled with his admirers. He was surrounded by young
men full of ardour, idealists, many of them, disinterested and hopeful
of great things for the country. The hardened political cynic was not
absent either, but there was a whirl of emotion; the present and the
future were enswathed in radiant hope and when the Chieftain came down
to the rotunda—erect, with flashing eyes, the cheers were magnetic.
Many eyes were wet. The tide of emotion swelled in every breast. He was
lifted shoulder-high by his adherents, of whom there were hundreds
present, all of whom believed that in the Liberal Leader they had a man
who would save the country. It was after this tumultuous demonstration
that the Premier gave out the interview.

The Liberal Chief all that day was followed by admiring crowds. On being
reminded of the kind things which the English press had written about
him from time to time, he said that he read every word of that kind of
writing, not because of vanity, but because he loved to think that every
kindly word written or spoken did something in bringing about a better
feeling between the two great races. “I love England because she is the
mother of free nations. I look up to her because she is the apostle of
freedom. I admire her lofty ideals, her moral conscience, her high
standards which she sets up. She is, it may be, a trifle Puritanic, but
she is the greatest moral asset in the world, and I admire her statesmen
intensely—John Bright has been my mentor and idol, and, of course,
Gladstone, as the great apostle of freedom, both fiscally and

                 *        *        *        *        *

Edward VII. and President Emile Loubet made the treaty which has now
saved the world. That is true. They were the high-contracting chiefs of
state. But Sir Wilfrid Laurier was credited by them both with a certain
share in that wise, far-seeing and world-saving work.

President Emile Loubet, in January, 1906, was speaking at Le Madeleine,
at the funeral of the Canadian Minister of Marine, who had died suddenly
in Paris.

“I shall be happy,” he said, “for having left in my career the one work,
the great work of the entente cordiale, I had been convinced that the
mutual interest of France and of England was that we should be
united—first of all for our own protection, against the rest of the
world; and then, after that, to protect the world as a whole.

“But do you know who it was that confirmed me in these ideas? Who
implanted in my mind, irrevocably, that sense of duty to which I have
responded with alacrity? It was that eminent statesman who directs the
destinies of Canada to-day—Sir Wilfrid Laurier. For he was in a better
position than I to appreciate the loyal and conciliatory character of
Great Britain.

“He gave me proofs and views of it which, as he developed them, I could
easily understand. So that, imbued with those ideas, on the day that I
met my friend, Edward VII., and found him moved by the same sentiments,
we arrived at that entente and agreement which I shall never cease to

The phraseology of that frank admission proves beyond all doubt that the
President was carried away by the suggestion, which was one, as he says,
“Monsieur Laurier had put into his head, and that he never ceased to

Probably Edward VII. would have said as much; for before making his
campaign of education in France Sir Wilfrid had made it in England. And
the picture he drew of the entente cordiale between the English and the
French in Canada, at his first banquet in London, where the Prince of
Wales—later Edward VII.—presided in 1897, in the Royal Palace of
Buckingham, must have had the same effect on that able and sympathetic
statesman, which Edward was, as it produced upon Monsieur Loubet in
France. Sir Wilfrid expressed in Paris in the same year, before a great
assembly of notabilities, the harmony that existed between the two races
in Canada; and in the following terms he regretted that the same
cordiality did not yet exist between the two shores of the English

“Our English compatriots of Canada are frankly proud of the brilliant
Montcalm and we, of our race, bow with respect before the memory and
monument of General Wolfe. It may be that here in France the souvenirs
of old feuds have not lost all their bitterness. But for us in Canada,
of whatever race, those were glorious days when the colours of France
and England—the tricolour and the Cross of St. George—floated in
triumph on the heights of Alma, of Inkerman, and of Sebastapol.

“Now events have changed. Other alliances are imminent. But may it be
permitted to a son of France, who is at the same time a British subject,
to salute those glorious days with a regret that may find an echo in
every generous soul on both sides of the channel.”

And again Sir Wilfrid proposed the joint toast of Edward VII. and
President Loubet at a notable gathering in Paris after the coronation.

“Messieurs, will you permit me in conclusion to take a liberty with your
customs and while raising my glass to the chief of state in this country
of my ancestors—to that sagacious man that France has selected for
President—may I join another thought, not for you but for myself, and
to couple with that toast, that of my own sovereign, the King of
England, who is also, like myself, a friend of France.”

That was not all that attached Sir Wilfrid to the history of the entente
cordiale. On his return to London once more in 1907, one evening at a
function in his honour at the Queen’s Hall, where he sat in the Royal
box, a messenger came to request him not to leave, as the custom is,
immediately after “God Save the King.”

Acquiescing he was surprised to hear the orchestra after the National
Hymn, play the stirring strains of the “Marseillaise.” It was the
official recognition of what he had done for the entente cordiale.

In the work of reconciliation of race and country he had but one motive
and that was the exaltation of Canada and the development of our
national and Canadian spirit and the subversion of all petty and
sectional antagonisms. He was the true imperialist, who saw this Empire
as a voluntary confederation of free nations. Anything different and
more centralized he regarded as a menace to this country and to the
Empire as a free system. He left every man to his opinion.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In 1907, when the Imperial Conference of Premiers was meeting in London,
(Sir Wilfrid being one of its outstanding personalities), Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman was hesitating on the very threshold of granting
complete self-government to the Boers. The Unionist party, particularly
its high Tory wing, led by Lord Milner, and fortified by powerful
influences, was fighting hard against such a measure. It was an open
secret that members of “C.-B.’s” own Cabinet were not overly
enthusiastic about the proposal. Lord Roseberry, although practically in
retirement, was believed to be opposed, and had a powerful following
among what was known as the Liberal Imperialists. Mr. Asquith, Sir
Edward Grey, and Mr. Haldane, sometime followers of Roseberry, although
in Campbell-Bannerman’s Cabinet, were regarded as luke-warm and for a
time it seemed as though Sir Henry himself might waver.

In the course of his participation in the Imperial Conference,
Campbell-Bannerman was brought much into contact with Sir Wilfrid, and,
being impressed with his wonderful comprehension and appreciation of the
British Constitution, saw in him the fulfilment in Canada of what he
hoped to do for South Africa, and invited him to a small gathering of
Liberals to give his opinion upon the wisdom of self-government for the

Sir Wilfrid, as those who knew his ardent sympathy with small
nationalities everywhere, can well understand, readily accepted the
invitation. For nearly an hour he spoke with all his intense eloquence
upon what trust and self-government had done to build up an united and
prosperous Canada, to win the loyalty and devotion of French-Canadians,
and toward the close, in a peroration of moving eloquence, asked why
trust in the Boers would not achieve in South Africa what it had
achieved in Quebec.

That speech is said to have been the decisive factor in influencing
Campbell-Bannerman. Mr. Asquith in the great tribute which he once paid
to his departed chief, significantly told how, after a certain event,
Sir Henry said that in regard to his South African policy there would be
“no surrender”; and there is little doubt as to the event he had in
mind. Not long ago, a writer in the “Manchester Guardian,” in paying a
tribute to Campbell-Bannerman, referred to the support given him in
regard to the Boers by an “overseas statesman,” but apart from such
meagre notice, Sir Wilfrid’s noble part in this momentous drama is
unknown to the world.

It is also known that in the possession of Sir Wilfrid there were a
number of letters and documents dealing with this matter—letters from
General Botha, and Campbell-Bannerman, and others—testifying to the
great influence he exerted in such a far-reaching stroke of

It is to be hoped that they will soon be given to the world, if for no
other reason than in justice to one who, was at all times, a noble
interpreter and potent advocate of the blessings of human freedom.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Every once in a while during the past fifty years or more some one comes
along with a new scheme to reconstruct the British Empire and when each
architect finds his plan not workable he charges those who do not
support it with disloyalty.

A charge made against Sir Wilfrid Laurier is that in the Imperial
Conference of 1911 he opposed a scheme of Imperial reorganization
proposed by Sir Joseph Ward, of New Zealand. The truth that is
suppressed is that the proposal was rejected by the unanimous voice of
the conference, the only exception being Sir Joseph Ward himself. We
quote Mr. Asquith, Prime Minister, and President of the Conference:

“It is a proposition which not a single representative of any of the
Dominions, nor I as representing for the time being the Imperial
Government, could possibly assent to. For what does Sir Joseph Ward’s
proposal come to? I might describe the effect of it without going into
details in a couple of sentences. It would impair, if not altogether
destroy, the authority of the Government of the United Kingdom in such
grave matters as the conduct of foreign policy, the conclusion of
treaties, the declaration of maintenance of peace or the declaration of
war, and indeed all those relations with foreign powers necessarily of
the most delicate character, which are now in the hands of the Imperial
Government, subject to its responsibility to the Imperial Parliament.”

Mr. Asquith went on to say that the scheme would be absolutely fatal to
the present system of responsible government. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was
therefore attacked for defending the British constitution against a very
grave danger.

The “Manchester (England) Guardian” in its Empire Number of March 20th.,
1917, had the following:—

“In Canada, again, so soon as the causes of the war were fully
apprehended, all discussion of Canadian obligations and of the limit of
Canadian liabilities to the Empire gave way before a passionate
determination to lend all possible aid in a just cause. The mind of
Canada was well expressed in a speech on the outbreak of war by Sir
Wilfrid Laurier, leader of the Liberal Opposition, and the greatest and
most venerable figure in Dominion statesmanship. Throughout his career
he had resisted with the utmost of his power and eloquence all
suggestions for a mechanical strengthening of the Imperial tie, and had
the legal obligations of Canada at this crisis run counter to the mind
of her people it would have been his part to make clear the discrepancy.
On the first day of the emergency session of the Canadian Parliament he

“It is our duty, more pressing upon us than all other duties . . . to
let Great Britain know, that there is in Canada but one mind and one
heart, and that all Canadians stand behind the mother country, conscious
and proud that she had engaged in this war, not from any selfish motive,
for any purposes of aggrandisement, but to maintain untarnished the
honour of her name, to fulfill her obligations to her allies, to
maintain her treaty obligations and to save civilization from the
unbridled lust of conquest and power.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

The secret of his great powers was not hard to find. Perhaps at the very
foundation must be placed his broad tolerance and kindliness. He was
first of all a Christian gentleman. Then following that must be placed
his thorough mastery of the great writers in both English and French and
a complete understanding of the points of view of these two people. It
was characteristic of the man that he should always remember with kindly
feelings the influence and atmosphere of the Scottish home where he
lived for a period. It was there that he got his first love for the
tongue of Shakespeare and Milton, and where he made himself familiar
with the struggles and achievements of Fox, Bright, Morley, Gladstone
and other great Liberal leaders.

No matter on what occasion or what his subject might be, his audience
was always sure to be treated to some striking phrase or bit of imagery
that made a lasting impression. On his return from Europe a few years
ago, he urged the young men of the Dominion in the words of Henry of
Navarre: “To follow his White Plume and there they would find honour.”
Again when speaking of the Grand Trunk Pacific project he announced that
“it would roll back the map of Canada and add depth to the country.”

The princeliness of his bearing was that which impressed the British
public most when he first went to Great Britain in 1897, as a guest at
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Richard Harding Davis, who described
that event for “Harper’s Magazine,” said that in the procession to
Westminster Abbey on that occasion, the two individuals, who, after the
aged Queen herself, most aroused the enthusiasm of the myriad
spectators, were Lord Roberts, the typical military hero, and Sir
Wilfrid Laurier, whom most of them saw for the first time. He appealed
to England as an essentially romantic figure; typical of what British
Imperial prestige stood for—a man of foreign race, whom Britain’s wise
colonial policy had made a distinguished servant of the Crown.

During the Royal tour of 1901, and at the Quebec Tercentenary
celebration of 1908, one saw Sir Wilfrid in contact with the coterie of
distinguished men that the present King, first as Duke of Cornwall and
York, and later as Prince of Wales, brought with him to this country. To
Canadians, whatever their politics, it gave a deep sense of satisfaction
to recognize in their own Prime Minister, a man who seemed to embody the
flower of civilization. Knighthood, though it be a bauble, never sat
more fittingly on a modern man, than on him. Among all the men who
constituted the Royal entourage, on both occasions, only one was his
equal in this peculiar quality of high physical distinction, and that
was Viscount Crichton, afterwards the Earl of Erne.

In so far as possible, Sir Wilfrid Laurier confined business to business
hours. His habits did not vary. In the days of his premiership he rose
each morning before eight o’clock, and after breakfast his private
secretary would go to his library and the morning’s mail would be
opened. Replies would be dictated without delay. By pursuing this policy
Sir Wilfrid left himself free to receive callers and transact other
business when he arrived at his office. Sir Wilfrid’s mail was large,
but not so large as that received by many of his ministers. In his
younger days he had an extremely large personal correspondence, but the
passing away of many of his early associates reduced it considerably as
years went by.

When he was Prime Minister, he usually arrived at his office at 10.30
a.m. Everyone in Ottawa knew Sir Wilfrid and his commanding figure
always attracted attention. Once in his office there was usually a
steady stream of visitors or deputations to be received. The deputations
were usually heard after appointments had been arranged. In the
afternoon the callers as a rule were not so numerous, and if the House
was sitting there was frequently a meeting of the Cabinet Council before
it came together at 3 o’clock.

In the late years of his premiership Sir Wilfrid avoided the night
sessions whenever possible. Frequently he would occupy his seat for an
hour after business was resumed in the evening and then go home leaving
the fortunes of the Government forces in the hands of his ministers.
When the House was not in session he usually left off business about 5
o’clock, sometimes being detained to a later hour by a meeting of the
Cabinet Council.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The late leader as an English-speaking parliamentarian, was the wonder
of his day and generation, and one had to be well acquainted with both
languages to notice the least error in his English grammar. Sir Wilfrid
always tripped up, however, in the use of the English verbs “to do” and
“to make,” which are one and the same “faire” in French, for very
frequently he would make use of “do” when “make” was the proper English
word, or vice versa. As a bilingual orator, it is safe to say, however,
that Wilfrid Laurier stood alongside of such men as Real de la Valliere
and ex-Premier Waddington of France, who spoke English and French. In
the House of Commons Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s English was simply
magnificent, and, in fact, his models were John Bright, William Ewart
Gladstone, Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and others of that splendid galaxy of
British statesmen, whose names so brilliantly illuminate so many of the
most fascinating pages of the Empire’s history. He would, in fact,
become so impregnated with English-expressed mannerisms that at the
close of a long session of the House of Commons his English accent, when
speaking his own mother tongue, would be distinctly marked. He was not
always consistent, but was ever happy when pleading the cause of a
minority or a lost cause, his speeches on the execution of Louis Riel,
the Remedial Bill, and others, being amongst the most eloquent pages of
the Commons Hansard. Sir Charles Tupper, when sitting opposite the late
leader during his address on the amendment to reject the Remedial Bill,
remarked to his desk-mate that if he had Laurier’s facility of speech in
the two official languages of this country he would willingly sacrifice
whatever reputation he possessed as a public man.

Sir Wilfrid, it has often been said, had the distinction of an old world
seigneur. His stature, his irregular but strong features, his dome-like
forehead, his calm, wide eyes, his benevolent smile marked him down as
the last seigneur of old French Canada. But about this distinction of
his there was nothing put on or affected. He was above all things
natural, and joined with this was a simplicity and a bonhomie
essentially Canadian in its lack of all starched frills. He was one of
the easiest men to see at Ottawa. With him red tape did not exist.

Pomp and pretence, decoration and display did not appeal to this great
Canadian. He had no use for the sycophant, the bore or the grafter.

His clear eye, stately carriage, firmly compressed lips and general
demeanour revealed the born leader of men, and in any gathering he stood
out in picturesque relief from those around him like a Saul among his
fellows. His dignified and courtly bearing as he walked to his seat was
that of the French Empire period. Like Gladstone, Disraeli and other
great men, his dress was always distinctive without being obtrusive. At
all times he looked every inch the type of a statesman and a leader that
appealed to the imagination of a people. His great strength as a leader
lay in his personal charm and manner. Between Sir Wilfrid and his
followers there subsisted the most intimate relations. To see him flit
from seat to seat in the House for a quiet chat with some Liberal member
was to discover one source of his marvellous hold on the affection of
the Liberal rank and file.

When not engaged in debate or in conversation with his colleagues, Sir
Wilfrid generally spent his time reading. There were three books that
had a singular fascination for him—the Authorized Version of the Bible,
Shakespeare’s plays, and the Encyclopaedia. Like all great orators, Sir
Wilfrid drew freely from the Bible for illustrations, and his speeches
were replete with passages whose imagery suggested the sublime source of
their inspiration. In the House he stood in a class by himself as a

When about to speak in the House he rose slowly, impressively.
Proceeding with his argument, his gestures were not wasteful. He would
point, perhaps, with the extended index finger of his outstretched right
hand. Sometimes, this finger he held rigidly straight, and at other
times crooked a little. And somehow by this slight change Sir Wilfrid
conveyed a wholly different significance to his gesture.

When Sir Wilfrid came to a climax he would square his thin shoulders,
throw his head gloriously back and upwards and look out over the
listening benches as from a conning tower. He would even perhaps cease
his vibrant utterance for an instant to gain an added emphasis to his

When annoyed little fine wrinkles would corrugate his forehead.
Otherwise the whole of his personality was absolutely under control. His
voice, though slurring, was penetrating, and ate its way into your
attention by reason of its peculiarly blurred timbre. It was marked by
an even consistency. His speeches were always animated and winning, but
the speed at which he travelled never changed much, nor did he go to
extremes of inflection. Sometimes he would be quietly humorous. Where he
shone was in repartee, for he was always mentally alert and keen.

Whether he spoke in English or in French, it was the same Laurier, the
orator of the “grand style.” And like all speakers of this type, Sir
Wilfrid was a past master in the coining of apt phrases that stick in
the popular imagination. For example, he once called Ottawa the
“Washington of the North.” Ever since then the label has stuck. And so,
in a hundred other cases, Sir Wilfrid has given journalists and those
that come after him the necessary turn of thought, the needful word. His
“grand method” was simply the outcome of his own nature—a nature at
once distinguished and noble. And consequently not even his bitterest
enemies ever charged him with doing a “mean” or “shabby” thing. As soon
as you set eyes on him in the House you recognized that there was a man
above buying or selling, a man with a code of honour, a man with a
dignity. So his “grand” manner was but the visible and outward sign of

But this “grand” manner had nothing ponderous, heavy or deliberate about
it. Laurier was French in his vivacity and finesse, in the quickness and
brilliance of his repartee. He was the master of the quick, swift way in
which he slipped off into the heart of his speeches. A handful of
compliments or a short, sharp, stinging sarcasm; a gentle musical
phrase, to jog someone’s memory, or a word of aroused dignity, and Sir
Wilfrid was easily racing along at full speed. And in his speech he had
Gallic lucidity. Everything served to strengthen his argument. He not
only appealed to his auditors’ reason, but also to their emotions—and
that was the secret of his popularity. He had the gift of being able to
charm, move and stir. And it all perhaps was achieved more by his
personality than by what was actually said. His mere appearance could
raise enthusiasm.

The extraordinary thing was that no one seemed to remember that he was
not speaking in his own tongue. Indeed, few of the English-speaking
representatives have ever attained to a vocabulary half as large as his.

Sir Wilfrid always looked his part. He was one of those few public
individuals, whose actual appearance did not disappoint you. The
striking face, with its broad, lofty forehead; its tufted crown of white
hair, its long, prominent nose, indicative of dominance and power, its
alignment of chin and mouth sent your mind irresistibly back to memories
of other great statesmen. It was the face of an aristocrat, while the
mind belonged to the aristocracy of democracy. His eyes were set wide
apart and they gazed steadily out at you. As a rule, his face was
immobile, but when his eyes half closed, it was quick to break into a
smile, the wrinkles running upward on his face like little waves
succeeding one another on a beach. When listening or following a debate,
Sir Wilfrid would lean forward with elbows rested on his desk and one
hand up to his ear to convey the sound better.

As a rule, he wore a black frock coat with vest, the lapels lined with a
white frill. His collar was straight and high, while his tie was so big
and broad that you could not see his shirt. It literally choked up the
opening of his vest with its splendour. The creases of his trousers were
always perfect. His boots were the old-fashioned elastic-sided ones.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Strangers coming into the gallery of the House of Commons for the first
time always looked for Laurier. He knew it and rather enjoyed the
limelight. It was his custom to enter the House just a moment before
opening hour, and as he passed down the corridors of Parliament on the
way from his office to the Chamber it was frequently through a lane of
people, every one of them watching him intently. He would pass along
straight as a guardsman, serene, dignified and quite unmoved.

In the Chamber he was much given to visiting. From his seat in the front
row, immediately opposite his Parliamentary opponent, Sir Robert Borden,
he would move back among his more humble supporters and spend hours in
earnest conversation with them. He knew his men individually, as none
but Sir John Macdonald ever knew a following. Laurier had undoubtedly
learned much from his former great rival. There were little mannerisms
and tricks of speech and gestures that old-timers around Parliament
declared he got only from Sir John.

He loved to use that word “Grit,” especially in rural ridings, where he
knew its effect on old-time voters. And he took a sort of impish delight
in always characterizing his political opponents as “Tories,” rather
than as Conservatives, or even as Liberal-Conservatives. He knew that in
the minds of some of his hearers the use of the word “Tory” would convey
an idea of class privilege and opposition to democratic ideas and
movements. It was surprising, too, how he would adapt his utterances to
his audience. It might be the same speech he had given elsewhere the day
before, but he knew that his audience would differ, and little touches
were added here and there that gave it individuality and touched
responsive chords in his hearers. When stumping the country in an
election campaign his stories and illustrations were always simple. The
historical comparisons and the more subtle quotations were reserved for
Parliament. When he spoke in Woodstock in the election of 1911, he told
a story of an Irish friend of his, a conductor on the Montreal-Quebec
train, for whom he brought a black thorn from Ireland in 1897. He had
the conductor friend’s name put on it and when they met, presented him
with the shillelah.

“He was profuse in his thanks,” said Sir Wilfrid, and he wound up by
saying, “May Heaven be your bed, but may you be kept long out of it.”

“Now I hope that some day heaven may be my bed,” added the Liberal
Chieftain, “but I don’t think I am ripe for it yet. I hope Heaven won’t
be my bed until I have one more tussel with the Tories.”

There were two Tory rural members of the House of Commons, for whom Sir
Wilfrid always had a tender spot in his heart. One of these was the late
Mr. Peter Elson, member for East Middlesex. The Liberal leader would
frequently cross over the floor of the House for a chat. The other was
Mr. Oliver Wilcox, member for North Essex, also since passed away. Mr.
Wilcox had a rollicking manner in his Parliamentary debating that would
at times convulse the whole House, and those who were there in those
days, will long recall the way in which he would point a finger at the
Liberal leader, refer to him always as “My honorable friend, the leader
of the Liberal Opposition,” and endeavour to convince Sir Wilfrid that
he was a hopeless political sinner. Sometimes after one of these
encounters they would meet outside in the corridor and walk away arm in

Speaking to a young newspaper friend, he said, “Every young man ought to
read the works of Gibbon.” He was enthusiastic, too, when he spoke of
Parkman’s writings. “Read Parkman, and you will be proud of both races
in Canada,” was his comment.

There were dull hours in the House of Commons when Sir Wilfrid had to
remain on duty, ready for any emergency. Hours that were tedious, or
would have been tedious, but for his little custom of sending to the
Parliamentary Library for the English dictionary. The House used to
smile when the page would come in with the big volume and place it on
Sir Wilfrid’s desk. He would open it at a certain page and then begin to
run down the columns carefully and slowly, adding to his store of
English words. Is it any wonder that he possessed such command of the
English tongue in public utterances? He rarely read anything but the
dictionary in the House of Commons, not even the newspapers; but it was
very evident that outside of the House he looked over all the important
dailies and read widely in general literature. A newspaper friend, who
called on him the day after the landslide of 1911, found him seated
comfortably in his room, reading a life of the Dowager Empress of China.
She, too, had known the experience of power passing away, and perhaps,
the Liberal Chieftain was finding some of the philosophy of the Orient
applicable to his own situation.

In his Parliamentary addresses he was always apt in the use of
quotations and historical illustrations. He had read widely in both
British and French histories, and in American history as well.

His influence among his followers was due to his long Parliamentary
experience, but even more to the grace and courtesy of his manner, and
his actual kindness. He was never abrupt, never too busy to be polite,
never forgot that without his most humble associates he would fail to
accomplish his purposes. Those who think of political life as a
continuous strife, would be surprised indeed, if they knew of the close
friendship that existed between Sir Wilfrid and some of his opponents on
the opposite side of Parliament. He was elusive in many ways, difficult
to measure by our accepted standards. For many years to come the
recollection of his personality has impressed itself upon audiences and
upon individuals in every part of Canada will remain to keep his memory

                 *        *        *        *        *

A member of Sir Wilfrid’s last Cabinet, who, as a boy, greatly admired
his Chief, contributes these reminiscences:

When Sir Wilfrid first became prominent it was his custom, while
Parliament was in session, to go for a walk on Sunday afternoons, in the
winter, on the north side of Rideau Street, and a number of boys, whose
fathers were Liberals, would hurry along Sussex Street, and crossing
over to the south side of Rideau Street, would walk along that side in
perfect decorum and happiness as they watched the progress of the man on
the other side of the street, whose name was heard more frequently than
any other in their homes. Sir Wilfrid’s appearance and dress on those
Sunday afternoons are still remembered. He wore a fur cap of plucked
otter, a Persian lamb coat, and always carried a cane. His hair was wavy
and dark, his face generally lit up by a smile, and his carriage was
erect and dignified. He never seemed to be in a hurry. Usually, one of
his Parliamentary colleagues was with him, and it was a matter of much
interest for the boys on the opposite side of the street to watch the
different ways in which Sir Wilfrid and his companion returned the
salutes of passers-by. Needless to say, the companion, no matter whom he
might be, always suffered in the comparison.

With the boys and young men who haunted the galleries of Parliament
during the Franchise, the Riel, and the Home Rule debates, Sir Wilfrid
was a hero. While charmed by his never-failing courtesy, they took him
still closer to their hearts when, on a memorable night, in a later
debate, he repelled the clumsy patronizing of an opponent with the
withering phrase that “Quebec does not want his whining pity!” That
flash revealed human nature that his youthful admirers in the gallery
could readily understand, and they loved him all the more for it.

He was a great lover of birds, and on a beautiful day in September,
1911, just prior to addressing a great outdoor meeting, he was sitting
on a lawn with several friends. The weather was unusually warm, and
there were a number of orioles, and other birds, flying about the
grounds, and, occasionally, singing in the trees. Sir Wilfrid noticed
them, and, taking off his hat, he laid it on the grass, and, as if he
had no cares or thoughts in the world, except for the homely things of
nature, he told about the birds that used to come each spring to the
woods around Arthabaskaville, and described minutely their plumage. Then
he recalled that from time to time certain kinds of birds would
disappear, and others would come in their places, and that, after a
lapse of a few years, it was difficult to find any of the birds with
which he had been familiar when a young man. His whole conversation
indicated how close to nature he must have been in his youth, and how
keen his powers of observation always were.

In the same way, he was an intense lover of trees. He took great pride
in the shade trees of the city of Ottawa, and was always hurt when he
saw any of them mutilated or wantonly destroyed.

One night before the last election he engaged in a chat about world
conditions as they then existed. By degrees he became absorbed in the
subject, and drew such a rapid and comprehensive world-picture that one
could not help regretting that the whole Dominion was not listening to
him. Referring to Russia, he contrasted the condition of the people
there with the condition of the people in the United States, and
remarked that perhaps the most extraordinary thing that had taken place
within his life time was the effect produced by the general spread of
education in the United States. In illustration of this, he pointed to
the fact that, while it was the custom for people, when he was a young
man, to sneer at the college professor in the neighbouring Republic, the
Americans now had in Woodrow Wilson a college professor for their
President. He went on to describe conditions in Russia, and deplored the
fact that, as there were at least one hundred millions of illiterate
people there, it would be impossible to effect a change, except in one
of two ways, namely, by the spread of education—which would take too
long—or by the appearance of another Napoleon. Thereupon a guest
remarked that, for the sake of ending the world war, it was to be hoped
that another Napoleon would soon appear. Sir Wilfrid made a slight
gesture with his right hand, and, shaking his head, said, “No, it is not
time. There were 1,000 years between Caesar and Charlemagne, and there
were 800 years between Charlemagne and Napoleon. You see, it is not yet
time for another Napoleon to appear.” Could anything be more graphic or
concrete than this rapidly sketched picture?

In some respects, he was the most conservative of men. For instance, he
was very reluctant to approve any changes in the rules or procedure of
Parliament. He had found them sufficient for all purposes for nearly
fifty years, and he looked up with a glance implying both surprise and a
certain degree of opposition, when anyone proposed a change of any kind.
Not that he would refuse to discuss it, or withhold his approval because
a discussion of a suggestion of the kind usually wound up by his saying,
“Well, I will be guided by whatever our friends may think.”

Another indication of his conservative inclination in matters of dress
may be pointed out. Those who have been familiar with him for years, and
even those who did not know him personally, but who have seen his
photographs, will have noticed that he usually wore a scarf pin in the
shape of a horse-shoe. While it decorated his ties of different colour,
it never seemed out of place. In the same way he never wore a chain on
his watch, and this habit he continued down to the end of his days. Even
in these little things there was proof of his being different from other

                 *        *        *        *        *

He was the embodiment of kindness, and his consideration for others was
unfailing. These characteristics manifested themselves so naturally that
they were part and parcel of the man. Perhaps one story, that
illustrates this side of his character better than any other, was told
by Lady Laurier. Occasionally, in later years, an impression would arise
in the household that some of the servants were not as attentive to duty
as they might be, and, at times, a suggestion was made that it might be
well to speak to them about some oversight. Sir Wilfrid’s invariable
admonition was, “Oh, don’t do that. It’s bad enough to be a servant.” At
other times, disappointment would be expressed at the speedy
disappearance of some good things that had been provided for guests who
were to arrive. If Sir Wilfrid chanced to hear any discussion on this
topic, he would intervene with, “Well, after all, that is very natural;
the servants are human like ourselves.” It was this constant regard for
the feelings of others, and his lightning-like ability to adapt himself
to any occasion, no matter how suddenly it might arise, that made him so
different from other men, and constantly increased the love felt for him
by those who were fortunate enough to be brought within the circle of
his daily life.

                 *        *        *        *        *

His marvelous memory and his grip upon the Parliamentary proceedings of
over forty years was unexpectedly instanced in the House of Commons on
September 7th., 1917. Senate amendments in the income tax bill were
before the House, and the point of order was raised that the Red Chamber
could not amend a money bill.

Hon. Speaker Rhodes, after hurriedly consulting authorities, found a
case in May, 1874, in which Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, then Premier, had
moved to accept the Senate amendments to an act respecting the
appropriation of certain Dominion lands in Manitoba, stipulating that
the action should not be accepted as a precedent.

“It so happens that I was a member of this House at the time,” said Sir
Wilfrid, rising. “I was, of course, a very young member then, but I have
a recollection of the debate that took place.” The veteran Liberal
leader then recited in some detail the debate of forty-three years ago,
differentiating between the land act then under discussion and the money
bill now before the House. Meantime the Speaker had sent for the ancient
Hansard, and subsequently placed the record before the House. It was in
exact accordance with Sir Wilfrid’s memories, and both sides of the
House paid its senior member the tribute of hearty applause.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Many stories are told which illustrate the wide range of his information
and his remarkable memory. On one occasion Sir Adolphe Chapleau, who was
a member for many years of successive Conservative Cabinets, was
relating his experience as a captain in the Union Army at the Battle of
Antietam. A Union battery had taken a position in a corn field which
masked its presence from the Confederates.

“When the proper moment came,” said Sir Adolphe, “the order to fire was
given by General ——.”

“You are, I think, mistaken,” said Sir Wilfrid, apologizing for the
interruption. “It was General ——, who gave the order.”

Sir Adolphe paused in amazement; then he said:—

“You are right. I was there, yet I had forgotten. You were not there,
yet you remember. I will tell no more experiences.”

At another time, in Paris, in 1897, Sir Wilfrid and other Canadians, who
had visited England for the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, were being
conducted about the city. At the Arc de Triomphe, inscribed with the
names of the great victories of the Napoleonic wars, an army officer
undertook to give the dates of the different battles.

“Marengo,” he said, “was fought in July 14th., 1801.”

“Was it not 1800?” asked Sir Wilfrid.

“It was,” replied the officer, abashed. “Evidently we must go to Canada
to learn French history.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier in a very real sense was passionately fond of
children. He relaxed to them, he loved them, and they loved him.
Children seemed to get closer to “the Chief” than anyone else. There
were times, in the stress of big events, when matters of policy were to
be determined, when situations had to be gauged and met, when Sir
Wilfrid seemed to shut himself behind an expressionless face to do his
thinking. His friends and lieutenants sought counsel from him then
without success. No premature intimations were forthcoming. He became to
all associated with him a seeker—not a giver—of information. One left
his presence, having gone for guidance, with the conviction that he had
laid bare his whole mind and thought at the delicate prompting of the
Chief’s skilful interrogations, but realizing that the latter had
communicated nothing.

At the time of the long naval debate and Parliamentary embroglio, when
the threat of closures was in the air and all the strategy of statecraft
was being brought into play by both parties, a Liberal caucus waited
anxiously one winter morning for the advent of the leader. Newspaper-men
who proceeded to the main entrance eagerly watching for his coming
witnessed the septuagenarian spending the valuable moments prodding in
the snow with his walking-stick and seeking to locate a “lost mitt” of
an all-alone baby girl, who was crying pathetically at her loss and the
cold. It was only when the missing mitten was found and restored and the
child had been comforted that Sir Wilfrid turned his attention to the
waiting caucus and the problems of the moment.

Those who accompanied the then Prime Minister on his memorable tour of
the West in the summer of 1910 will never forget an incident while he
was speaking at Edmonton. So great was the crowd that had assembled in
Alberta’s capital that hot August afternoon to hear his message that all
attempts to hold an indoor meeting were abandoned. Sir Wilfrid spoke
from a balcony at the central corner of the main thoroughfare, and
windows, balconies and streets were peopled with spectators. Suddenly,
in the midst of his speech he paused, and gazing over the seething mass
of humanity, pointed to one of the upper windows in a block diagonally
opposite to the balcony from which he spoke. A midget was seated alone
on the ledge, swinging her feet over the street far below. Anxiously he
inquired: “Is that little one safe?” Amid all the display and acclaim
Sir Wilfrid’s eyes were on the child in danger.

One of the most charming revelations of Sir Wilfrid’s thought for
children and his understanding of them occurred on the same tour during
a public reception at a temporary stand built upon a Manitoba prairie.
An eight-year-old maid of the harvest field, with unadorned straw hat
and bare feet, stood, like the publican of old, afar off. She looked on
with wide, wondering eyes while a more fortunate little lady, in the
fluffy, beribboned, spotless daintiness so dear to all daughters of Eve,
be they big or little, gave the great man a beautiful bouquet of roses.
She had seen him stoop and kiss her. Then she separated herself from the
cheering crowd. She strayed to a spot on the prairie where she knew they
grew. She gathered them herself, a little ill-assorted bunch of wild
weed blossoms. Then she edged her way back through the throng. She had
almost reached him as he was moving on, when a badged committeeman
stopped her, and taking her by the sleeve of her patched print dress
thrust her back. Tears sprang to her eyes.

For an instant the procession wavered. There was a break in the line.
Sir Wilfrid turned. Unwittingly the little one found herself almost
confronting him. Feverishly now she sought to squirm back into the
oblivion of the crowd. But he had seen her. He stepped toward her, and
the committeeman released his hold.

“Were you good enough to mean those flowers for me, little girl?” he
asked with a smile. She thrust them toward him now half-frightened.

He bowed and took them. He kissed her. Then he drew a sprig from the
bunch and fastened it upon the lapel of his coat. And when the great man
mounted his car and waved his hat to the cheering hundreds there was one
happy little girl who feasted her eyes upon a faded wild weed blossom
still drooping on his breast.

Sir Wilfrid never lost a chance to “make up” to the little folk. He
travelled on the first passenger train over the National
Transcontinental from Fort William to Winnipeg, when construction gangs
were still at work and the primitive condition of the country caused the
workmen to be housed in log and frame shanties along the line, and took
a remarkable interest in the several children who had accompanied their
pioneer parents to the wild and picturesque outposts of coming
civilization. He was the earliest riser on the train, and one morning,
when the call of breakfast found him missing, there was some anxiety as
to whether he had lost his way in an early morning walk through the
bush. “No need for worry,” volunteered one, who knew his Chief well;
“you’ll likely find him outside somewhere with the youngsters.” He was
right. Sir Wilfrid was “playing catch” with a sturdy four-year-old
behind a nearby shanty.

One day as the train lay in a switch near Humboldt a boy mounted the
steps with a new birthday present, and explained that he wanted to take
his first picture of “Mister Laurier.” A few moments later the tall
figure was standing patiently on the track till the juvenile
photographer “got it right.” The little fellow secured first-hand what
scores of correspondents and local photographers had for weeks been
struggling with crowds and erecting pedestals to obtain.

The devotion of the habitant of rural Quebec to Sir Wilfrid Laurier was
well illustrated by an incident during the campaign of 1911. The Liberal
leader was leaving Bonaventure station, in Montreal, very early one
morning to proceed, via Coteau, to accept the nomination for Soulanges.
At the station he passed a little girl, the daughter of a basket-laden
woman, on her way to market. He stopped to pat the child’s head and
exchange a greeting.

“Qui est l’homme?” (“Who is the man?”) asked the astonished mother of a

“Sir Wilfrid Laurier,” replied one of the group of newspapermen nearby.

The woman’s face was a picture. “En vérité?” (“Indeed, truly?”) she
persisted, turning from one to another for confirmation.

When she was convinced she ran after the departing figure and stroked
the sleeves of his coat as if it were something holy. Sir Wilfrid turned
and shook her hand, ere the poor woman fled in confusion.

                 *        *        *        *        *

His love of children was very sincere. On one occasion he was visiting a
friend at his farm near Aurora. One evening he sat down to dinner, and
after commencing, excused himself, went upstairs and shortly returned.
Next day the little granddaughter of his host, who was also staying at
the farm, said that, “Mr. Wilfrid” had forgotten to say goodnight to her
the night before and that he had come up from dinner to kiss her
goodnight and speak to her before she went to sleep.

                 *        *        *        *        *

A man who visits Ottawa from time to time tells of an unexpected
interview with Sir Wilfrid. Word was brought to him that the Liberal
Chieftain wished to see him. The remainder of the story may be told in
his own words:—

The friend who brought me the message made an appointment for me to
visit Sir Wilfrid at two o’clock in the afternoon. When I reached his
home on Laurier Avenue, he was waiting for me, and although I had never
met him before, his welcome was so simple and kindly that I felt at home
at once, and felt as if we had been life-long friends. In a sense we had
been, for I had admired him since I had first seen him on a platform
over thirty years ago. The acquaintanceship was at least complete on my
side. I felt that I knew him very thoroughly, and his welcome made me
forget that his knowledge of me must be very casual.

But though his greeting made me feel not only at ease but flattered and
happy, it was not long before I noticed something that aroused an
old-time critical attitude. It so happened that many years ago I had
served my time as a dramatic critic, and had learned to notice the
little niceties by which an actor achieves his affects. Now I do not
wish to accuse Sir Wilfrid of being an actor, but if his methods were
spontaneous and merely happened so, they were still worthy of Booth,
Irving or Belasco.

I was shown into his sitting-room, where a grate fire was burning. After
a most cordial greeting, in which he referred to some of my activities,
which had attracted his attention and pleased him, he motioned me to a
chair and when I had seated myself he sat down beside me. While standing
he towered over me in height, but to my surprise, when he sat down I was
looking down into his earnest, attentive face. I instantly noticed that
the chair on which he sat was several inches lower than the one on which
I sat. The stage trick was so apparent that although I did not betray
the fact that I had noticed it, it made me keenly alert for anything
else of the same kind that might happen. For over an hour we engaged in
a most animated conversation. I had information which he wanted, and by
his shrewd questions, but even more by his absorbed attention, which
never wavered, he made me tell everything I knew about the subject in

During the hour that I spent with him I could not help feeling his
magnetic personality. His wonderful graciousness and flattering
attention to every word I spoke made me realize that he was more
compelling and captivating when met privately than when seen on the
platform. No outburst of eloquence could surpass the delightful
persuasiveness of his ordinary conversation.

Finally, he rose as if some thought had suddenly occurred to him. He
walked over to the open fireplace, and stood with his back to me for a
few moments. As he rose from the low chair on which he had been sitting
and stood erect his height seemed more than mortal. Standing with his
back to me, he seemed absorbed in profound thought, but presently he
turned and his whole manner had changed. Instinctively I came to
attention and stood before him. With the smile which made his followers
adore him, he began abruptly.

“Now, Mr. ——, what I want to know is what constituency are you going
to contest in the coming election?”

“Why!” I stammered. “I never thought of such a thing!”

“Ah, but I have thought of it,” said Sir Wilfrid.

I protested that I had no political experience and would probably bring
confusion upon myself and the party, if I attempted to take a public
part in politics. With a magnificent gesture he brushed aside my

“But I want you with me in Parliament. I need you there!”

This compelled me to speak somewhat intimately of my personal affairs,
and to make it clear to him that it was impossible for me to change the
whole current of my life and take part in politics. My explanations
convinced him, and the subject was dropped.

Though I was deeply moved by the compliment implied by his request, the
dramatic critic was still alert at the back of my head and chuckling
with inward appreciation. The scene had been worthy of Booth at his
best. Cardinal Richelieu could not have surpassed him. As a matter of
fact, I have always thought of him since then as “the Cardinal,” and
have used the title when speaking of him to intimate friends.

Though I had other interviews with him, none of them equalled the first
in the exquisite attention to detail in the stage setting—the low
chair, the open fireplace and the turning towards me with infinite
suavity and appeal to make his request.

But I do not wish to leave the impression that he was consciously an
actor. He naturally made use of his surroundings for dramatic effect. It
was not so much that he put on a grand manner as that it was impossible
for him ever to lay it off. It was part of the man.

The same man also said:—

One of the last interviews I enjoyed strengthened the impression of the
“Cardinal.” On the day on which he started to Winnipeg for that
triumphal tour which raised such high hope before his defeat in 1917, I
had an hour with him in his home. He received me in his study on the
second floor. He had just been taking a nap to prepare himself for the
fatigues of the journey. He had on a dressing gown of which I remember
that the predominating color was a decorative figure in dull red.

The “Cardinal” received me with his customary graciousness, and for an
hour we reviewed the chances of the campaign. When I was leaving him he
followed me to the top of the stairs, and as he shook hands he said,
with that peculiar serenity that was one of his outstanding
characteristics in his later days:

“I may be defeated, but I will not be dishonoured.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

On one occasion Sir Wilfrid spoke in the pavilion of the Horticultural
Gardens. During his address hisses came from the audience when he
mentioned a paper that had taken issue with him. Sir Wilfrid exclaimed,
rebukingly, “How dare any man hiss when another has the courage of his
convictions? I do not find fault with the paper because it does not
agree with me. We Liberals have our differences, but that fact does not
justify hisses.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Mention has been made of a certain similarity of viewpoint between
Laurier and Gladstone. It is true that the great English Liberal was
born to large opportunity. His magnificent intellectual gifts were
enhanced by all that wealth and culture could do to polish and prepare
perhaps the largest mind ever devoted to the service of the State since
Parliamentary government began. From his earliest years he had consorted
with world-figures—with men who were playing a great part on the great
stage of the world. He was admirably trained and equipped at all points
to play the part of the public man.

With Sir Wilfrid Laurier it was otherwise. He lacked the adventitious
aids of fortune and station which smoothed the path of Gladstone as,
until the last ten years, they have smoothed the path of every British
Premier, with the solitary exception of Disraeli. The two great Liberal
leaders were akin in spirit—and it is the things of the spirit that
really matter. It is possible that there was in Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as
certainly to the last there was in Gladstone, a certain strain of
conservatism, using that word in no narrow party sense. Both belonged to
the old school which valued fine manners, and, in the case of both,
their fine manners were the outward and visible sign of minds that were
rarely fine. But, in spite of this strain of conservatism, both were men
imbued through and through with the spirit of genuine Liberalism. The
life of each, to his last and latest moment, was a life of growth.

It is as impossible to set bounds to the growth of Liberalism as it is
to set bounds to the aspirations of a nation. Those who would seek to
reduce Liberal doctrines to formulae, to compress them into a creed, and
who would say: “This is the Liberal faith, the whole Liberal faith, and
nothing but this is the Liberal faith,” have small conception of the
inherent function of Liberalism. That function is to keep abreast of the
times, to be in harmony with the spirit of the times, and to be prepared
to face the problems of the times with high heart and high hopes, with
unconquerable courage and unfaltering faith. Liberal beliefs are no
effete and petrified dogmas. They are a living, energizing, vitalizing
force. They are that—or they are nothing.

It was Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s distinction, as it was Gladstone’s to take
this view of Liberalism. It is true that he belonged, as he himself
often said, to the school of Gladstone and Bright. But he did not hold
that the tenets of that school must necessarily comprehend all truth. He
realized that it is the spirit in which political problems are
approached that constitutes the great difference between Liberalism and
its opposite. Even he approached those problems in a spirit of sympathy
with the aim and ideals of the common people. His ears had caught the
tramp of the marching feet of the New Democracy, and to his heart the
sound brought not fear but lofty hope. Old in years, but young in heart,
he had an unquestionable faith in the honesty of this New Democracy and
in its ability to solve its own problems in its own way. Not long ago,
speaking of the fuller life for the people which might be expected as
one of the outcomes of the war, he said that the England of the future
would not be so picturesque or so dignified as the old England, but that
it would be a far happier England for the masses of the people. It was
the welfare of the masses which was ever nearest his own heart. He saw
that all over the world the People’s Day was dawning. He saw it and was

That Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a great, and will prove to have been a
lasting, dynamic force in Canadian public life seems to us
unquestionable. On the many years of material prosperity that Canada
enjoyed while his hand guided the helm of State; on his great
achievement in the realm alike of legislation and of administration it
is beside our present purpose to dwell. These things are a part, an
imperishable part, of the history of our country. But he did much,
infinitely much, to give Canadians a sense of national unity and a sense
of the dignity of nationhood. His efforts were often frustrated by the
schemes of smaller men, with their appeals to racial prejudice and
religious intolerance. But he himself steadily strove to weld the
Canadian people into one harmonius whole. He certainly did not live to
see the consummation of his work in this regard. But there will come a
day when the people for whom he laboured will surely remember it and not
with ingratitude.

Whoever he may be, the successor to Laurier must take no smaller view
than this. Appeals to classes, to interests, and to sections—whether to
farmers, to labour, to the manufacturers, or what not—are not the
appeals that Liberalism makes. For that appeal is to all good citizens.
It is to the civic sense of the whole country.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier has not had an approach of an equal during the last
generation. It is not easy to exactly define in what his personality
consisted. Facial charm was certainly one of his greatest endowments. He
had a remarkably fine and open countenance, with a finely chiselled and
expressive mouth, and with a classic brow that was one of the gifts of
the gods. No one ever forgot Sir Wilfrid who had the privilege of seeing
or hearing him once. The late Sir George Ross once referred to him as “a
picture gallery all in himself.” His voice was also one of his great
endowments, and his gestures of hands and body were in perfect sympathy
with the thoughts he had to express. Behind all this was a finely
cultured intellect, and behind this again was a burning French-Canadian
soul that added warmth to all his words, gave action and gesture and
fire, and made him from a purely speaking standpoint one of the greatest
and most finished orators of his time. But there was more even than
this. No man can hold followers simply by words alone. Sir Wilfrid had a
wonderfully sympathetic heart, a keen appreciation of the human
qualities in man, and coupled with his own personal magnetism, there was
a winsomeness that bound his followers to him as with hoops of steel.

                 *        *        *        *        *

He did not ignore the material side of nation-building. He realized the
importance of the country’s natural resources and the necessity for
industrial development; but it was of the very nature of the man that he
should think most of the happiness of the people. He saw in Canada the
opportunity for a wonderful experiment in nation-making. He realized
that wealth and prosperity and national glory are not everything. His
ideal of a great nation was that of a free, contented, united and
intelligent people, living at peace with each other and with the world.
He sought to break down the barriers of prejudice and bigotry and
ignorance that those of different races and creeds and parties might
live together on terms of harmony and good will. His love was for people
rather than for material things, and he attracted the love of people in
return. No man in Canada ever attracted a more generous or more genuine
measure of love. This was shown by the spontaneous display of personal
feeling which his death called forth. And he was loved by the people,
not for any great thing he had done, but rather because of what he was.

It was Laurier’s desire, too, that Canada should have an opportunity to
develop according to the genius of her own people, free from
entanglements with old-world feuds and passions. The nations of Europe
were the victims of European history and tradition. They lived in an
atmosphere of war and strife. So far as it was possible he would have
saved Canada from the influence of this old-world spirit. He hesitated
about participation in the early days of the South African war. He was
thinking of Canada and the Canadian people. When the present war broke
out he saw that it was a struggle to the death between civilization and
barbarism, and he did not hesitate for a moment as to Canada’s duty. But
he was not prepared to go to the length of supporting conscription. To
him conscription meant militarism, and he dreaded militarism as he hated

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Canadian nation stood grief-stricken around that august bier. The
hero of so many a gallant fight had succumbed to Death, the last great
enemy of all—and even that enemy came to him like a friend.

                  “When a great man dies,
                    For years beyond our ken,
                  The light he leaves behind him lies
                    Along the paths of men.”

So it will be with Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Intrinsically and essentially he
was a great man—great in natural gifts, great in vision, great in
heart, great in soul, and “as the greatest only are, in his simplicity
sublime.” Great men, it has been well said, are like great mountains.
One cannot fully judge of their real grandeur at close range. So it may
well be that we shall have to interpose some distance of time between
Sir Wilfrid Laurier and ourselves before we can gauge, with anything
approximating to adequacy, how much a bigger man he was than any of his

To the end he was “the greatest fighter of them all.” Forty odd years of
strenuous public life brought no slackening in the vigour of mind or
energy, nor any discouragement as to the ultimate triumph of the
principle for which he always stood. There is an elixir of perpetual
youth in a good cause and in a good fight.

“I have endeavoured to meet success without elation and reverse without
discouragement,” he said to his followers in Parliament in May, 1914, in
acknowledging their testimonial to him on the completion of forty years
of continuous membership in the House of Commons. The “father of
Parliament,” in point of length of service as in point of ripe judgment,
oratorical graces and public experience, he remained, in Opposition as
in power, an optimist and an unflagging worker. During the fifteen years
of his Premiership Sir Wilfrid Laurier, with the exception of his
Imperial Conference trips and his western tour of 1910, and during
election campaigns, was scarcely ever away from his post at the Capital.
As leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition he was daily in his office
attending to a large correspondence, looking after the details of party
organization, receiving many callers who sought advice or assistance,
and keeping abreast, through books and periodicals, of all national
problems and world movements.

For half a century Wilfrid Laurier fought the battles of Canadian
democracy—for responsible government, for social justice, for equality
of opportunity, for freedom for the common people—the ordinary,
everyday folk—in the age-long fight between entrenched and aggressive
self-interest and altruistic common interest.

“The happiness of the masses of the people is the underlying
consideration of government,” he said to the students of the University
of Toronto, in an address in December, 1913.

And in the policies which he advocated there was proof of his sincere
belief in the ideal of government he thus stated. He led the fight for
the revision of the tariff downward, so that greedy men might be
prevented from taking undue tolls from their fellow-men, so that
combines and corporations should be curbed when they attempted “to fix
prices one way to the producer and another way to the consumer.”

Addressing a great gathering of new foreign settlers in western Canada
as Premier, in welcoming them and bidding them partake of the advantages
of British citizenship, he feelingly and significantly alluded to this
step in his career.

“I live myself in this land,” said he, “as an example of the breadth and
freedom of British institutions. It is an illustration of that thing
upon which the British system is based. I am not of English blood. My
ancestors were of the French race. Yet I am acknowledged as the leader
of the Parliament of Canada, irrespective of the blood in my veins.
Twenty-two years ago I took the leadership of the Liberal party. Friends
came to me after Mr. Blake’s retirement and offered me the leadership. I
hesitated. I told them that I thought it was not fitting that I, coming
from the race of the minority, worshipping with the minority, should
accept it. In reply they told me that the Liberal party knew neither
race nor creed. They said: ‘Whoever is worthy of our land is worthy of
our leadership.’ And I accepted.

“The race is open to all. Any man may come to this land who is willing
to work. It matters not who his father was or from what land he came, or
at what altar he bows, he can aspire to the best and the highest this
land has to offer. Whatever a Briton-born can claim he may claim.
British institutions know no difference whatever.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

He had great differences to reconcile, and he had more especially to
meet and overcome the presumptions which would naturally bar the way to
leadership and popularity in the case of a public man whose native
tongue was French, but who aspired to rule a community predominantly
English in blood and speech.

It is a tribute to the greatness of his character and to his memory to
reflect that even in Opposition he was the great outstanding figure in
the political life of the country. He did not need office to clothe
himself with the dignity that came to a public man. And he was equally a
political force in or out of office. There was a glamor that hung over
him that attracted men to him. He was the very incarnation of the
political aspirations of thousands of men and women, who never saw him
in the flesh. To his own immediate followers and political friends he
was the proverbial guide, philosopher and friend.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was with great misgivings that Sir Wilfrid accepted the leadership of
the Liberal Party, when Edward Blake gave it up. He realized that for a
young man of French-Canadian extraction and a Roman Catholic in
religion, the road would be difficult for him to traverse. And truth to
say, not a few of the Liberals felt dismayed at the prospect. But Sir
Wilfrid was not long in showing the people of Canada that they had in
him a leader who was guided solely by a desire to do his best for his
country no matter who would suffer.

When he took office in 1896, Canada was in a state of business
stagnation. Factories were closed, thousands of men were walking the
streets for lack of work, and thousands more were fleeing to the United
States as from a pestilence. Soup kitchens were kept busy doling out
food to those who could pay for none, and it is a fact that idle men in
some cities, had to stay in the house for fear of being arrested as
vagrants. This was the condition of affairs when Sir Wilfrid took the
reins of office.

The change that came over the country was magical. People took new
heart. Factories began to fire up. Men got back to work. The waste
places of the Dominion became settled with thousands of families from
the old lands, a home market was procured and the foreign market was
again established. An impetus to the forging of the chains of empire was
given when Sir Wilfrid in 1897, and again in 1900, granted the British
preference. It is now a matter of history how his pilgrimages to England
lifted Canada out of the darkness into the light, how this picturesque
Canadian figure dazzled the British people and how under his guidance
this Canada became a nation in the eyes of the world.

Sir Wilfrid was an optimist. In victory or defeat he never lost sight of
his goal, and he never gave up. However, his opponents professed to
doubt his loyalty, they had no reason to doubt it. Much
misrepresentation of Sir Wilfrid Laurier arose over his action in
connection with the Boer war. Yet it is to be remembered that he was the
first Canadian Premier to send a Canadian contingent abroad to help the
mother country against a common enemy. On this occasion the London Times
said: Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the French Roman Catholic Premier, of a
self-governing federation, in which British Protestants are in the
majority, has expressed more faithfully and more truly than any
statesman who has spoken yet, the temper of the new imperial patriotism
fostered into self-consciousness by the South African war.

                 *        *        *        *        *

A Conservative who always recognised the worth of Laurier as a Canadian,
requests the republication of some words of the Liberal chieftain during
his last appearance in London, stating that in his opinion they take
rank with some of the utterances of Lincoln and Gladstone:

“As for you who stand to-day on the threshold of life. . . . I shall
remind you that many problems rise before you: problems of race
division, problems of creed differences, problems of economic conflict,
problems of national duty and national aspirations. Let me tell you that
for the solution of these problems you have a safe guide, an unfailing
light, if you remember that faith is better than doubt and love is
better than hate. . . . Banish doubt and hate from your life. Let your
souls be ever open to the strong promptings of faith and the gentle
influence of brotherly love. Be adamant against the haughty; be gentle
and kind to the weak. Let your aim and your purpose, in good report or
in ill, in victory or in defeat, be so to live, so to strive, so to
serve as to do your part to raise the standard of life to higher and
better spheres.”

These are not the words of a politician. They arise transcendent above
the ordinary dogmas of strife and intolerance. They breathe moderation
and kindness and therefore a perfect index of the character of their

                 *        *        *        *        *

“In the thirty years that I have led the Liberal party, my platform has
always been Canada first. Whether on one side or another, on this
question or that, my guiding star has always been my Canadian country.
There is a crisis, and we must fight on as fought the pioneers of the
early days in Canada, the strong, stern men who kept in sight their goal
of Canada’s best interests against all difficulties and obstacles. Let
our motto be the same as theirs—‘Fortitude in Distress.’ There are
breakers ahead, but we shall reach the shore if we fight on. We can
bring to pass in Canada what was prophesied by a distinguished American
once—that the twentieth century would be the century of Canada.”—Sir
Wilfrid Laurier at Winnipeg, December, 1917.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The coronation of King Edward in 1902 was taken advantage of to hold
another imperial conference, when the question of imperial defence came
up. Prior to leaving England Sir Wilfrid discussed the invitation in the
House. “If it is intended simply to discuss what part Canada is prepared
to take in her own defence,” he said, “what share of the burden must
fall upon us as being responsible for the safety of our own land,
certainly we are always prepared to discuss that subject. But there is a
school abroad, there is a school in England and in Canada, a school
which is perhaps represented on the floor of this parliament, which
wants to bring Canada into the vortex of militarism, which is the curse
and blight of Europe, I am not prepared to endorse any such policy.”

This was the traditional attitude of Sir John A. Macdonald and that of
Sir Charles Tupper in the speech made at Quebec in 1900. Sir Wilfrid
stood by it at the conference, and was supported by Australia.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Many eloquent tributes have been paid to him since his death, but none
have surpassed the beautiful tribute which Sir Wilfrid paid to the late
Sir John Macdonald, when he passed away twenty-eight years ago. Speaking
from his place in Parliament on that occasion, he said:

“The place of Sir John Macdonald in this country was so large and so
absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the political
life of this country, the fate of this country, can continue without
him. His loss overwhelms us. For my part, I say, with all truth, that
his loss overwhelms me, and it also overwhelms this Parliament, as if
indeed one of the institutions of the land had given way. Sir John now
belongs to the ages, and it can be said with certainty that the career
which has just closed is one of the most remarkable careers of this
century. It would be premature at this time to attempt to fix or
anticipate what will be the final judgment of history upon him; but
there were in his career and in his life features so prominent and so
conspicuous that already they shine with a glow which time cannot alter,
which, even now appear before the eye, such as they will appear to the
end of history. I think it can be asserted that for the supreme act of
governing men Sir John Macdonald was gifted as few men in any land or in
any age were gifted—gifted with the highest of all qualities, qualities
which would have made him famous wherever exercised, and which would
have shone all the more conspicuously the larger the theatre. The fact
that he would congregate together elements the most heterogeneous and
blend them into one compact party, and to the end of his life keep them
steadily under his hand, is perhaps altogether unprecedented. The fact
that during all those years he retained unimpaired not only the
confidence but the devotion—the ardent devotion—and affection of his
party, is evidence that besides those higher qualities of statesmanship
to which we were daily witnesses, he was also endowed with those inner,
subtle, undefinable graces of the soul which win and keep the hearts of

It will be generally admitted that Sir Wilfrid’s graceful words, spoken
in reference to the great Conservative leader, are singularly applicable
to his own case.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“If there is anything to which I have devoted my political life, it is
to try to promote unity, harmony and amity between the diverse elements
of this country. My friends can desert me, they can remove their
confidence from me, they can withdraw the trust they have placed in my
hands, but never shall I deviate from that line of policy. Whatever may
be the consequences, whether loss of prestige, loss of popularity, or
loss of power, I feel that I am in the right, and I know that a time
will come when every man will render me full justice on that
score.”—March 18th., 1900.

“I claim this for the Liberal Government, that we have endeavoured to
carry on the policy of this country so as to make Canada a nation—a
nation within the British Empire—A nation great in the eyes of the
world. For my part, I want to see her lands occupied, her mines
developed, her forests cleared, her fisheries exploited, her cities
growing, her population increasing, but above all, I want to see our
people united.

“I do not know whether my political career or my natural life shall be
short or long, but whether short or long, I cherish the hope that I
shall have so lived that when deposited in my grave, every Canadian, be
he friend or foe, be he English-speaking, or French-speaking Protestant
or Catholic, will have to say:

“There rests a man who has given the best of his life of his soul, of
his heart to make us an united people.” Bowmanville, October, 1899.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Even those who on principle do not believe in war, admit that this was
a just war and that it had to be fought. That union of hearts which
exists in the United Kingdom exists also in Canada, in Australia, in New
Zealand, yea, even in South Africa—South Africa rent by war less than
twenty years ago, but now united under the blessing of British
institutions, with all, British and Dutch together, standing ready to
shed their blood for the common cause. Sir, there is in this the
inspiration and the hope that from this painful war the British Empire
may emerge with a new bond of union, the pride of all its citizens, and
a living light to all other nations.” August 19th., 1914.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“I am a Liberal of the English school. I believe in that school, which
has all along claimed that it is the privilege of all subjects, whether
high or low, whether rich or poor, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, to
participate in the administration of public affairs, to discuss, to
influence, to persuade, to convince—but which has always denied even to
the highest the right to dictate even to the lowest, but Protestants as
well, and I must give an account of my stewardship to all classes. Here
am I, a Roman Catholic of French extraction, entrusted by the confidence
of the men who sit around me with great and important duties under our
constitutional system of government. I am here the acknowledged leader
of a great party composed of Roman Catholics and Protestants as well, in
which Protestants are in the majority, as Protestants must be in the
majority in every party in Canada. Am I to be told, in occupying such a
position, that I am to be dictated to as to the course I am to take in
this House, by reasons that can appeal to the consciences of my fellow
Catholic members, but which do not appeal as well to the consciences of
my Protestant colleagues? No. So long as I have a seat in this House, so
long as I occupy the position I do now, whenever it shall become my duty
to take a stand upon any question whatever, that stand I will take not
upon grounds of Roman Catholicism, not upon grounds of Protestantism,
but upon grounds which can appeal to the consciences of all men,
irrespective of their particular faith, upon grounds which can be
occupied by all men who love justice, freedom and toleration.” Hansard,
March 3rd., 1896.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“If, upon my death bed, I could say, that thanks to my efforts, one
solitary error had disappeared, a single prejudice had been eradicated,
that by my sheer exertion race hatred had been caused to disappear from
Canada’s soil—I should, indeed, die happily with the conviction and
assurance that my life had not been lived in vain.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a true Canadian, a great British citizen. If he
had one aim in life which stood high above all others it was to contrive
a happy, a United Canada. “You are aware,” he said, in that superb
speech delivered at Quebec in 1894, “that in the eleventh century
certain men started out from Normandy, Anjou, Brittany, and Angouleme to
capture England. Duke William of Normandy was their leader, and our
present sovereign is the last scion of a royal race that dates back to
William the Conqueror. In the sixteenth century men started from the
same province of Normandy, Anjou, Brittany and Angouleme to colonize the
fertile lands on the banks of the St. Lawrence. In the next century the
men of both races met here and you know what happened. Well, is it not
permissible to hope that a day will come, when, instead of facing each
other on hostile purpose intent, the men of the two countries, the
descendants of the Britons, Angevins and Normans, who invaded England in
the eleventh century, and the descendants of the Angevins, Normans, and
Britons, who peopled Canada in the sixteenth, will meet together, not to
fight, but to hold the grand assizes of peace and commerce? I may not
live long enough to see that day, but if my career should be
sufficiently extended to allow me to take part in these assizes, it will
be a happy day to me. I shall attend them bearing with me my Canadian
nationality, and I believe that I shall continue the work of Mr.
Lafontaine and Sir George Etienne Cartier, and that the result will be
all to the advantage of French Canada. Gentlemen, our situation as a
country is full of difficulties, and those difficulties are no doubt
immense. Still, there is nothing desperate about them. What this country
needs above all else is peace, concord, and union between all the
elements composing its population. Let us show the world that if we
reverence the past, we also have a regard for the future. Let us show to
the world that union does not mean absorption, and that autonomy does
not mean antagonism. Victor Hugo, recalling his double origin, used
these fine words:

           ‘Fidèle au double sang qu’on verse dans ma veine,
            Mon pere, vieux soldat, ma mere, Vendeenne.’

(“True to the double blood that was poured into my veins by my father,
an old soldier, and my mother, a Vendean.”)

“Let us also be true to our double origin, true to the memory and the
reverence of the great nation from which we have sprung, and true also
to the great nation which has given us freedom. And in all the
difficulties, all the pains, and all the vicissitudes of our situation,
let us always remember that love is better than hatred, and faith better
than doubt, and let hope in our future destinies be the pillar of fire
to guide us in our career.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

England expects every man to do his duty! I am going to do my duty, not
only by Canada, but by the Empire. Britain, thank God, does not require
help from anybody, but if ever the occasion should arise when Britain is
summoned to stand against the whole world in arms, she can depend upon
the loyal support of Canada and the Canadian people. The Canadian people
are free and loyal; loyal because they are free.

The “Old Chief” as he was familiarly, and lovingly called by his
followers, occupied a very large place in the affections of the British
people. There was something romantic about this French-Canadian Prime
Minister, who took the premier place at Imperial Conferences, and who
argued that formal treaties, and hard and fast agreements were not
necessary to bind the Empire together.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“What do you think of the English people?” Sir Wilfrid was once asked.

“The English are all right; they are good sports, good losers, and on
the whole I have no reason to complain of their treatment during my long
term of public life.”

“Are they not somewhat arrogant?”

“All strong people are somewhat arrogant, but they are fair to a great
degree,” he replied.

“I was born a Catholic,” he declared, “and I will die, of course, in
that faith,” and when I replied that he had had a pretty hard row to hoe
in his lifetime with certain priests and prelates, he replied: “Yes,
that is true, but others of the same cloth have shown me much kindness
that it sweetens the bitterness of the pill which a few of them have
administered. Here,” he added, in the most earnest tones and expression,
“is the whole situation. Without taking as gospel everything that a curé
may say, or even a bishop, I firmly believe in the principles of the
Roman Catholic Church, and, as I have stated, I will die in the faith.
In reply to your remark as to the difficulties which have from time to
time beset me during the past thirty-five years, I may say that there
are a good many people who have tried to drive me out of the Catholic
Church, and the means which they have used have not at all times been
fair and above board, but, thank God, they have not succeeded up to the
present time, and they will have quite as little success in the future
as in the past.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“I have no hesitation in saying that if the day should come when the
supremacy of Britain on the high seas should be challenged it will be
the duty of all the daughter nations to close around the old Motherland,
and to make a rampart about her to ward off any attack. I hope that day
will never come, but should it come, I would deem it my duty to devote
what might be left of my life and energy to stump the country and
endeavor to impress upon my fellow-countrymen, especially my compatriots
in the Province of Quebec, the conviction that the salvation of England
is the salvation of our own country, and therein lies the guaranty of
our civil and religious freedom and everything we value in life. These
are the sentiments which animate the Government on this occasion.”

“This session has been called for the purpose of giving the authority of
Parliament and the sanction of law to such measures as have already been
taken by the Government, and any further measures that may be needed, to
insure the defence of Canada and to give what aid may be in our power to
the Mother Country in the stupendous struggle which now confronts us.
Speaking for those who sit around me, speaking for the wide constituency
which we represent in this House, I hasten to say that to all these
measures we are prepared to give immediate assent. If in what has been
done or in what remains to be done there may be anything which in our
judgment should not be done or should be differently done, we raise no
question, we take no exception, we offer no criticism, and we shall
offer no criticism so long as there is danger at the front. It is our
duty, more pressing upon us than all other duties, at once, on this
first day of this extraordinary session of the Canadian Parliament, to
let Great Britain know, and to let the friends and foes of Great Britain
know, that there is in Canada but one mind and one heart, and that all
Canadians stand behind the Mother Country, conscious and proud that she
has engaged in this war, not from any selfish motive, for any purpose of
aggrandizement, but to maintain untarnished the honour of her name, to
fulfil her obligation to her Allies, to maintain her treaty obligations
and to save civilization from the unbridled lust of conquest and power.

“We are British subjects, and to-day we are face to face with the
consequences which are involved in that proud fact. Long have we enjoyed
the benefit of our British citizenship; to-day it is our duty to accept
its responsibilities and its sacrifices.

“If my word can be heard beyond the walls of this House in the Province
from which I come; among the men whose blood flows in my own veins, I
should like them to remember that in taking their place to-day in the
ranks of the Canadian army to fight for the cause of the Allied nations,
a double honour rests upon them. The very cause for which they are
called upon to fight is to them doubly sacred.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was one of the chief speakers at the great musical
festival given by the American residents of Toronto under the auspices
of the American Aid Society, on Thursday, September 10th., 1914. The
concert was held in the Arena, and the entire receipts were donated to
the Canadian Patriotic Fund. The Liberal leader said:

“Some few weeks ago Canada deliberated upon the situation, the
stupendous struggle in which Britain is engaged, and the part which
Canada bears. All vestiges of political differences were eliminated. We
found in comparing our views that we stood exactly upon the same
platform. Without a dissenting voice it was the unanimous opinion of the
Canadian Parliament that the war in which England is engaged to-day is a
sacred war, and that Canada must help to its last man and its last

“We must face the situation as it is, and as Lord Kitchener told us some
few days ago, we must have more men. There is a difference between the
British nation and the nations of the continent. The nations of the
continent get their soldiers by law; by conscription, and the
enforcement of authority; the British nation get their soldiers not by
law, but by appealing to the patriotism of men. Lord Kitchener tells us
he wants more soldiers. If he wants more soldiers from Canada let him
say the word and we will respond to meet him. We are behind the Mother
Country, and let us send them a message that this war must be fought to
a finish, and that arms must not be laid down until the principle which
it has been fought for is vindicated, and until the day has come when
right takes the place of might.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

From Laurier’s great speech in the Academy of Music, Quebec, June 26,
1877, in which he declared himself a Liberal of the English school, and
an opponent of clerical intimidation:

“The constitution of the country rests on the freely expressed wish of
each election. It intends that each elector shall cast his vote freely
and willingly as he deems best. If the greatest number of the electors
of a country are actually of an opinion, and that, owing to the
influence exercised upon them by one or more men, or owing to words they
have heard or writings they have read, their opinion changes, there is
nothing in the circumstance but what is perfectly legitimate. Although
the opinion they express is different from the one they have expressed
without such intervention, still it is the one they desire to express
conscientiously, and the constitution meets with the entire application.
If, however, notwithstanding all reasoning, the opinion of the electors
remains the same, but that, by intimidation or fraud, they are forced to
vote differently, the opinion which they express is not their opinion,
and the constitution is violated. As I have already said, the
constitution intends that each one’s opinion shall be freely expressed
as he understands it at the moment of expression, and the collective
reunion of the individual opinions freely expressed, forms the
government of the country.

“I am amongst you to-day, not as a politician, but only as a Canadian,
and, I may add, as a French-Canadian, as a Canadian of my race, and when
I go to the English Provinces I am quite as proud to call myself as
such. I am here to tell you all that we owe to England and to France.
What we want before everything is equal rights for everyone, the rights
for which England and France have fought, the respect of minorities and
the respect of justice and loyalty, so shamefully outraged by Germany.

“Do not forget that the fact that Britain was at war constituted for
Canada a new condition of things, which imposed new duties upon the
Government, upon the Opposition and upon the whole Canadian people. The
moment that Great Britain was at war, Canada was at war. This is a truth
which, while we were in office, we had not only to proclaim, but for
which we had to provide in a manner consonant with the new condition, a
new situation created by the development of Canada, not as a colony, but
as a nation within the British Empire.

“These truths were not accepted by all. It was the occasion of a great
deal of misrepresentation; it contributed very much towards the defeat
which we suffered in 1911, but for my part let me say here that I have
no regrets. Better be it ten times over and more that we should stand
here defeated for having had the courage of presenting to the Canadian
people new duties which have had effects, rather than to still be in
office by having shirked the duty which was incumbent upon the

“But at that time it was easy to appeal to prejudices, but the truth
that when Britain is at war, Canada is at war also, came in only too
concrete a manner, for, after the declaration of war, right here in the
city of Montreal you had your harbour full of ships loaded with the
produce of the land ready to take to the sea, still remaining here owing
to the war, because if they had taken to the sea they would have been
liable to seizure by the enemy. They did not and could not take to the
seas until the ocean had been swept by the British Navy, and until the
British Navy was ready to escort them, until the duty was forthcoming by
the British Navy, which, in my conviction, it behooved the Canadian
people to do themselves.

“We are a free people, absolutely free. The charter under which we live
has put it in our power to say whether we should take part in such a war
or not. It is for the Canadian people, the Canadian Parliament and the
Canadian Government alone to decide. This freedom is at once the glory
and honour of Britain, which granted it, and of Canada, which used it to
assist Britain. Freedom is the keynote of all British institutions.
There is no compulsion upon those dependencies of Great Britain which
have reached the stature of Dominions such as Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa and such Crown Dependencies as India. They are all
free to take part or not as they think best. That is the British freedom
which much to the surprise of the world, and greatly to the dismay of
the German Emperor, German professors, and German diplomats caused the
rush from all parts of the British Empire to assist the Mother Country
in this stupendous struggle. Freedom breeds loyalty. Coercion always was
the mother of rebellion.

“I was asked by someone why should I support the Government in their
policy of sending men to the front. Why should not the Liberal party
have remained quiet and passive and let all the worries be left to the
Government? My answer was, ‘I have no particular love for the
Government, but I love my country, I love the land of my ancestors,
France. I love the land of liberty, above all, England, and rather than
that I in my position of leader of the Liberal party, should remain
passive and quiescent, I would rather go out of public life, and life

“When the Prime Minister announced his intention of placing all
available forces at the disposal of the British Government, what was the
policy of the Liberal party? There were three currents of opinion at the
time. There was first of all the Imperialist who would have Canada take
part in all the wars of the Empire. There was the Nationalist who would
not have Canada take part in any war of the Empire at all, and there was
the Liberal position. What was our position? We stood for Canadian
autonomy. We upheld the sovereignty of Canada. I have several times on
the floor of the House sustained that position. I claimed for the
Parliament of Canada, the right which John Bright claimed in the
Imperial Parliament in the Crimean War. Time has shown that he was
right. It has been established that the Crimean War was without result
and had no cause. So I claimed for the Parliament of Canada the same
right that John Bright claimed for the Imperial Parliament. And I should
add that by doing so I scandalized both the Imperialists and the

“Neither of them challenged the position. No one denied that the
Canadian Parliament had the right of pronouncement on the question of
participation or non-participation. But the Imperialist wanted
Parliament to close its eyes and to fight in any war. The Nationalist
wanted Parliament to close its eyes and to fight in no wars. We Liberals
asked for nothing more than the liberty which had been guaranteed to us.

“If I state our position now, it is not because I wish to raise a
discussion on these questions. So long as the war continues, so long as
the soil of Belgium is occupied, so long as the last German has not been
kicked out of France, so long is this not the time to discuss these
questions. All our attention should be directed to the prosecution of
the war and to the bringing about of that final victory which we hope to
secure. But when the war is over we shall have to take up these
questions again. And the people of Canada will be called upon to decide
between the opposing parties. If I mention the questions now it is
merely because I wish to indicate the motives of our actions.

“I have given you the reasons which made me take the attitude I took in
this war, and though I am free to admit that I preferred to fight rather
than support the Government in a case of this kind all other
considerations should disappear. To complete my thoughts, so that no one
may misunderstand me, I will declare that had I been in power I should
have followed the same policy myself, though in details of
administration I should have tried to do better. Had we been in power we
should not be reproached with faults, errors and the friends which now
hang everywhere. But I will not talk of that in this discussion. I did
not come here to-night for that reason. It is not the time to discuss
these questions; they will be discussed later, do not fear.

“What are the rights and duties of the Liberal party? In my opinion, the
party should stand for one thing alone, for public good and general
interest; its spirit should be such that it can approve or condemn
accordingly as the public good and general interest demand condemnation
or approbation.

“We maintained that spirit in power, and we maintain it now. When we
lost, we were beaten, but we were not subdued.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

From a speech before the Quadrennial Conference of the Methodist Church
of Canada, at Ottawa, Sept. 23, 1914:

“The sword will not be put back in the scabbard,” he said, “until this
Imperial bully has been taught that this ‘scrap of paper’ is a solemn
obligation, and that solemn obligations between nations, as between
individuals must be observed. There can be no peace until heroic Belgium
has had her rights and her lands restored, and her wrongs repaired.
There can be no peace until the world knows that it is to be governed,
not by brute force, but by truth, liberty and justice, for which the
British flag stands.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

As for his own record as statesman, British and Canadian, he remarked
only a few weeks before his death:

“Well, I think that when all facts are reviewed in their right
perspective, history will not deal unkindly with me, I am content to
leave my record to the judgment of men’s thoughts, and to future
generations of Canadians.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Fifty-five years ago he graduated at law, and on that occasion said:
“Two races share to-day the soil of Canada. The French and English races
have not always been friends; but I hasten to say it, and I say it to
our glory, that race hatreds are finished on Canadian soil. It matters
not the language the people speak or the altars at which they kneel.”

The advice he gave the young men of a Liberal Club in Montreal reveals
his philosophic temperament: “Let me give you a word of good counsel.
During your career you will have to suffer many things which will appear
to you as supreme injustice. Let me say to you that you should never
allow your religious convictions to be affected by anything which
appears to you an injustice. Let me ask of you never to allow your
religious convictions to be affected by the acts of men. Your
convictions are immortal; your convictions are not only immortal, but
their base is eternal. Let your convictions be always calm, serene, and
superior to the inevitable trials of life, and show to the world that
Catholicism is compatible with the exercise of liberty in its highest

In a speech which he delivered in Quebec in 1894, he gave expression to
his religious ideals in the following passage:

“In religion I belong to the school of Montalembert and Lacordaire, of
the men who were the greatest perhaps of their age in loftiness of
character and ability of thought. I know of no grander spectacle than
that of Montalembert and Lacordaire, two adolescents, two children
almost, undertaking to conquer in France freedom of education, and
succeeding in their object after many years of struggle. I know of no
finer spectacle than that furnished by Montalembert confronting the
French bourgeoisie, impregnated, as they were, with that dissolving
materialism, the Voltairean skepticism of the eighteenth century, and
exclaiming: ‘We are the sons of the Crusaders and shall not retreat
before the sons of Voltaire.’ I know of no greater or more beautiful
spectacle than that of Lacordaire proclaiming from the pulpit of Notre
Dame the truths of Christianity to the incredulous crowd, and teaching
them that life is a sacrifice and is only rendered worthy by duty

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s last appearance in London was at the Imperial
Conference in 1911, and it was at this gathering that he made the
notable statement,

“I represent a country which has no grievances.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

All his hopes and aspirations are contained in his inspiring message to
the Acadians of Nova Scotia:

“Thank Providence,” he said, “that we live in a country of absolute
freedom and liberty. Let us always bear in mind our duties, for duty is
always inherent in right. Our fathers had to labour to secure these
rights. Now let us fulfil our part. Three years ago, when visiting
England at the Queen’s Jubilee, I had the privilege of visiting one of
the marvels of Gothic architecture which the hand of genius, guided by
an unerring faith, had made a harmonious whole, in which granite,
marble, oak and other materials were blended. This cathedral is an image
of the nations I hope to see Canada become. As long as I live, as long
as I have the power to labour in the service of my country, I shall
always repel the idea of changing the nature of its different elements.
I want the marble to remain the marble; I want the granite to remain the
granite; I want the oak to remain the oak; I want the sturdy Scotchman
to remain the Scotchman; I want the brainy Englishman to remain the
Englishman; I want the warm-hearted Irishman to remain the Irishman; I
want to take all these elements and build a nation that will be foremost
among the great powers of the world.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s message to the students of the University of
Toronto in 1913 is recalled as one of the most inspiring utterances of
his long career. On that occasion he said:

“My young friends, go out into the world to service. Make the highest
thought of service your inspiration. Problems there are—big problems.
To-morrow and the day after to-morrow, it will be your turn to grapple
with them. Serve God and your country. Be firm in the right, as God
gives you to see the right. You may not always succeed. Progress is
often punctuated with reverses. You may meet reverse—but the following
day stand up again and renew the conflict for truth and justice shall
triumph in the end.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

When a man becomes satisfied he becomes a Tory. The life of a Liberal is
one of unceasing effort towards progress and encouraging development in
all that makes for the betterment of mankind. It is easy to read
articles of appreciation upon a man when he is gone, but if anyone is so
poor in reflection as to overlook the fact that Laurier worked hard all
his life he does an injustice to himself and to the record of Sir
Wilfrid. Before he became leader of the Liberal Party about 32 years
ago, Sir Wilfrid had visited many portions of the Dominion in support of
his leaders, Mackenzie and Blake, upon all occasions advocating the
Liberal cause, not only in Quebec, but in the Maritime Provinces and in
Ontario. His first election as leader was in 1891, and he all but
carried the country, for in the previous three years he addressed many
meetings. In 1893, after the National Liberal Convention he toured
Ontario for months. In 1894 he took a series of meetings in Ontario
before going West right through to the Pacific Coast, addressing over 60
meetings and taking part in numerous smaller gatherings. The effect of
this tour was that whereas he had but one supporter in 1894 west of the
Great Lakes, he in 1896 carried the West by a majority of three. In the
fall of 1895 Laurier spent nearly two months in Ontario, and addressed
56 large gatherings besides taking part in smaller assemblies and
receptions. The effect of all this was that in the session of 1896
Laurier had a commanding knowledge of the conditions of the country, and
the people not only admired him but trusted him. In 1896 he carried 48
seats in Ontario, and the average number of seats he carried in 1896,
1900, 1904 and 1908 was 40. As the years stole over him he could not
carry on with his former vigour, but he had to carry on without the
support that should have been accorded him by those who sat in Cabinet
with him. In 1910 Laurier took a grand tour of the four Western
Provinces, and in all general elections never spared himself. The
efforts in this regard in 1917 were the wonder and admiration of
supporters and opponents alike.

In 1918-19 he took up the task of supervising the Liberal reorganization
in Ontario and of urging the Liberals in all the other provinces also to
get together. He died in the midst of this work.

These outward manifestations of Laurier in action are mentioned to
remind each and all who may desire a place in the galaxy of Liberal
leaders that they cannot lead merely by praising the dead and wishing to
be hailed as being born to something for which they never laboured to
qualify. Volumes will be written on Laurier’s mental and other
qualifications, but the author should not forget to record his struggle
to give to the people the benefit of his endowment enlarged by practical
application and consultation with them.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The first and most wise step was the selection by Sir Wilfrid Laurier of
the strongest possible colleagues to form his Cabinet. No abler body of
men ever presided over the destinies of Canada—a fact admitted, even by
opponents. It was truly a great combination which instilled much needed
confidence in the people. To form it Sir Wilfrid had to go outside the
ranks of the men who had fought the battles of the party in Opposition
in the Dominion House, and who no doubt expected preferment. But the
wisdom of his choice has never been questioned, and the record of his
Government is the most ample justification of it.

The Customs tariff was properly the first problem to be tackled, as it
is the hub of the wheels of industry and commerce. The Liberal party had
taken office upon a declared policy, to substitute for the Conservative
tariff, a sound, fiscal policy, which, while not doing injustice to any
class, would promote domestic and foreign trade and hasten the return of
prosperity. They had also declared that the tariff should be reduced to
the needs of honest, economical and efficient Government, that it should
be so adjusted as to make free or bear as lightly as possible upon the
necessaries of life and should be so arranged as to permit freer trade
with the whole world, particularly with Great Britain and the United

The first step taken by the Government was the eminently practical one
of appointing a committee of its members to ascertain with exactitude
the precise situation of all classes and sections of the country and
their actual needs. No hole and corner methods were adopted by the
committee, and there were no private meetings between Ministers and
manufacturers in the Windsor Hotel at Montreal. Everybody was invited to
give expression to his views. To meet the convenience of the public,
meetings were held in most of the principal cities and towns.

The result of the labours of the committee, and subsequent daily
meetings of the Cabinet for months, was the promulgation of a tariff,
which judged by the best possible test, actual results, created a
revolution in the industrial life and activities of the country. Briefly
stated the new tariff.

1. Materially reduced the duties on many necessities and staple
commodities used by consumers generally.

2. Placed on the free list certain articles of prime necessity to the
farmer, the miner, fisherman and manufacturer.

3. Reduced the duties on iron and steel which constitute the staple raw
materials for many industries; duties on other raw materials were also

4. Simplified the classification of articles for duty purposes and
thereby assured more uniform administration.

5. And, by no means least, gave a substantial preference to the products
and manufactures of Great Britain over the rest of the world.

6. Obtain a Reciprocity Agreement Act with Canada and the United States,
but which the people of Canada refused to accept.

The Liberal tariff was the first serious attempt made in Canada towards
equality of treatment and reconciliation of conflicting interests. No
class or interest was singled out for undue favouritism. The needs of
all were considered. Herein lies the difference between the Conservative
and Liberal attitudes on the tariff. The formula of the Conservatives
for tariff making always has been the simple one of giving protection to
the manufacturer without reference to the rest of the community. The
Liberals on the other hand believe in being fair all round and in
distributing the burdens of taxation as much as possible. Consider the
situation for a moment. We have five great sources of national wealth.
The farm, forest, fisheries, mines and manufacturing industries, on the
income of which we keep our national house. It will be obvious that the
interests and needs of these various producing branches are not
identical. They conflict in some instances very strongly. The farmer for
instance has to pay higher prices for his articles of necessity and
comfort by reason of customs duties imposed thereon, whereas the prices
for his produce are largely determined in the markets of the world. The
miner, too, could buy most of his supplies and machinery cheaper if they
were free from duty. The fishermen, who are chiefly located in the
provinces forming the extreme boundaries of the Dominion, are unable to
supply the markets in our principal centres of population by reason of
the great distance separating them therefrom, and are consequently
obliged to export the bulk of their catch to foreign markets easier to
reach, but where they have to encounter stiff competition. The lumberman
also is affected by the tariff on his commodities. Manufacturing
industries are of immense benefit to the country, but not more so than
the agricultural industries, indeed if we take the population engaged
and the capital invested in farming and ranching the agricultural
interests bulk greater in the national wealth. Everybody recognizes that
manufacturing institutions are necessary to build up a great nation and
acknowledges that it would be undesirable to devote our attention purely
to pastoral pursuits.

The Liberal Government recognizing all these salient factors endeavoured
to strike a fair balance and thereby promote the utmost development in
all industrial pursuits. The principal thought in their minds was to
provide the maximum of profitable labour for the people in all spheres
of activity which surely is the truest and highest duty of

The extent of the reduction in taxation brought about by the tariff can
be best arrived at by taking the average rate of customs duty imposed by
the Conservatives during the last years they were in office, and
applying it to the imports under the Liberal rule. In 1896, which was
the last year of Conservative administration, $18.28 was on the average
collected on every $100 worth of goods imported into the country. If the
same rate had been collected during the time the Liberals were in
office, instead of collecting duty to the amount of $605,000,000 they
would have collected $685,000,000, so that there was an actual reduction
of $80,000,000 in fifteen years. This is at the rate of about $5,500,000
per annum. In addition to this saving one has to consider the reduced
price of Canadian manufacturers to the consumer by reason of the
reduction in protection, because undoubtedly as a general rule, although
not in every case, the selling prices of Canadian manufacturers are
based upon the amount of protection they enjoy.

Again there is the indirect saving to the people in reduced prices on
foreign exports to Canada, by reason of the operation of a British
Preferential tariff. The United States exporters to Canada, for
instance, had to reduce their price to Canadian buyers to off-set the
reduction in duties in favour of British goods. This is an undoubted

Another way of arriving at the extent of the reduction in taxation
brought about by the Liberal Government, is to take the average rate of
duty imposed by Conservatives during the eighteen years they were in
office, which was $19.10 on every $100 worth of goods imported into the
country. If the same rate had been applied to the imports during the
fifteen years from 1896 to 1911, the additional taxation which would
have been imposed would have amounted to $110,000,000, so that there was
a saving to that extent to the people of the country under Liberal rule.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the new tariff was the adoption
of a preference in favour of British goods, and it was probably the most
popular step ever taken by any Government in Canada. Judged by results,
it has been highly beneficial alike to Canada, Great Britain and the
Empire. This preference at first consisted of a reduction of 1-8 from
the general tariff rates. A year or so afterwards the reduction was
increased from 1-8 to 1-4 and later to 1-3. Subsequently the flat
reduction of 1-3 was abandoned and a specific preferential rate provided
for each item or article in the tariff. Such specific rate, however, on
the whole averages a reduction of 1-3. The benefits of the preference
were given not only to Great Britain but by successive steps to nearly
all the British colonies.

The preference granted by the Liberal Government was exactly the tonic
that was necessary to stimulate British trade. From the moment it became
law the trade started to boom and it has steadily and rapidly increased
ever since. But the increase in British trade was not the only
beneficial result. The preference substantially reduced duties to the
Canadian consumer on the most important staple commodities, and thereby
further implemented the pledge of the Liberal party to reduce taxation.

Having dealt with the preference feature of the tariff we will now
resume the consideration of the general subject. Well as they believe
they had wrought in the creation of their tariff, the Liberal Government
were not content. They knew that a great deal more was needed to bring
about a betterment of conditions. They felt that the most vigorous and
progressive measures were necessary to put Canada in its proper place on
the map of the industrial world, and to afford scope for the exercise of
the natural ambition of its people. They realized that the farmer could
not be benefitted much by protective duties on his produce, but they saw
that they could benefit him by enlarging the means, and cheapening the
cost, of transportation, and they devoted their best energies towards
improving and extending transportation facilities all over the country.
They saw also that the manufacturer could be benefitted by enlarging the
home market, and they instituted an aggressive immigration policy which
developed the great North West in a marvellous way. Step by step in the
most vigorous manner and without let-up the great work of building
surely and strongly was undertaken, and concurrent with it the country
grew more prosperous.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The finances were so handled as to show a substantial surplus each year
instead of the era of deficits in Conservative days.

The great canal system of the country was rushed to completion.

The Crows Nest Pass Railway was built, thereby facilitating the
development of the immense mineral resources of interior British
Columbia—in the Kootenay District.

The Intercolonial Railway which had its Western terminus in what was
then a comparatively small town, namely Levis, was badly handicapped in
securing traffic from the West, and was extended to Montreal, the
commercial metropolis of the country.

Later on the construction of the Transcontinental Railway was entered
upon and was well on towards completion, when the Liberals went out of
office in 1911.

By means of Government guarantees and subsidies a third Transcontinental
Railway, the Canadian Northern Railway was made possible.

Immigrants to the number of nearly 2,000,000 were brought into the
country in fifteen years, a large number of whom went on the land
resulting in a magnificent development of the West and North-West.

Free land grants to railways were discontinued and the public lands were
reserved for the actual settlers.

Ocean ports, harbours and rivers were vastly improved. A 30-foot clear
channel was provided in the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Quebec.

Postal rates were reduced substantially, and the Money Order system
simplified and extended.

Free Rural mail delivery was established.

Canal and steam boat duties were abolished in the interest of promoting
cheap transportation by water.

A Railway Commission was appointed which admittedly was one of the best
pieces of constructive legislation ever adopted in Canada. That
Commission became practically the master of the railways.

A Labour Department was created which has done splendid work in averting
and settling strikes.

Agriculture was aided in a hundred and one ways.

Cold storage facilities of an excellent character were provided for the
products of the farm and fisheries.

Commercial agents were appointed in the principal countries of the

A Canadian Mint was established.

The resources of the country were splendidly exhibited at every
Exposition held throughout the world.

From time to time the tariff was modified to meet changed conditions,
and in 1907 a complete revision was made, again by a committee of the
Ministers, after consulting with the people.

The French Treaty was extended so as to comprise our principal
productions instead of as formerly only a few articles of comparatively
trifling importance.

A treaty was entered into with Japan whereby we got most favoured nation
treatment in that country.

As a result of our institution of preferential trade we got a preference
in New Zealand. As a direct benefit from this the British Columbia
fishermen captured the import trade of that country.

An intermediate tariff was established as a standing invitation to other
countries to reciprocate in trade, and Holland, Belgium and Italy were
admitted to the benefits of that tariff for corresponding advantages
given to us.

Through the efforts of the Liberal Minister of Agriculture the vexatious
quarantine regulations that existed for some years between the United
States and Canada were abolished.

A sur-tax was imposed upon Germany by way of retaliation for Canadian
products being placed on the maximum tariff of Germany.

To prevent the slaughtering of manufactured goods in the Canadian market
a law known as the Anti-Dumping Act was passed, which effectively
operates against such unfair trade warfare.

A Commission of Conservation was appointed, the object being to conserve
our natural resources and to disseminate full information in regard to

Dominion Government securities were placed on the favoured trustee list
of Great Britain.

An Assay office was established at Vancouver which materially aided in
retaining our Yukon trade.

Substantial financial assistance was given towards the construction of a
Pacific cable, Canada bearing its full share of this expenditure.

Throughout the career of the Liberal Government the revenues were
buoyant, notwithstanding considerable decreased taxation and the
financial situation was always of the best.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In a word, the men at the helm knew their business and attended to it,
in a thoroughly workmanlike manner. Their successive acts of genuine,
constructive statesmanship along practical lines filled the people with
hope, and made them gird up their loins for supreme individual efforts
in industrial life. The wisdom of their legislation and administration
and its accompanying prosperity of the people attracted the attention of
the whole world, particularly the Mother Country, and started a flow of
much needed capital to develop our great natural resources, a flow which
went on unceasingly throughout the Liberal regime, increasing and
increasing all the time as our needs were made manifest. Canada was then
the favourite investment field of the Empire.

Under Sir Wilfrid Laurier a new Canada arose. The country found itself
and for the first time realized its immense possibilities. It was an era
of the full dinner pail, the first golden age in Canada’s history. Every
legitimate industry from the Atlantic to the Pacific, speaking
generally, prospered. Manufacturing institutions were enlarged and
enlarged again and again to meet the demands. The farmers shared in the
prosperity probably better than any others. The price of farm products
increased materially and the home and foreign markets were greatly
extended, the results being seen in the increase in farm land values and
a more rapid payment in full of farm mortgages than ever before. The
much deplored exodus under the Tory regime was practically stopped. The
young Canadian found Canada quite good enough for him.

                 *        *        *        *        *

When the Laurier Government took office Canada had not yet “found
herself.” For years progress had been slow and there appeared to be an
almost entire absence of the snap and vigorous aggressiveness which soon
after became the characteristic of Canadians. Deficits were annually
recorded in the national finances; foreign trade was practically
stationary; manufacturers were making little or no headway; the great
Northwest was undeveloped; immigrants came in comparatively few numbers,
and, what was worse, the country seemed unable to retain her own people.
The situation which confronted the new Prime Minister was one calculated
to discourage a man whose Canadianism was less confident and sure, whose
vision was less clear and whose zeal for service was less imperative.

On the evening of the day upon which the Earl of Aberdeen, then
Governor-General, summoned Wilfrid Laurier and entrusted him with the
task of forming an Administration—even before the personnel of his
Government was announced—he was called upon to make his first public
utterance as Prime Minister. It was on the evening of July 8, 1896, at
Montreal, and the occasion was, by strange significance, the Canadian
reception to the officers of the British warships “Intrepid” and

“I appreciate to-day,” was the first word of the new Prime Minister, “in
the presence of the representatives of the naval forces of our Empire,
and occupying the position I do, having just been called a few minutes
previously by his Excellency the Governor-General to assume the duties
of First Citizen of the Dominion—I appreciate to-day more than ever the
strength and significance of that order by Britain’s greatest Admiral on
the day of the battle of Trafalgar: ‘England expects every man to do his
duty.’ I am going to do my duty, not only by Canada, but by the Empire.
Britain, thank God, does not require help from anybody, but if ever the
occasion should arise when Britain is summoned to stand against the
whole world in arms, she can depend upon the loyal support of Canada and
the Canadian people. The Canadian people are free and loyal, loyal
because they are free.”

With this pledge Wilfrid Laurier took office as Canada’s Premier. The
boy of St. Lin was still preaching his growing conception of Canada and
her place in the Empire.

The task of this first French-Canadian Premier was not an easy one. Had
he been merely a son of his race, had he been merely a convert to the
English-speaking conception, had he been merely the champion of a cause
or the balance-wheel of politics, his influence might have maimed the
national progress of the Dominion for a century. As it was, he conceived
for himself the rôle of a Canadian. He felt that the great need of
Canada for Canada—and for the Empire, too—was Canadians. There were
plenty of French Nationalists—he had known them in his youth; he found
them again in his maturity. There were plenty of Anglo-Saxon
ultra-imperialists—he had already become familiar with fire-brand
jingoism. There were plenty of indifferent materialists—he realized the
danger of their disease to a young and growing country. But Canadians
could unify, Canadians could build, Canadians could become great and
strong. A Canada of Canadians “free and loyal; loyal because they are
free”—was to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the most potent Imperial asset the
Dominion could provide for the motherland. He had studied his history.
He knew the fate of empires bound by bonds of brittle iron. He dreaded a
crumbling Imperium. He dreaded, too, the idea of a hobbled “sub-nation.”
But he had a strong and enduring faith in the assured permanency of an
Empire of “free and loyal” daughter Dominions knit together by ties of
common interest, common endeavour and common devotion to the cause of
democracy and the advancement of Christianity and civilization.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Liberalism or the Conservatism that continues to be founded on the
accident and the prejudice of birth, that believes in “my party and my
father’s party, right or wrong,” is the real cause of the discouraging
inertia of public opinion that often allows the self-interested few to
practically control elections and governments, that prevents or retards
reform and makes of a free democracy a bureaucratic tyranny. Liberalism
is a positive reasoned belief and every Liberal should be able, apart
from opinions as to the Government or the issues of the day, to justify
his faith according to cardinal principles of good government.

What are the fundamental distinctions between Liberalism and
Conservatism? The words themselves embody the respective historical
attitudes of the two parties toward the main function of government.

Liberalism is in essence the problem of realizing liberty. It seeks the
setting free of the mass of the people in regard to self-government,
trade, religion, education, industry, in all the manifold ramifications
of society. Conservatism, on the other hand, means at bottom
restriction. It means the conserving of vested rights, the
centralization of government in the “governing classes,” setting the
balance on social progress.

The function of government is to define the rights of the individual in
terms of the common good and to think of the common good in terms of the
welfare of the individual. In the case of Liberalism the emphasis has
usually been on the “common good.” In the case of Conservatism the
emphasis is usually on the “individual.” Historically the particular
“individuals” have belonged to the authoritative or vested interest
classes. That motto has been “what we have we hold.” Liberalism has
found its main support in the masses. The natural result has been that
legislation with each party, has been mainly for the classes their
leaders represent.

Liberalism recognizes that the teaching of history shows that progress
is more continuous and secure when men are content to deal with great
reforms piecemeal than when they seek to destroy root and branch in
order to erect a complete new system which has captured the idealistic
imagination. But its grappling with reforms is continuous. Conservatism,
while believing in “the good of things as they are,” has usually
grappled with reforms under the stimulus of an increasingly feared and
potent democracy. Liberalism has had to wrench from Conservatism
responsible government by the people, manhood suffrage, equal taxation,
the right of like opportunity for all classes of the community.
Conservatism has clung to precedent, the established order, the old
authoritarian basis of government, and has yielded but slowly and as a
rule only on compulsion.

Liberalism is ordained of the common people and sprang from a common
resistance to the oppression of arbitrary and self-centred rule.
Conservatism had its birth in the doctrine of the divine right of kings.
The “governing classes” were ordained of God because they themselves
arranged the ordination. Liberalism has its principles embodied in the
human heart. Conservatism finds its well-springs in its own pockets.

The main battlements of privilege and vested authority have been won by
Liberalism through centuries of struggle. The fight of democracy for
freedom, for equality of opportunity and for substantial justice, to all
individuals of the commonwealth still goes on. There are still
inequalities of taxation to be righted, the oppression of vested
interests in trade and industry to be overcome, monopolies and trusts to
be regulated, the rights of society as a whole to be asserted to the
wealth that depends on its own collective enterprise. The increase of
the well-being of the masses does not appear to be by any means
proportionate to the general growth of wealth. In the sphere of economic
legislation, Liberalism still has perhaps its greatest work to do. The
welfare of the common man at the common task is its first consideration.

Government of the people, for the people, and by the people is the
essence of Liberalism.

The application of these principles to the problems of Canadian politics
in relation to provincial, national, imperial and world-wide interests
is the work of the Liberal party in Canada.

On the evening of Tuesday, January 14th, 1919, Sir Wilfrid Laurier
delivered his last public address. The occasion was the formation of the
Eastern Ontario Liberal Association for about twenty ridings in Eastern
Ontario. It has been stated that the resolutions adopted upon that
occasion and the speech of Sir Wilfrid Laurier clearly set forth the
Liberal policy to date.

                 *        *        *        *        *

A report of the proceedings of that eventful day has been published and
Sir Wilfrid’s speech in endorsement of the resolutions adopted may be
summarized as follows: Fair treatment of soldiers and sailors, generous
care for dependents of the fallen, maintenance of British preferences
restored and unimpaired, reciprocity between Canada and the United
States in foodstuffs, gradual progress toward freer trade,
democratization of labor, abolition of Government by order-in-council,
abolition of press censorship, repeal of the War Times Election Act, and
for a League of Nations.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid’s acceptance of a Knighthood in 1897, came as a big surprise
to all his followers, because his views had been clearly defined on the
subject; and it was common talk that he had been offered a knighthood on
attaining the Premiership. In the first year of his ministry as such, he
went to England to attend the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The reception
accorded him by the British people was remarkable for its warmth. The
handsome, distinguished young French-Canadian statesman took London by
storm; the press and public acclaiming his talents, and Queen Victoria
bestowing upon him particular attention and respect. One evening the
Queen gave a dinner for the overseas Prime Ministers. When the young
Canadian Premier, who was again honored by being seated next to Her
Majesty, took his seat at the banquet table, he found a card upon which
Queen Victoria herself had written, “Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier.”
There was no way out of such a situation. The aged Queen had taken this
means of honoring him, and Sir Wilfrid’s chivalry and gallantry, as well
as his genuine affection for the great good monarch, triumphed over his
democratic views.

                 *        *        *        *        *

At the time of his death a Canadian poet wrote, “When I was a boy at
Woodstock College, I heard a phrase that floated upon the air, like the
magic carpet of the Arabians. It contained the simple news that ‘Laurier
is coming.’ He came, we heard him, and in my boyish heart that night was
born a new Canada. I was no longer a Conservative or a Liberal. I only
knew a white light had passed that I must follow. I had exchanged my
knight of arms in history for a crusader in life. The years that poured
the first strength of youth into my heart came to the crusader with her
gift of silver. One day I walked the streets of London with an unsold
story in my pocket, and a four days’ yearning for bread in my soul.
Suddenly the white light shone. Laurier had passed me in his carriage
upon Piccadilly. I forgot my hunger and cheered, and the multitude,
seeing not the light in its brightness, wondered over my joy.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Big John Canadien,” Canada’s most famous guide, made this following
curious prediction:—

“When I die you shall be frightened,” he said to Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The death of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and of Big John at one day’s interval
brings to mind a scene witnessed in 1884. They were preparing to
celebrate the national holiday, St. Jean Baptiste Day, and the late Mr.
A. Corriveau, one of the most zealous organizers of the great national
celebration, was conversing with Wilfrid Laurier on Notre Dame Street,
near Place D’Armes in Montreal.

When big John arrived with a band of his braves, M. Corriveau, who was
acquainted with “Big John,” introduced him to his friends. After a few
words of conversation, Sir Wilfrid Laurier asked the Indian how old he

“I am 43 years old,” he replied.

“We are almost of the same age,” said Mr. Laurier, “I will be 43 at my
next birthday.”

“Well,” replied Big John, “when I die, you shall be frightened.”

Everybody nearby had a good laugh on hearing the Indian’s words, and Big
John went away.

Big John died on Sunday, February 23rd., and Sir Wilfrid on Monday,
February 24th.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Some years ago a retired Baptist minister told the following story:
“When I was a young man I lived in a small town in Eastern Canada, and
about the only well educated men in the place were a lawyer and a
doctor, both Roman Catholics. We used to meet almost every afternoon in
the lawyer’s office and discuss the affairs of the nation, and almost
every subject from religion to politics. One day the young lawyer made a
certain statement, when the doctor asked: ‘Where did you get that idea?’
and the lawyer replied (pulling open a drawer in his desk and bringing
forth a well-worn Bible), ‘Why, from this Book.’ The doctor said, ‘Why,
you don’t read that Book, do you?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the lawyer, ‘I have
had this with me since I left home. I promised my mother to read it
every day, and I have never broken my word, because, no matter where I
am, I have read a portion of this good Book every day of my life since I
gave that promise.’” Mr. Richardson asked me who I thought the young
lawyer was, but I could not tell, so he said, “It was Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, and we have been close friends ever since, although he is a
Roman Catholic and I am a Baptist minister. Does this not in some manner
account for Sir Wilfrid’s broad-mindedness in matters of religion?”

A gentleman brought a friend in to lunch at the Reform Club. On that
particular day Sir Wilfrid happened to be there, lunching. The friend’s
name was Mr. Lambe and he expressed a desire to be introduced to Sir
Wilfrid, so, after luncheon in the clubroom, he was presented. When
shaking hands with the “Chief” he started to explain that he was not a
supporter of the Liberal party. Sir Wilfrid continued shaking hands
during the short explanation, and then reached over with his left hand,
and, placing it on Mr. Lambe’s shoulder, said:

“Well, never mind, Mr. Lambe, you know there is more rejoicing in Heaven
over the return of one lost sheep,” etc.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In 1906, when Sir Wilfrid was returned to power, the Liberals gave him a
reception at the old Horticultural Gardens. The “Chief” arrived,
accompanied by quite a party, and, as a prominent supporter was about to
shake hands with him, a little man who had been imbibing, pushed him
aside, held out his hand, and said in a loud voice:

“Welcome to ‘Taranta,’ Mr. ‘Larier’.”

This was momentarily embarrassing to those assembled, but the “Chief”
shook hands heartily with him and asked his name. The little man gave
his name as Lynch, whereupon the “Chief” exclaimed:

“A good Irish name, and a good Irish welcome,” and thus passed off
lightly what might have proved embarrassing.

                 *        *        *        *        *

A very illuminating incident occurred at the Union Station on one of Sir
Wilfrid’s last visits to Toronto which reveals the manner of his appeal
to his people. Two young ladies spied the old statesman walking up and
down the platform by his private car. One of them insisted that it was
Sir Wilfrid, the other that it was not. A newspaper reporter overheard
the argument and settled it by answering them that it was, indeed, the
dean of the House of Commons.

“I wonder if we could shake hands with him?” enquired the girls,

The reporter approached Sir Wilfrid and said:

“There are two young ladies who would esteem it an honor to shake your
hand. May I bring them to you, Sir Wilfrid?”

“You may NOT, my young friend!” said Sir Wilfrid, “But you may take me
to them.”

Which he did, and so gracefully added to his legions.

Much has been said of his affection for children, another expression
after all, of that same kindness and dignity. A Toronto newspaper editor
when a boy of fourteen, wrote a long letter to Sir Wilfrid from the
boy’s point of view, referring to politics and to Sir Wilfrid’s stand on
prohibition and other reforms. Deep as he was in the work of Parliament
at the time, Sir Wilfrid did not neglect to reply promptly, and in a
fine, courteous letter, said that he would be glad to discuss the
questions at greater length when he should happen to visit the lad’s
home-town. And when Sir Wilfrid passed through that way, the lad was
invited to dinner with him. The politically “kind” man couldn’t do that.
It required Sir Wilfrid’s genuine emotions towards the young.

While humor did not abound in Sir Wilfrid’s speeches and debates, he had
a shrewd wit, equal to all occasions. In a debate twitting Sir Charles
Tupper on Sir Charles’s reminiscences of his political services, Sir
Wilfrid said that between Sir Charles and Sir John A. Macdonald they had
sailed the ship of state pretty successfully, Sir John supplying the
brains and Sir Charles supplying the wind to fill the sails.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Campaigning through the country Sir Wilfrid was always master of the
situation. There was withal, something of the “grand seigneur” about
him. He had a keen sense of dramatic values. While he yielded to the
worship of those who crowded his car to shake his hand, he did not show
himself to the public one moment before it was necessary. Sometimes the
clamor of admirers forced him from his bed at midnight. With all the
love for applause, characteristic of his race, and of the dramatic
temperament, his common sense never deserted him. During his last tour
of Nova Scotia, one morning his boat barely landed when an enthusiastic
young woman crossed the gang plank and handed him an armful of flowers.
Such is to be expected as part of every meeting, but there on the bare
deck of a steamer the chieftain was nonplussed. As he laid the gift on
the hatch he turned and said over his shoulder: “Is a man ever so
helpless as he is with a bouquet?”

                 *        *        *        *        *

On one occasion an excited supporter telegraphed:

“Report in circulation here, that your antagonism to religion is so
strong, that you have never had any of your children baptized. Very
damaging to party. Telegraph me if untrue.”

Sir Wilfrid’s reply was characteristic:

“Statement is unfortunately quite true. I have never had a child to

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s ability to remember faces which had presented
themselves to his view, perhaps, years previously, was something to
marvel at. Many men possess this power but few have ever held it in
greater proportion than did the late statesman.

A Brockville man relates that on being introduced to Sir Wilfrid, not
long ago, the “old chief” looked at him intently for a moment and then
said: “Just a minute, let me think where I have seen you before.” He
thought for a brief period and then exclaimed: “I have it. You are one
of —— ——’s bad little boys and you sat in the front row at my
meeting in Cornwall in 1912.” Such had been the case.

                 *        *        *        *        *

His first appearance in public life revealed the qualities that were to
make him famous. His début in the Legislature is said by those whose
memories go back to that time, to have produced a sensation, not more by
the finished grace of his oratorical abilities than by the boldness and
authority with which he handled the deepest political problems. The
effect of his fluent, cultivated and charming discourse is described by
Frechette, the poet, as magical. On the following day, he writes, the
name of Laurier was on every lip, and all who then heard it will
remember how those two syllables rang out true and clear, their tone
that of a coin of gold, pure from all alloy, and bearing the impress of
sterling worth.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Royal tour of 1901 at times put the serenity of Sir Wilfrid to a
severe test. He was a man who enjoyed manifestations of popular
good-will as well as anybody; and as a politician was not oblivious to
the necessity of avoiding offence to any well-meaning supporter. He
accompanied the Heir-Apparent and the future Queen across the continent,
and was sometimes embarrassed by the efforts of coteries in remote
settlements to play the political game by making him the hero of the
occasion. On one occasion, a Liberal association, learning that the
Royal train was to lie on a railway siding for half an hour, sought to
improve the occasion by presenting him with an address. The annoyance of
Sir Wilfrid at so notorious a breach of etiquette, was undoubtedly
great, but he managed to send the deputation home without ruffling their
feelings, though preserving the decorum of his position as an official
host of the future occupant of the throne.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Political leaders receive a great deal of honor, particularly while they
are the custodians of power, but they have also much to put up with from
indiscreet followers. In such cases, they have to display an unfailing
tact, for they never know but that the gad-fly may have sufficient
influence in his bailiwick to swing an entire township to the opposite
party, if affronted. Twenty years ago, in the old station dining room at
Palmerston, Ont., one saw Sir Wilfrid deal with such importunities. It
was at a time when there was a great hullabaloo about the supposed
attitude of the late Mr. Tarte toward the South African War. The room
was thronged with spectators anxious to see whether a Prime Minister
really ate like ordinary mortals; and a local Liberal magnate undertook
to inform Sir Wilfrid that the “boys around here” did not like Tarte,
and asked what he was going to do with the then Minister of Public
Works. Sir Wilfrid first ignored the question and tried to change the
subject, but the henchman did not take the hint. The Premier’s secretary
was beside himself with rage at the bad taste of the interlocutor, but
the leader himself betrayed no annoyance. “Oh, you don’t understand Mr.
Tarte,” he said, genially, and suddenly bethought himself of a funny
story illustrating misunderstandings. Nevertheless, he was a very
relieved chieftain when the whistle blew and the brakeman cried “All

                 *        *        *        *        *

Another tribute to Sir Wilfrid Laurier has been paid by L.-Col. Johnson
Paudash, now in Lindsay, who served for some time overseas with a
Central Ontario battalion. The late Premier, it is stated, presented
Col. Paudash with a service of silver, and also wrote to him several
times while he was on active service in France. Col. Paudash had
interviewed Sir Wilfrid several times, while he was Premier, on behalf
of the different Indian tribes, and states that he at all times found
him courteous and kind, and a good friend of the Indian. He and others
of his tribe sincerely mourn the passing of the great “White Chief,” as
they affectionately called the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Sir Wilfrid Laurier maintained his pride and interest in Ottawa to the
last. It is understood that a clause in his will dedicates to the
Capital City all the tokens of honor bestowed on him during his
distinguished public career.

Many of these are almost of priceless value. They include the
testimonials conveying the freedom of cities in the United Kingdom. The
casket containing the freedom of the city of Edinburgh, one of the most
beautiful of the collection, is solidly encrusted with diamonds.

The intention is that these souvenirs shall find a place in the war
memorial building which will doubtless be erected in Ottawa before long.

                 *        *        *        *        *

In his early days, at a campaign meeting, a Mr. Mousseau, a man of
gigantic bulk, accused the Ministers of the Government of fattening on
the sweat of the people. Sir Wilfrid, tall, slender, and frail, rose,
pointed to his huge and bulky accuser and asked: “Who is fattening on
the people?”

                 *        *        *        *        *

His hold on the hearts of his countrymen in Quebec was tremendous, and
is best illustrated in the famous yarn of the old habitant, who on
hearing that Queen Victoria had died and the Prince of Wales was now to
become King, said:

“By gar, dat Prince of Wale must have a good pull wit’ Laurier!”

                 *        *        *        *        *

His visit to the Queen’s Jubilee in 1897, was greeted with a reception
that was almost regal. He was made a member of the Privy Council,
appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St.
George, and received in audiences by the Queen. The Universities of
Oxford and Cambridge conferred honorary degrees upon him, and the Cobden
Club admitted him to honorary membership, and awarded him its gold
medal, in recognition of his exceptional and distinguished services to
the cause of international and free exchange. The new departure in
Imperial policy, the Preferential Tariff, which Sir Wilfrid was able to
arrange during this visit, caused the London Times to say: “Laurier’s
name must live in the annals of the British Empire.”

A few years later, 1902, he again visited Great Britain to be present at
the ceremonies in connection with the crowning of His late Majesty King
Edward VII., the Sovereign of the British Empire and British Dominions
beyond the Seas. Again in 1907, Sir Wilfrid attended with a number of
Ministers upon the invitation of the Imperial Government, a Conference
of all the Premiers in His Majesty’s possessions. In 1911 he attended
the ceremonies in connection with the crowning of King George V. Upon
this, as upon other occasions, he was admirably received by the press
and people wherever he went throughout Great Britain. In 1904, the
London Daily News of September 14th., of that year, remarked that “Sir
Wilfrid Laurier is easily the first statesman of Greater Britain.”

The following are some of the Press comments on Sir Wilfrid during the
Imperial Conference of 1907:—The Daily News of London in a review of
“The Race Question in Canada,” declared “Sir Wilfrid Laurier has won his
title to be considered as a true statesman because, although always a
faithful Catholic, he has declined to be dominated by the forces of
Ultramontanism. The hope of the fusion of the races, Sir Wilfrid Laurier
once declared, into a single one is Utopian. It is an impossibility. The
distinctions of nature will exist always. But he went on to say, if we
remember rightly, that the two races would none the less form a great
nation under the British Flag, and it is, of course, the supreme
achievement of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s political career that he has
devoted himself to the attainment of this ideal.”

The Western Daily Press of Bristol, England, stated:—“Sir Wilfrid
Laurier is in himself an excellent illustration of the success of the
British plan of making various great parts of the Empire responsible for
the control of their own affairs. There was a time when the race problem
in Canada was one affording cause for gravest anxiety; that belongs to
the past; and the world is familiar with the fact that Sir Wilfrid, the
first French-Canadian who has been Premier of the Dominion, is a man
probably without a rival in the confidence felt in him in this country.”

The London Times of April 15th., 1907, editorially stated:—Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, whom we welcome as probably the best known of all Canadian
statesmen, comes of French-Canadian stock, but he has shown by his
career that this is no disqualification for doing valued service to the

The Tribune of London, referring to Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s stirring
speech at the Guildhall in 1907, characterized the Canadian Premier’s
deliverance on that occasion as:—A speech that will certainly find a
place in future histories of the British Empire.

The Daily News of London stated:—The destinies of Canada were not
settled by the war which made England instead of France supreme in North
America. There came the second crisis, and if that second crisis had not
been faced with the courage, genius, and imagination of Liberalism,
there would have been no men of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s race and blood at
yesterday’s lunch, and the Colony which is proud to count in its
ancestry the heroism of a Montcalm as well as the heroism of a Wolfe
would have sent no representative to the capital. For the distinction of
the British Empire consists not in the conquests of its arms, but in the
reconciliation of its statesmanship, in the generous wisdom which has
shown that the British flag can shelter and respect the traditions, the
sympathies, and the consciences of races that are not British by blood
or history. This is what was in Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s mind when he
pointed with pride to the great British act of the present government.
(The Great British Act was the Constitution granted to South Africa, or
the Transvaal.)

A few days after the coronation of their Majesties King George V. and
Queen Mary, a thanksgiving service was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The
high place which Sir Wilfrid Laurier occupies in the esteem of the
British people of all classes is indicated by the manner in which he was
greeted on his way to the cathedral and received there. The cable
message reproduced below from the Montreal Star (Conservative), of June
29th., 1911, gives a brief summary of this grand cordiality:—

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as he passed through the crowded streets from the
Palace to the Cathedral (St. Paul’s), had, perhaps, the greatest
reception of his entire visit. In his full levee uniform and cocked hat,
he sat alone in the first of the State carriages, looking every inch of
him a great personage.

Upon the box of the carriage were two magnificently attired Royal
servants, whose brilliant scarlet coats flashed all down the line of
route, and as the prancing steeds drew the carriage along the broad
centres, between strictly kept lines of police and soldiers, the London
populace, who crowded the sidewalks, cheered again and again.

“That’s Laurier,” they cried. “That’s Canada. Give them a cheer,” and
they did it right heartily.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was obviously delighted. He kept his hand moving up
and down to and from his cocked hat, thus giving a military salute of
the Royal pattern and not raising his hat as lesser mortals might do.

When Sir Wilfrid reached the Cathedral, another honour awaited him. The
Lord Mayor of London and other dignitaries, no matter how gorgeous their
attire, were sent around to the smaller north or south doors; but Sir
Wilfrid’s carriage was directed by the police to none other than the
Royal and crimson carpeted entrance at the main west door, where the
Bishop of Ripon received him on behalf of the Anglican Church. As he
passed up the steps into the Cathedral, his uniform, slashed with the
blue band of a Knight of the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George,
came into full view, and made him a most notable figure.

Some of the notable expressions regarding Sir Wilfrid’s achievements in
1907, in Great Britain were penned by the late Sir Charles Tupper,
ex-Premier of the Dominion of Canada and formerly for some years High
Commissioner at London, England. Writing in the Nineteenth Century, May,
1907, Sir Charles expressed himself as follows:—“My distinguished
successor in the Prime Ministership of Canada has during these past few
memorable days asserted with a persuasiveness all his own that the
British Empire ‘rests upon foundations firmer than the rock and as
endurable as the ages.’”

                 *        *        *        *        *

A noted English writer has said: “I have seen and heard many colonial
public men, but Sir Wilfrid is the only one who would have become a
national figure had he been transplanted to Westminster. I have never
seen him in the Canadian Parliament without wishing that instead he was
at Westminster, for then it would be easy to decide as to the leadership
of the Liberal party.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

In office or out of office, he is the most considerable figure in
Greater Britain. Such was the estimate of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, made by
one of the premier political observers of England, Mr. John L. Garvin.

                 *        *        *        *        *

On the occasion of Sir Wilfrid’s sixty-sixth birthday the London Morning
Post said: “No other statesman could have accomplished so much in the
short space of a life-time as the great French-Canadian who combines an
imaginative eloquence unsurpassed in British history with the charm and
courtesy of a cultivated Frenchman.”

The above writer enumerated some of the outstanding measures of the
Laurier administration and added: “Measures wherein a business capacity
was not less necessary than imagination and courage.”

Moreover, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the French Roman Catholic Premier of a
self-governing federation in which British Protestants are in the
majority, has expressed more faithfully and more truly than any
statesman who has spoken yet, the temper of the new imperial patriotism
fostered into self-consciousness by the South African war.

                 *        *        *        *        *

His visit to the Queen’s Jubilee in 1897, was greeted with a reception
that was almost regal. He was made a member of the Privy Council,
appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St.
George, and received in audience by the Queen. The Universities of
Oxford and Cambridge conferred honorary degrees upon him, and the Cobden
Club admitted him to honorary membership, and awarded him its gold
medal, in recognition of his exceptional and distinguished services to
the cause of international and free exchange. The new departure in
Imperial policy, which Sir Wilfrid was able to arrange during this
visit, caused the London Times to say: Laurier’s name must live in the
annals of the British Empire.

The Tribune:—Among Canadian statesmen of our day Sir Wilfrid Laurier
ranked first. The Canada of the present is in a large measure his work.
His horizon was spacious. His loyalty to his own race, religion and
section did not prevent him from pursuing a broad national policy.

The Sun:—Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s public life of nearly half a century,
covers the development of Canada from a colony into something very like
an independent nation. The 15 years in which he served as Premier saw
the greatest growth of the Dominion in railroads, trade and agriculture
for any period in its marvelous history. It has often been the subject
of comment that Sir Wilfrid being French by race and Catholic by
religion, should have been able to remain so long the dominant figure in
Canadian politics, but his qualities enabled him at all times to rise
superior to matters of personal preference.

The World:—His name is one of the greatest in the history of the sister

The New York Times:—Sir Wilfrid’s culminant hour abroad was at the
Diamond Jubilee of 1897, or at the coronations of Edward VII., and
George V. No other colonial statesman so impressed the English. This
French-Canadian, this first French-Canadian Premier, this bilingual
orator, this personage of authority, suavity, dignity, and distinction,
has not left his like behind. Resourceful, subtle, a master of debate,
the unmatchable leader of the Liberals, he seemed to belong to the
generation of Disraeli and Palmerston and Gladstone. If on conscription
he was opposed to prevailing public sentiment, so he had been on
reciprocity; and he should have the credit of honesty of opinion on the
one as on the other policy. In 1896 he fought the Quebec bishops on the
question of Separate Public Schools in Manitoba. He had almost too much
talent. He always had courage enough. And he earnestly supported the
Entente in the war.

To most in Ottawa the end had come with dramatic suddenness because his
distinguished figure, striking face and debonair smile were familiar to
all residents. Never for a moment did he relinquish his keen interest in
life, in people, and in all the various events which make up the life of
the Capital, and so he was to be seen regularly at meetings of the
Canadian Club and gatherings of various associations which made Ottawa
their headquarters. In public he displayed no sign that time had yet
weakened his physical edifice, and public men to-day say that in private
conversation up to near the end he displayed the same acumen, charm and
ready wit which had always distinguished him. Very near friends,
however, say that he realized the end could not be delayed many years,
chiefly because of the growing weakness and lassitude which he felt on
rising in the mornings. During the day it always wore off, and he fought
courageously against the weakness, rising always at his regular hour,
day after day getting the better of his weakness, and never under any
circumstance showing anything but a cheerful countenance.

On Sunday morning when he had his first fainting attack of some minutes’
duration he himself felt it to be the realization of the premonition
which he had experienced and occasionally mentioned to close friends.
For the moment, entirely oblivious to all but the attack, he said
quietly to Lady Laurier: “It is the end.” Later, however, when he had
partially recovered and was able to talk he did not speak as though he
expected the end so soon. He seemed to think that, after all, he had
weathered the attack, for when the gong rang for luncheon he rose with
the intention of appearing at the table. His courageous habit of always
combatting weakness, in this case was his undoing, as it brought on a
second stroke, or the first one, if the fainting fit in the morning is
not regarded as the result of a slight stroke.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Every farm house and every village within twenty miles is empty
to-day,” said one who knows Ottawa well, on the morning of the funeral
of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Although the dead Leader was buried with all the
civil pomp of a State funeral and all the high ceremonial of an ancient
Church, the plain people also bore their part. If you are a day laborer,
there were just such workmen as you showing their respect and mourning;
if you are a farmer, there were just such farmers as you standing with
uncovered heads when the hearse went by. No matter who you are or what
your station in life—high or lowly, rich or poor, proud or humble—you
were truly represented at the funeral of this man who, because he was so
chivalrous and so human, belonged to all classes and to all the people.

Before Ottawa was stirring, the city was already being filled with the
gathering crowd. To the ordinary passenger accommodation of the railways
many special trains had been added to bring visitors from other cities
and distant provinces. While the gathering crowd was pouring in from the
stations, the streets approaching the city were filled with people
coming in all manner of vehicles, and even with thousands coming afoot.
By the time the Capital was awake it was already in the possession of
what was perhaps the greatest crowd it has ever known. As the day was
mild—a grey day, frosty but kindly, with snow under foot and the sun
shining through a thick haze—the visitors were able to stand about in
the streets without discomfort. The route of the funeral procession
having been announced, every available point of observation was crowded
long before the proceedings began. All was orderly, as was to be
expected, but the prevailing air was one of cheerfulness. Their hero had
lived to the fullness of time, and they had come to show their respect,
rather than to mourn. Everywhere groups were engaged in low-voiced
conversation, and at times even hushed laughter might be heard. This
would be when someone told a treasured story about the dead Chieftain.

But as all the stories told illustrated the other world and other time
courtliness of manner, which often made him appear in startling contrast
with crude surroundings, there was no disrespect in telling or
appreciating them at such a time. Those who told them and those who
heard them only loved him the more for graces they admired but could not

Those who had been favored by the Government with invitations to the
State funeral began to assemble early at the Museum, where the body lay
in state in the room that is now being used by the Commons. Every walk
of Canadian public activity was represented. Besides the high officials
of the State, men eminent in the Church, education and social life of
the country were represented. Mingling with these, who were mostly young
or still in the full vigor of life, were many grey-haired veterans,
colleagues of the dead statesman in early campaigns, whose faces were
once familiar in the Capital. By 10 o’clock the corridors were crowded.
There was much handshaking, and introductions back and forth, while they
waited to take their part in the formal farewell to the dead.

Presently officials began to call out instructions, now in English, now
in French, and the procession began to form. Following the hearse was a
display that would have amazed anyone who thinks of Canada as a land of
ice and snow. Half a score of sleighs bearing huge terraced floats that
had been built for the occasion were piled high with the floral
offerings that had been sent from all parts of Canada or ordered by
cable and telegraph from all parts of the world. Banked against a
background of flowing purple and funereal black, these many-colored
flowers made summer in the midst of winter and brought the seasons in
mourning behind that sable hearse. Slowly and with fitting majesty the
long procession wound through the white streets with their unbroken
guard of citizens. At no place between the Museum and the Basilica,
where High Mass was celebrated, was there a spot where anyone could
stand or crowd in that was not occupied. As the hearse passed, bearing
what was mortal of him who had put on immortality, the watchers
uncovered their heads, and their eyes were dimmed by a sudden gust of

In the Basilica, which was draped in black, purple, and gold for this
Imperial mourning, the coffin was placed in a golden catafalque crowned
with lighted tapers. High overhead was suspended a huge crown with
streamers of black and purple looped away into the dim distances of the
pillared cathedral. High dignitaries chanted the Mass, while the choir
responded to the full music of the great organ. Nothing was lacking to
add state and awe to the passing of this simple citizen, who in life
needed nothing beyond his native dignity to make him first among the

When the funeral service was over and we passed out of the dim aisles of
the Basilica I looked up and saw with sudden exaltation that the sun had
broken through the mists and clouds and was shining down as if mourning
had been turned to rejoicing. So it seemed, and so I shall believe it to
be. I, who had come in from the fields and the open spaces, felt that a
great work was ended and that a greater had begun. I felt that all that
had raised this man above his fellows and apart from them was now put
away. The last ceremonial was ended. Now that his body had been laid in
death with the Kings and counsellors of the earth, the spirit of Sir
Wilfrid Laurier, a man of the people, had passed into the wide spaces,
golden sunshine and open air of the land he loved, to be an inspiration
to all Canadians as long as chivalry, courtesy and high achievements are
prized among men.

                             APPENDIX “A.”

             Chronology of the life of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

1841—Born at St. Lin, Quebec, November 20, of Acadian descent on his
mother’s side.

1847—Went to school in New Glasgow, 1850 to L’Assomption College, and
in 1857 to McGill University.

1860—Became a law student.

1864—Took degree Bachelor of Civil Law at McGill. Called to Quebec Bar.

1866—Served against Fenian Raid.

1868—Was married to Miss Zoe Lafontaine.

1869—Ensign in Arthabaska Infantry Co.

1871-4—Member of Quebec Legislature for Drummond and Arthabaska.

1877—Elected to Commons for Drummond and Arthabaska.

1877—Sworn in as Privy Councillor and appointed Minister of Inland
Revenue in the Mackenzie Cabinet, but was defeated in the bye-election.

1877—Elected to House of Commons for Quebec East.

1880—Made Queen’s Counsel.

1887—Elected leader of the Liberal Party.

1889—Bâtonnier of the Bar (Arthabaska).

1889—Spoke in Toronto for the first time.

1896—Came into power as Premier of Canada.

1897—Established the British Preference. Knighted at Queen Victoria’s
Jubilee. Visited Washington in the interests of seal fisheries and
better trade relations.

1898—Member of Joint High Commission to Consider Trade with Britain and
U. S.

1899—Made an honorary Colonel. Despatched the Canadian Expedition to
South African War.

1900—Inaugurated the Western Canada Immigration policy.

1901—Received the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, and accompanied them
across Canada.

1902—Attended the Colonial Trade Conference.

1903—Introduced the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Scheme.

1904—Elected Member for Wright, also for Quebec East.

1905—Established the new Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

1907—Attended the Imperial Conference.

1908—Elected Member for Ottawa. Received the Prince of Wales at Quebec

1909—Voted with the whole House on the “Unanimous Resolution” re
Canadian Navy.

1910—Passed the Canadian Naval Service Act.

1911—Represented Canada at Coronation of King George and Queen Mary.
Liberal Government defeated at the polls on Question of Reciprocity in
Natural Products with the United States.

1912—Toured Ontario.

1913—Led the Opposition forces in the “Naval Blockade” in Parliament.

1914—Co-operated with Sir Robert Borden in the “Councils of War.”

1915—Maintained a Parliamentary Truce in House during War session.

1917—Was asked by Sir Robert Borden to enter a Union Government, but

Led the Opposition forces in the general election in opposition to the
conscription issue. Opposition was defeated, and Union Government
elected by large majority. Sir Wilfrid personally was elected in his old
seat of Quebec East, but was defeated in Ottawa.

1918—Led the Parliamentary Liberal Opposition to the Union Government
in the House of Commons.

1919—Died in Ottawa, February 17.

                             APPENDIX “B.”

Thanks are extended to the following papers and writers for permission
to use published articles and other material:

The Lindsay Post; Fred Landon; The London Advertiser; The Regina Leader;
The Waterloo Chronicle; The Journal of Commerce; Saturday Night; The St.
Thomas Times-Journal; The Montreal Herald; The Daily Telegraph; The Mail
and Empire; The Eganville Leaflet; Calgary Herald; Kingston Whig; The
Halifax Chronicle; Fredericton, N.B., Mail; Brockville Recorder;
Woodstock Sentinel-Review; The Statesman; St. John Globe; Ottawa
Journal; Canadian Baptist; Vancouver Sun; Saskatoon Phoenix; Kingston
Standard; Toronto Star Weekly; Peterborough Examiner; Athens Reporter;
Bracebridge Gazette; Amherst Daily News; Halifax Echo; The Montreal
Star; The Ottawa Citizen; The Quebec Telegraph; the Daily Telegraph, St.
John, N.B.; Moncton, N.B., Times; The Toronto Daily News; J. W. Mallon,
Daily Star, Toronto; Hamilton Times; Austin Mosher; The Montreal
Gazette; Alexander Smith, barrister, Ottawa; Harry Anderson, The Globe,
Toronto; Mr. P. C. Larkin, Toronto; Hon. Chas. Murphy, Ottawa; Hector
Charlesworth, Toronto.

We also thank the Dominion Press Clipping Bureau for its valuable

                         BROWN-SEARLE PRINTING
                         COMPANY   •   TORONTO

                          Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious printing errors have been silently corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation, spelling and punctuation have been

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