Page images

leadership. In 1862, an informal vote was taken in the reform caucus for the leadership, in which Mr. Foley got eleven votes, being one more than anyone else. The leadership resulting was only a farce which was ended two years afterwards by his joining the conservatives, a step he deeply regretted afterwards. In a letter to a friend, Mr. Brown remarked:

"I confess I do chuckle a little occasionally at the gentlemen wno were so keen to get me out of the way, 'were it only for a week.' Why, sir, they would say, this government would not stand a day were Brown out of the way;' and now they have had a whole session to themselves, with opportunities never enjoyed by men before, and they are just where I left them. In the eight years in which I led the opposition there were many to doubt the ultimate success of my policy, and many in consequence to condemn it; but I recollect of no instance in which I was charged with want of vigilance, or grave blundering or incapacity. I don't think the gentlemen who were so anxious to thrust me aside can say so much for their one session" [1861].

Mr. Brown contemplated retiring from the leadership, if not from parliament, a year before this. Towards the close of 1860 he addressed a letter to Mr. Mowat, from which we give an extract:

"I need not remind you of my determination to retire from parliamentary life at the earliest possible moment, and that for the last two years nothing has prevented me from doing so except the fears that new combinations might result from my retirement highly injurious to the cause we have so much at heart. I think, however, the moment has come when I may retire not only without fear of that danger, but with the probability that my doing so may largely conduce to secure the great ends we have been fighting for. You must have observed that throughout their whole tour in Upper Canada the members of the administration have tried to excite personal hostility against myself, and revive the feelings inspired by the fierce party contests of the past. There has been no question whether representation by population is just and should be adopted, but whether by false colouring George Brown can be made to appear to have abandoned it. There has been no attempt to argue from or for principle. It may be that some other person who would excite less personal hostility might be more successful at this moment."

[ocr errors]

A few months after this he was stricken down by a long and severe illness, which incapacitated him from attending in his place in parlia ment during the whole session of 1861, or indeed to take a very active part in the general election of that year. The vast amount of labour he had undertaken as a political leader and as editor-in-chief of the Globe was more than any man could bear. He however, for some years previous to this time, commenced farming on an extensive scale on a tract of land he owned in the county of Kent. He also erected extensive saw and grist mills and a cabinet factory in the village of Bothwell, which was built on the property mentioned. The attempt to do the work of four or five men resulted in the dangerous illness which laid him prostrate so long. Mr. Brown was a candidate again for Toronto East, where he had been twice elected. He was opposed

by the late John Crawford, and defeated by a majority of 191. He took advantage of this defeat to retire for a time from the toils of parliamentary life. Many members would have gladly made way for him, but he declined to take any of the seats offered. From a letter written to a prominent member of the liberal party the following extract is given :

"As I shall not be in Quebec at the opening of parliament, I want you to do me the favour of communicating to our political friends, at their first meeting, my formal resignation of the leadership of the Upper Canada opposition. Failing health for many months, terminating in serious illness last spring, satisfied me that complete relief for a time from the pressure of public responsibility was necessary to the restoration of my health, and my private affairs requiring personal attention, I became earnestly desirous of retiring, at least for a time, from parliamentary life at the earliest favourable moment. The result of the contest for the representation of the city of Toronto at the general election has given that opportunity; and I have declined to avail myself of the kind offers of friends to secure me a seat in the early part of the session."



In 1858 a movement was commenced to present Mr. Brown with some kind of testimonial in token of the appreciation of the services rendered to the liberal party for many years. After the proposal had been partly acted upon in the city and in some parts of the country districts, a meeting of the promoters was held in the city of Toronto, when the following resolutions were passed:

1. That the fund collected, and the moneys which may be hereafter received for the proposed testimonial, shall be appropriated to the erection of a suitable building for a publishing office, to be presented to the Hon. George Brown as a mark of the high sense entertained by his political friends of the long, faithful, and important services which he has rendered to the people of Canada.

2. That Messrs. William McMaster, John McMurrich, W. P. Howland, John Macdonald, Samuel Spreull, and William Henderson form a committee to select a site for the erection of such building, to make purchase thereof or procure an advantageous lease for that purpose, and carry out all necessary arrangements for the completion of the testimonial; and the treasurer is herby empowered to pay over the moneys collected upon the order of the chairman and any two members of the committee.

In accordance with these resolutions, the subscriptions were devoted to the erection of the part of the Globe structure fronting on King Street, containing the counting rooms, offices and editorial rooms, and formally presented to Mr. Brown. This recognition of his disinterested zealous labours on behalf of popular rights was peculiarly pleasing to him, not because of the amount of money required or contributed-for he deprecated any laboured effort to bring the scheme extensively before the public-but because so many leading reformers in this way fully acknowledged their obligations as a party to his active labours, at a time when so many leading men had failed to recognize the duties and responsibility devolving upon them as public men, trusted by the people on account of their professions.

Early in July, 1862, Mr. Brown left Canada for a lengthened sojourn in Europe to recruit his strength and obtain some relaxation from the cares and anxieties of his arduous labours. While on his visit to Scotland, one of the great events of his life happened. On the 27th of November of that year he was joined in marriage to Miss Anne Nelson, daughter of the late well known publisher, Mr. Thomas Nelson, and sister of the present publishers, Thomas, William and James, and

of the late Rev. Dr. John Nelson, of Greenock. He shortly afterwards returned to Canada with greatly improved health, but rather averse to again entering parliament.

When the new parliament met in March, 1862, Mr. Brown was without a seat, having declined all the seats offered him. The CartierMacdonald government was tottering to its fall. Vigorous attacks were made by the opposition on several questions, and at last they fell on a vote respecting the militia. At the time of their defeat Mr. Foley was nominally leader of the Ontario opposition. Practically the leadership was in commission. The Governor-General did not send for Mr. Foley, but for Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald, although that gentleman had adopted views hostile to the main plank of the reform platform, representation by population, substituting therefor his plan of government by having a majority in each half of the province. Mr. Brown strongly opposed the formation of any government that did not provide for a reform of the representation. The liberal members at their caucus declined to support the government on the double majority principle, but agreed on all things else to support it. This qualified support, Mr. Brown's opposition, and Mr. Dorion's early resignation, weakened it so much that it became necessary in 1863 to make some changes, which gradually brought it into greater harmony with the party generally. When reconstructed in 1863, Mr. Brown gave the government his active support. Early in May Dr. Connor, member for South Oxford, was appointed Judge, and Mr. Brown, at the urgent solicitation of his friends, consented to re-enter parliament as member for that county. The reconstruction of the ministry by the introduction of Messrs. Holton, Mowat, Dorion, Letellier and Thibaudeau was largely the work of Mr. Brown, and as the representation question was to be an open question with the government, the double majority scheme being tacitly abandoned, he gave his influence in parliament and in the Globe strongly in its favour. Merely making the representation question an open one was not considered a sufficient advance on Mr. Sandfield Macdonald's previous policy, but it was clear to Mr. Brown that nothing could then be obtained in advance of that at this time, though various indications might be seen that concessions on the representation question might be proposed by more than one party in the House at no distant day. The Lower Canada leaders could not go further, and the Premier was believed to be ready to make propositions to other quarters unless his proposals were accepted. The weakness, however, was incurable, and the elections of 1863 added no perceptible strength to the government. The fall session of 1863 was got through with some difficulty; but in 1864 it became clear that the government could not effectively conduct the legislation and business

of the country with only a majority of one or two, and rather than continue such a struggle, the ministry resigned on the 21st of March.

Mr. Brown, senior, died in 1863. He was a noble old man, and universally beloved wherever he was known. Dr. Burns, of Halifax, says of him: "He was a fine-looking old man as I remember "him, and wielded a trenchant, vigorous pen; his acquaintance with "ecclesiastical and general subjects was extensive and accurate." He always took a very active part in discussions on church matters, and occasionally took part in public meetings called to discuss the affairs of King's College or the clergy reserves, in which subjects he, as an anti-state churchman, took an active interest. He took a prominent part in inducing the elder Dr. Burns to settle in Toronto in 1845. The doctor and Mr. Brown were not, however, always able to agree on church questions, or, perhaps it might with more propriety be said, they were very seldom able to agree. Both had very decided views; neither were slow to give their views expression by voice or pen, and even on such questions the layman would not yield to the churchman. The result was that some amusing controversies took place between the two, in which the minister was not always the victor. On one occasion Mr. Brown presided over some social gathering connected with church affairs, after experiencing some trouble from his clerical friend, when he alluded to Dr. Burns' first visit to Canada as a Free Church deputy, and to a similar gathering in Dr. Burns' honour. On that occasion, said Mr. Brown, "we accompanied him to "the ship, sorrowing most of all that we should see his face no more:" adding in an undertone, we did, however, see his face again. The doctor's quick ear heard these words, and he called out, "Ay, did "you, to your sorrow." When Mr. Brown was very ill a warm personal friend called to see him, and after a little conversation he asked the invalid if his mind was at peace with God, and what were the grounds of his hope. Mr. Brown shaded his face with his hand, and, after a short pause, repeated Cowper's beautiful lines:

[ocr errors]

"Since the dear hour which brought me to Thy foot,

And cut up all my follies by the root,

I never trusted in an arm but Thine,

Nor hoped but in Thy righteousness divine;
My prayers and alms, imperfect and defiled,
Were but the feeble efforts of a child;
Howe'er performed, it was their brightest part
That they proceeded from a grateful heart;
Cleansed in Thine own all purifying blood,
Forgive their evil and accept their good.
I cast them at Thy feet; my only plea
Is what it was-dependence upon Thee;
While struggling in the vale of tears below,
That never failed, nor shall it fail me now."

« PreviousContinue »