If You Had a Circus …

Political Cartoon attacking the Anti-Confedera...
Political Cartoon attacking the Anti-Confederation Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 8, 1866, Parliament began its last session as the Province of Canada. The next Parliament would be that of the new Dominion, but this was by no means certain on June 8, 1866.

In Nova Scotia, Premier Charles Tupper carried a motion through the legislature authorizing his government to continue negotiations for a federal union. In New Brunswick, the anti-Confederation Smith government had resigned, and an election was in the offing. Actually, Smith was weakening in his opposition to Confederation, angry because the United States had refused to continue the reciprocity agreement made in 1854.

Clear Grit (Liberal) leader George Brown had left the coalition government he had formed with Taché-Macdonald, the deal that had won Macdonald’s support for Confederation.  Brown was something like Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia.  Neither one could play the earliest supporters of Confederation, but was one of its strongest opponents when Tupper became premier.  Tupper had campaigned effectively against Howe when the latter was in the States, trying to recruit Americans to fight for Britain in the Crimean War.  A friend asked Howe why he had turned against Confederation and he replied, “If you had a circus and had got together a good show, how would you like it if that fellow Tupper came and stood by the door and collected the shillings?”

Once Brown felt that Macdonald was fully committed to Confederation, he left the coalition as quickly as possible.  From that time on he never spoke a civil word to the Conservative leader.  Macdonald was puzzled and perhaps hurt.  He said that during their brief association, which included a trip to Britain, they had dined and gone to public places together.  They had even played euchre a good deal while crossing the Atlantic.

Brown did not weaken his support for Confederation.  He contributed $500 to a $50,000 campaign fund contribution which Canada sent to the Confederation party fighting the election in New Brunswick.  It won and Premier Tilley of New Brunswick and Tupper of Nova Scotia were able to go to London later in the year, to join Macdonald, Cartier and Galt in negotiations with the British Government.

I’m only going to suggest one website today, because it is worth visiting and digging once you get there. It’s the Dictionary of Canadian Biographies. I’ve already searched for two pages here: Sir Charles Tupper and Sir George-Étienne Cartier.


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