The Dominion Campaign!

National Workingmen's Union of Canada  (1881) 
by Sir John A. Macdonald

A speech given May 30, 1881 to the National Workingmen's Union of Canada - and subsequently republished as The Dominion campaign! : Sir John Macdonald on the questions at issue before the people : the Premier's great speech before the workingmen of Toronto.

A mass meeting of the electors of Toronto was held in the Amphitheatre on the night of Tuesday, May 30th,under the auspices of the National Workingmen's Union of Canada. Mr. J. Ick Evans occupied the chair. Sir John Macdonald, the principal speaker of the evening, was greeted with tremendous cheering. Order having been restored, Sir John said:

Meeting Old FriendsEdit

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen -- When I stand in this place and see this crowded amphiteatre, I begin to think that I must be a regular old Rip Van Winkle (loud laughter) that I have been asleep for three years; but that I now come to find the same place, the same crowd, the same friends, the same enthusiasm, the same supporters as I had on this same ground in 1878. (loud cheers, a voice: "more")

Sir John Macdonald: Yes; as a friend says behind me, a larger crowd; because, thanks to the N.P., Toronto has grown larger, the population has increased, you are all richer, you have better looking hats (laughter) and better looking coats. (cheers and laughter) And, I really must say as a bloated aristocrat and office-holder, that I myself am not a bit the worse for my three year's salary. (renewed laughter) I therefore congratulate myself, you, and the country, that after three years I come back and find enthusiasm, hope -- not only hope, but certainty -- of the future. (great cheering) Let us look back to the year before the 17th of September, 1878. Let us remember the time of depression, the time of sinking hearts, empty pockets, and empty larders (hear, hear, and applause) and let us bear in mind that since the National Policy has been inaugurated we see in the country a prosperous, contented, and happy people, and we find Canada standing amongst the first of the nations in the world in credit, in resources in standing, in reputation, and in fruition. (cheers) Mr. Chairman, I owe much, and those who act with me owe much, to the people of Toronto, to The Workingmen of Toronto(loud cheers) .

It was here on this platform that the first spark was lighted. (applause) It was here that the wave of enthusiasm which spread over the whole Dominion originated. (cheers) It was here that the foundations of the National Policy were laid. (cheers) And I ask you if there has not been a noble, magnificent superstructure raised on the foundation which you, the workingmen of Toronto, so successfully prepared in 1878. (applause) You gave me your confidence, gentlemen -- and although it was said by those who were opposed to me that my policy was only a pretence, that the line I had taken in Parliament, the line that the Conservative Opposition had taken in Parliament with a view to rescuing the country from the depression was only a political cry, that when we came into power we would not carry out our policy, that there would be no National Policy, no readjustment of the tariff, no attempt to encourage our industries, agricultural, manufacturing, and mining that our policy was a mere political dodge, and that we were not in earnest -- although all this was said, we did carry out our policy. (cheers) And I appeal to you as workingmen to witness whether I have not fully carried out the pledges I made before I took office, whether the tariff you expected has not been adopted, whether the industries which I said ought to be encouraged have not been developed, and whether instead of despondency there is not now hope, enterprise, and activity in every branch of business, public and private? (cheers) It is true, gentlemen, we see yet but the infancy of the manufactures and industries which we have established, or have tried to establish. These things cannot be established in a hurry. You cannot plant the seed to-day and get the crop to-morrow. But we have sown the seed; and much more rapidly, much more speedily, than even I -- sanguine as I was of the success of the policy -- expected, it has grown; and it now shows the certainty of a future crop which will make this country envied and looked up to by every other country in the world. (cheers) Mr. Chairman, although our progress is great, we are still in the bud, hoping and believing that there will be an early flower and early maturity. And why are we not in maturity already? Three years is a short time, but in three years much has been done. Why, then, I ask, has not more been done? Because we have had an unscrupulous Opposition; because we have had an unpatriotic Opposition. (loud cheers)

The gentlemen composing that Opposition have told capitalists, "It is no use investing your money in manufactures in Canada, because the present Government will never last more than five years. A new vote of the people will sweep away all that, and we will return to power and adopt a free trade policy, and reverse that under which the country prospers today." That, in effect, has been their statement, and I tell you -- and this is not a matter of supposition, but of certainty and knowledge on my part -- that there are millions of dollars waiting to be invested in Canada; millions in England, and large sums in the United States, waiting to come to Canada, waiting to be invested in every kind of industry, in mines and in manufactures of every kind; but the capitalists say, "Your Opposition say that your policy is only the result of a temporary madness on the part of the people of Canada in 1878, because times were bad then, and that it will be reversed at the next election." (cries of "never, never") They say that after the next election Sir John Macdonald end the National Policy will disappear, and we will have Reform purity, and economy, and free trade. (renewed cries of "never") I hear you, gentlemen, and I know that you are right. Capitalists, men who have by hard work and great industry, but by slow degrees, collected capital, are naturally timid with reference to the investment they make. They do not like to put their money in an uncertain enterprise; and they have written to me, and to Sir Leonard Tilley, saying, "We are ready to invest large sums of money; Canada is a great field for enterprise; it is a country of all others where manufactures can be most successfully introduced and carried on, but we are told by Mr. Mackenzie" -- and, sir, this was said in the Parliament of Canada in my hearing, and you will find it in the published debate -- "that protection is a national folly and a national crime, and that it must be abandoned." Sir Richard Cartwright too, the mixer and muddler of figures ("hear, hear" and laughter) who kept the financial conscience of Edward Blake, said "what?" That all protection was legalized robbery. (laughter) So capitalists are afraid to invest money in this country. Mr. Blake say in his address, "Why did these gentlemen dissolve and go to the country? Why did they ask the people to give a verdict when they might have remained in power eighteen months longer?" Our answer was this: That we wanted to let the people declare after three year's experience whether they were resolved to adhere to that policy or whether they were willing to reverse it. (cries of "never") It shows at all events. That we, the office-seekers, we, the bloated aristocrats, were disinterested for once. (loud laughter and cheers) Yes, I take out of your pockets a salary of $8,000 a year as Prime Minister (cries of "you deserve it") and I might have remained in office quietly for eighteen months longer. There was no compulsion to go to the country, but I have given up $12,000 of salary in order that I may come before you, the people of Canada, to know whether you want the N.P. to be maintained or not. (loud cheers) I have no doubt from the enthusiastic voices I hear around me that the people will stand by the National Policy.(cheers)

These voices are merely repetitions, affirming the same sound as will be heard at every poll in the whole Dominion. I am confident the result of the elections will be that the country will declare that the policy which the people calmly, coolly, and deliberately adopted in 1878 shall be the policy of Canada for the next five years. That is the reason we have appealed to the country, because, as I have said already, we know money is waiting for investment, and all that is wanted by capitalists in Canada, England and the United States, aye, in France and Germany, is to learn whether this country is of the fixed, constant opinion that the National Policy shall be continued as in 1878. (cheers) If, as I am sure it will be, the national voice confirms the decision given by the people in 1878, I can retire on my laurels. (cries of "no") I have fought the good fight, and I can then make way for younger and stronger men. (renewed cries of "no") I have carried out the policy which I believed now, was for the interest of the country. (loud cheers) I have carried out that policy, and the country has sustained me. And at the end of five years the manufacturers will have generated so much capital, while the workingmen, the skilled and unskilled labor that surround those varied industries, will have become so powerful, the capitalists will be linked together in associations, and workingmen will be bound together in trades unions, and they will fight the battle together. (loud cheers) Capital and labor will go hand in hand, and they will put down all attempts to make this country what it was before, a mere agricultural country, from which all skilled labor went to the United States to find employment, and that skilled labor will remain in the country. ("hear, hear") Capital and labor will join together, and at the end of five years I defy Sir Richard Cartwright, if he had half a dozen title, or Mr. Blake, or all the free-traders from John Stuart Mill down to David Mills (loud laughter and cheers) to take the edifice that the people of Canada will have raised. (renewed cheers) This country, blessed in every respect, with a fertile soil, a fine climate, an industrious people, with a manufacturing population consuming the products of the farmer, will go forward, and not all attempts of theorisers end philosophers (laughter) will set aside the actual state of facts, that Canada will become, like the Mother Country, great in manufacturing industries of all kinds and great in agricultural development, for it possesses all the elements that make a great nation. (loud cheers, and a voice: "no more soup kitchens") I hear the remark that we shall want no more soup kitchens. Gentlemen, I addressed a body of workingmen at Ottawa the other day, and I had to contrast the state of affairs there five years ago, when Mr. Mackenzie was in power, and at the present time. I stated, and you may remember it was mentioned in all the newspapers at the time, that there was actually no employment for labour, and that the Parliament Building and the Government offices were surrounded by men asking for the means of earning their bread, asking for half or quarter time and half or quarter wages in order to support their families. I have seen it myself at Ottawa. I was in Opposition, but I lived there a year and a half before I came to Toronto, and I had my house besieged by persons asking employment, and that I would give them some work to prevent them from being compelled to beg. Now a different state of things prevails. The boot is on the other leg. (cheers) I told the Ottawa workingmen this story. Years ago, when Parliament was sitting in Toronto, we had a five months' session. I was in the Government, and I had a very hard fight, because the Opposition was led by a man -- George Brown -- by a strong man, who made a strong of it. We got through at last, and when the guns were firing, telling us that the Governor General was coming down to prorogue the House, a great friend of mine came up to me and said: "John A., you do not care a farthing for us now; when the Governor comes we have to go, and you no longer care." "No, my good friend," I said, "I have been kissing your feet for the last five months, and now you may kiss mine for the next seven." (laughter) So it was with the workingmen of Ottawa. For four years they were wandering round imploring the people to give them work. Now, in Ottawa the boot is on the other leg, and if I want any work done I cannot get it done because the men are so fully employed (loud cheers) and I think it is the same in Toronto, Hamilton, and elsewhere. The boot is on the other leg, and long may it remain there. (enthusiastic cheers) Every session during the last three years of Mr. Mackenzie's Government I moved an amendment in favor of the National Policy, but it was derided, laughed at, and voted down. I was treated contemptuously, as a theorist, as a man of no practical policy, and as merely getting up clap-trap notions for clap-trap purposes. The moment we came into power we carried the National Policy. For one whole month, night and day, Messrs. Mackenzie, Blake, Mills, Sir Richard Cartwright, and the whole of their party opposed our tariff, both in principle and detail. The Globe, gentlemen, which is the able exponent of the principle of the Opposition, has been a free trade journal and is so now. Up to three weeks ago it advanced arguments in favor of free trade. Now, at the last moment, these gentlemen, finding that they are going to the people, that they want their votes, come to you, cap in hand, and say, "Gentlemen, we don't intend at all to interfere with the manufacturers." (laughter) Well, gentlemen, they were either fools or rogues; fools if they opposed a policy which they now admit was correct, or rogues for opposing it for factious purposes. What say they now? Mr. Mackenie says, "We don't intend to disturb the manufactures; we are going to educate them to free trade by slow degrees; we will show the people the fallacies of protection." This is something like the Dutchman who tried to reduced the feed of his horse by slow degrees from half a bushel of oats to a single wisp of straw, and thus do away with what he called the extravagance of the oats. Unfortunately for his experiment, just as he was about to succeed, the horse died. (laughter) So it is with Mr. Mackenzie's proposition, with the proposition of Mr. Blake, in the address which he published to the electors of West Durham. But perhaps Mr. Blake is not going to get in. He has got a man, a Mail to oppose him. (laughter and cheers.) Mr. Blake says: "Of course the expenses of the country are so great that we shall have to keep up the taxation for the present, but by-and-bye we will reduce them, and take off all the burdens from the people." But, gentlemen, the horse will died, the manufactures will be abolished, and we shall be driven back to where we were in 1875-7, and you will suffer this great loss when I shall be too old to try to remedy matters again. (voice: "I hope you will never get old") Well, they say in Parliament I am too old for my friends in Opposition. (laughter) You, the people of Canada, know the party that laid down the great principle of national protection, and you put a Government in power to carry it out. You know that the present Government have honestly and sincerely carried that policy out, although they have been attacked in England for so doing. We all desire to stand well with the great old Mother Country, but her people are the judges of their interests and we of ours. (cheers) Although free trade prevails in England just now, although we have been reproved and I have been abused in the English papers, which said that Sir John ought to know better than to support any such faded old fallacy as protection and fair trade, nevertheless we have honestly and fairly carried that policy out. We have stood all the obloquy heaped upon us, and shall continue to do so, if we have your support. (cheers) I am not going to speak to you at any length to-night. (cries of "go on" "we like to hear you") Like many old persons, I like to hear myself (laughter) but still I must make way for others, and although I may not think their speeches are so interesting as my own (laughter) I must affect to be modest and let them come forward and address you. Besides, you are reading men, and must be well acquainted with a subject which has been discussed for the last five years. It would be an insult to your intelligence now to discuss the abstract doctrine of protection and a National Policy. You have made up your minds on this subject, and my feeble arguments are not wanted. You know and have felt the benefit of the National Policy, are resolved they shall be retained for the country, for yourselves, and for your children. (cheers)

The Duty of the Central GovernmentEdit

It was the boast of civilization that the rights of property are maintained. There was an attack -- a causeless, senseless attack upon the rights of the property of a single, humble individual, ruining him and his1 property -- an attack upon the legal tribunals of the country, introducing an element of uncertainly which would prevent people from Germany and England coming here, because it would prove to them that no man's rights in property were safe, and that the Legislature could sweep them at any moment. The bill struck at the very root of the prosperity and reputation of the Dominion. And I, sir, as Prime Minister, as chiefly responsible for the good government of this country, under the representative of our Sovereign, would be justly chargeable with a failure to perform my duty if I did not respect the rights of property. ("hear, hear") What did I care if my action was followed by a storm of obloquy and unpopularity? It is my duty in my position to disregard fears of unpopularity, to do that which though it may prejudice me in the eyes of some, I believe in my conscience to be for the good of the country, and to protect the rights of property in the community, even at the risk of losing the position I hold. (cheers) So I take the responsibility of that act, and I say I will do it again. (loud applause) I say that no matter how humble and helpless a man may be, if he has rights, and if any Government or any Legislature in the wantonness of power, or for a political or other purpose, destroys those rights, I will come forward, and no matter what the consequence may be, no matter if I am expelled the next day from office, I will stand by those rights (cheers) and I will have, at all events, the consolation of knowing that the sober second thought of the country will say I was a good and faithful servant to do so (renewed applause) even though by doing so I had brought down upon myself the condemnation of Oliver Mowat, Esquire. (loud laughter)

The Necessity of Hard WorkEdit

Gentlemen, I have to ask you to move your boots pretty lively between now and the 20th of June. (laughter and applause) I have no fear of the result if you will work. Do not sleep; do not be too confident. I have said again and again that the two most uncertain things in the world are an election and a horse-race. (laughter) Don't let the Opposition horse beat the good old N.P. nag by a nose. (applause) You must remember though that you are fighting the purists, and with them there is such a thing as money being used. ("hear, hear") "Oh, purists never use money !" you say; but you surely cannot forget that one of the best supporters of the Grit party, H.H. Cook -- a very good fellow -- confessed to having spent in his own election as much as $28,000. (a voice: "I bet you" -- another voice: "and there was Walker")

Sir John Macdonald: Yes; the gentleman who wrote "Come along, John; let's put down bribery and corruption; I've lots of money." (another voice: "and Paddy Hughes!")

Sir John Macdonald: Mr. Hughes is a countryman of mine (laughter) so we'll say nothing about him. He's a pretty good fellow, to be sure; but he tried to get a plum, and the plum had a stone in it, and he was sorry for it. (loud laughter) But, gentlemen, let me in all seriousness warn my friends not to rest on their oars, or to fancy that the goodness of their cause, or the fact that the majority of the people are in favour of the National Policy, will present the occurrence of a mistake. Why, a factious minority will beat the largest majority in the world if the majority is inactive. ("hear, hear") I tell you this, that the hesitation I have in my mind about telling you that I am sure we will have an overwhelming majority is caused by the fear lest my friends, knowing that, and conscious of the justness of our cause, will rest on their oars, and stay at home. Gentlemen, those who do that take upon themselves an awful responsibility, and they will, should we lose, carry to their dying day the reproach in their consciences that they, by their neglect, have been instrumental in bringing about the ruin of their country. ("hear, hear") The Redistribution Bill

(a voice: "what about the Redistribution bill?")

Sir John Macdonald: I am asked what about the Redistribution bill.

Mr. Plumb: I think I was redistributed as badly as anybody. ("hear, hear")

Sir John Macdonald: Well, the Grits seldom complain that they are hived altogether. It seems they do not like the association. (laughter) I told my constituents the other day -- well, I hope, indeed, I know, they will be my constituents (cheers) a story. When the Reform Club was built in London, it was the finest club-house there, and the club-room was really a magnificent chamber. Theodore Hook, who was a great wit, and the editor of a Tory paper, was taken into the Reform Club by a friend who desired to show him the place. When he was in the club-room the friend said, "Well, how do you like our room?" Said Hook: "I would rather have your room than your company." (loud laughter) So it is with the Grits. They do not like each other's company. (renewed laughter) They like to associate with Conservative gentlemen such as you. Your being with them rather gives tone to their society. Gentlemen, I will tell you what we did. In first place, to show you that we were impartial, I may say that Niagara and Cornwall, being under the average population, we wiped them out, notwithstanding that Niagara, represented so ably by Mr. Plumb, would return a Conservative again, and Cornwall was sure to return Conservatives. These boroughs were sure to return Conservatives, but in order to equalize the population we wiped them out, and deprived our party of two certain votes. (a voice: "you gerrymandered yourself")

Sir John Macdonald: But, say the Opposition, you have not equalized the population all round. Some constituencies still have small populations and some large. But, gentlemen, we had only four members to give -- six altogether, with Cornwall and Niagara -- and we could not divide up every county out of 92 in Ontario according to population; but whatever we did, we did in that direction. We had only six constituencies to add, and we so arranged the matter that if you look at the population, you will find that wherever a change was made, it was in the direction of representation by population. That is the only true principle. A Government is not bound to see that certain counties are Grit and other Conservative, and arrange them according to their supposed political proclivities. In 1874, when there was a sweep made of the Conservative party in consequence of the Pacific slander, when we had not a corporal's guard, the majority of the constituencies in Ontario were Grit. In 1878, when the people had come to their senses and restored us to power, the majority was Conservative. Who, then, is to decide as to the political proclivities of any constituency? The only principle is representation by population, and that we carried out. To give a striking illustration of the absurdity of trying to lay out constituencies with regard to supposed political leaning, look at the North- West. Twenty, twenty-five, or even fifty thousand Ontario people may go there this Summer. When settled we have to divide the territory up into Townships and Counties. Have they to be laid out according to the political views of the population? If there happens to be a lot of Grits in one corner, must we consider that; and so with Conservatives? The only true principle, I repeat, is representation by population, and that we have carried out. You know I am what they call a perennial flower; I am always in the Government, or nearly always (laughter) and I happened to be in the Government in 1872 when, according to our Constitution, we had to readjust the representation. The census takes place every ten years, 1871, 1881, and 1891, and so on, and by our Constitution we are obliged to readjust the Parliamentary representation after the census has been taken. In 1872 I was Prime Minister, as I am now, and the duty was thrown on me, not to give four new constituencies to Ontario, but to give eight new constituencies. I came down with my plan, as I did last session, and I was abused as a gerrymanderer, as one who was "hiving" the Grits, as a corruptionist, and indeed just as I was last session. When I brought down my scheme last session, Mr. Blake, Mr. Mills, Mr. Mackenzie, and others rose in the House and stated that the plan in 1872 was an honest and good one, and they wished me to stick to it. I said that if they would look back at their speeches they would find, if such were the case with respect to the scheme, that their comments were neither just nor honest; that their attacks in 1882 were just as dishonest; and I said I would be in the Government of 1892, and in that year you will do exactly as you have done now, you will blame me for not adhering to the settlement of 1882. (laughter and cheers, and a voice: "what about Mr. Mowat's gerrymandering?") I cannot say anything about Mr. Mowat's gerrymandering; he is too small potatoes for me. (laughter) He did his little best. (Laughter and cheers)

A Long Life in the Country's ServiceEdit

Gentlemen, I feel great pride in occupying the position that has been awarded me by the people of this country. I can, at my age, have no other wish than to live well in the minds of my fellow-countrymen, and when I die to live well in their recollection. (cheers) I have had a long life of politics, a long life of official duties. I have committed many mistakes. Looking back with the light of experience, there are many things I have done wrongly, and many things I have neglected that I should have done, in every act of legislation and administration, I have tried, according to the best of my judgment, to do what I could for the well-being of good government and the future prosperity of this my beloved country.

The right hon. gentleman resumed his seat amid loud and long-continued cheering.