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- Canada and the States - 3/71 -
was the Colonial Minister under whose rule and guidance the foundations of the great measure of Confederation were, undoubtedly, laid; and to him, more than to any minister since Lord Durham, the credit of preserving, as I hope for ever, the rule of her Majesty, and her successors, over the Western Continent ought to attach. For, while the idea of an union, of more or less extent, was suggested in Lord Durham's time--probably by Charles Buller,--and was now and then fondled by other Governors-General, in Canada, and by Colonial Ministers at home--the real, practical measures which led to the creation of one country extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific were due to the far-sighted policy and persuasive influence of the Duke. The Duke was a statesman singularly averse to claiming credit for his own special public services, while ever ready to attribute credit and bestow praise on those around him.
My first interview with the Duke was in January, 1847. He was then Lord Lincoln, and the Conservative candidate for Manchester; in disgrace with his father. His father was the old fashioned nobleman who desired "to do what he liked with his own," and never would rebuild Nottingham Castle, burnt in 1832 by the Radicals. The son had cast in his lot with Sir Robert Peel and free trade. The father was still one of the narrow- minded class to whom reform of any kind was the spectre of "ruin to the country." They were quite honest in the conviction that the people were "born to be governed, and not to govern." They probably saw in the free importation of foreign food the abrogation of rent.
In 1847 Mr. Bright was the candidate for Manchester, whom we of the old Anti-Corn Law League supported. The interview I refer to was actuated by our desire to avoid an undeserved opposition; Lord Lincoln retired, however, owing mainly to other reasons, including that of the intolerance of a body of Churchmen regarding popular education.
A long period of wretched health compelled me for several years to consume what strength I had left in the ordinary routine of daily business. And it was not until 1852 that any further intercourse of any kind took place between us. In that year I published a little book about the United States and Canada, the record of my first visit to North America, in 1851. And, if I recollect rightly, I travelled with the Duke in the spring of 1852, probably between Rugby and Derby, and found him in possession of a copy of this little book, on which he had, faute de mieux, spent half-a-crown at the book stall at Euston. He recognised me; and it was my fault, and not his, that I saw no more of him till 1857, by which time, no doubt, he had forgotten me. Still our conversation in 1852 about America, and especially as to slavery, and the probability of a separation of North and South, will always dwell in my memory. Lord Lincoln had studied De Tocqueville; but he had not, yet, seen America. He had, therefore, at that time many erroneous views, which could only be corrected by the actual and personal opportunity of seeing and measuring, on the spot, the country, which always really means the people. This opportunity was given to him by the visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States, in 1860. He accompanied the Prince in his capacity of Colonial Minister.
These casual glimpses of Lord Lincoln were followed by an interview between us in 1857. In the meantime, it is true, he had had my name brought before him during his term of office pending the Crimean War Some one had suggested to the Government to send me out to the Crimea to take charge of the Stores Department, at a time when all was confusion and mess, out there, and I was asked to call on the Minister about it. It seemed to me, however, a duty impossible of execution by a civilian, unless the condition of "full powers" were conceded,--and the matter came to nothing.
In 1856 I was the Manager of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. In that year a reckless engine, travelling between Shireoaks and Worksop, threw out some sparks, which set fire to the underwood of one of the Duke's plantations--for he was then Duke--and he wrote to the Chairman of the Railway, the then Earl of Yarborough, in what appeared to me a very haughty manner. I therefore felt bound to defend my chief, and I took up the quarrel. In a note addressed from the Library of the House of Commons, I asked for an interview, which was somewhat stiffly granted. This was the note which led to our interview:--
"CLUMBER, "1 Decr. 1856.
"MY DEAR YARBOROUGH,
"Instead of placing the enclosed extraordinary production in the hands of my Solicitor, I think it best, in the first instance, to send it to you as Chairman of the M. S. & L. Railway, because I cannot believe that either its tone or its substance can have been authorized by the Directors.
"I am sorry to say this is not the first piece of impertinence which I have had to complain of in reference to the damage done to my woods by the engines of the Company, and neither Mr. Foljambe nor I have had any encouragement to treat the matter in the amicable spirit which we were anxious to evince.
"The demands now made by the aggressors upon the party aggrieved is simply preposterous, and, of course, will be treated as it deserves. We shall next have the Company, or rather, as I hope and believe, the Company's Solicitors, demanding us to cut all our corn within 100 yards of the line before it becomes ripe, and consequently inflammable.
"Your Solicitor knows perfectly well that the Company is by law liable for damage done to woods; and, moreover, that such damage is preventible by proper care on the part of its servants.
"I think the Directors ought to order their Solicitor to write to me and others, to whom so impertinent a letter has been addressed, and beg to withdraw it, with an apology for having sent it.
"I am sorry to trouble you with this matter, because I feel that you ought not to be troubled with business in your present state of health; but as you are still the Chairman, I could not with propriety write to any other person.
"I am, my dear Yarborough, "Yours very sincerely, "NEWCASTLE.
"THE EARL OF YARBOROUGH, &c., &c."
Accordingly, I went to the mansion in Portman Square. I waited some time; but at last in stalked the Duke, looking very awful indeed--so stern and severe--that I could not help smiling, and saying--"The burnt coppice, your Grace." Upon this he laughed, held out his hand, placed me beside him, and we had a very long discussion, not about the fire, but about the colliery he, then, was sinking--against the advice of many of his friends in Sheffield--at Shireoaks; and when he had done with that, we talked, once more, about Canada, the United States, and the Colonies generally.
After this date, I had to see the Duke on business, more and more frequently. The year after the Duke's return from Canada, in 1861, he happened to read an article I had written in a London paper, hereafter given, about opening up the Northern Continent of America by a Railway across to the Pacific, and he spoke of it as embodying the views which he had before expressed, as his own.
In 1854 Mr. Glyn and Mr. Thomas Baring had urged me to undertake a mission to Canada on the business of the Grand Trunk Railway, which mission I had been compelled to decline; and when, in 1860-1, the affairs of that undertaking became dreadfully entangled, the Committee of Shareholders, who reported upon its affairs, invited me to accept the post of "Superintending Commissioner," with full powers. They desired me to take charge of such legislative and other measures as might retrieve the Company's disasters, so far as that might be possible. Before complying with this proposal, I consulted the Duke, and it was mainly under the influence of his warm concurrence that I accepted the mission offered to me. I accepted it in the hope of being able, not merely to serve the objects of the Shareholders of the Grand Trunk, but that at the same time I might be somewhat useful in aiding those measures of physical union contemplated when the Grand Trunk Railway was projected, and which must precede any confederation of interests, such as that happily crowned in 1867 by the creation of the "Dominion of Canada."
I find that my general views were, some time before, epitomized in the following letter. It is true that Mr. Baring, then President of the Grand Trunk, did not, at first, accept my views; but he and Mr. Glyn (the late Lord Wolverton) co-operated afterwards in all ways in the direction those views indicated.
"NORTHENDEN, "13_th November_, 1860.
"Some years ago Mr. Glyn (I think with the assent of Mr. Baring) proposed to me to go out to Canada to conduct a negotiation with the Colonial Government in reference to the Grand Trunk Railway. I was compelled then, from pressure of other business, to refuse what at that time would have been, to me, a very agreeable mission. Since then, I have grown older, and somewhat richer; and not being dependent upon the labour of the day, I should be very chary of increasing the somewhat heavy load of responsibility and anxiety which I still have to bear. It is doubtful, therefore, whether I could bring my mind to undertake so arduous, exceptional--perhaps even doubtful--an engagement as that of the 'restoration to life' of the Grand Trunk Railway.
"This line, both as regards its length, the character of its works, and its alliances with third parties, is both too extensive, and too expensive, for the Canada of to-day; and left, as it is, dependent mainly upon the development of population and industry on its own line, and upon the increase of the traffic of the west, it cannot be expected, for years to come, to emancipate itself thoroughly from the load of obligations connected with it.
"Again, the Colonial Government having really, in spite of all the jobbery and political capital alleged to have been perpetrated and made in connexion with this concern, made great sacrifices in its behalf, is not likely, having got the Railway planted on its own soil, to be ready to give much more assistance to this same undertaking.
"That the discipline and traffic of the line could be easily put upon a sound basis, that that traffic could be vigorously developed, that the expenses, except always those of repair and renewal, could be kept down, and that friendly, and perhaps improving and more beneficial, arrangements could be made with the local government--is matter, to me, of little doubt. Any man thoroughly versed in railways and quite up to business, and especially accustomed to the management of men and the conduct of serious negotiation, could easily accomplish this. But after all, unless I am very much deceived, all this will be insufficient, for many years to come, to satisfy the Shareholders; and I should not advise Mr. Glyn or Mr. Baring to tie their reputations to any man,
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