Canada 1911: The Decisive Election that Shaped the Country

Canada 1911: The Decisive Election that Shaped the Country

Language: English

Pages: 378

ISBN: 1554889472

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

One hundred years ago, Canadians went to the polls to decide the fate of their country in an election that raised issues vital to Canada’s national independence and its place in the world. Canadians faced a clear choice between free trade with the United States and fidelity to the British Empire, and the decisions they made in September 1911 helped shape Canada’s political and economic history for the rest of the century. Canada 1911 revisits and re-examines this momentous turn in Canadian history, when Canadians truly found themselves at a parting of the ways. It was Canada’s first great modern election and one of the first expressions of the birth of modern Canada. The poet Rudyard Kipling famously wrote at the time that this election was nothing less than a fight for Canada’s soul. This book will explain why.














4] In Montreal, business leaders formed the Anti-Reciprocity League with members from the Montreal Board of Trade and a cross-section of the Montreal business community. The elderly Charles Chaput, a former merchant and member of the Chamber of Commerce, chaired the new organization, and another key figure was Thomas Chase-Casgrain, a member of a distinguished Montreal law firm who had been junior Crown counsel at the trial of Louis Riel and a leading Conservative who would later be a member of Robert Borden’s government.

It was simply a declaration that countries could decide for themselves which nations they should consider “most favoured. ” The principle was accepted by the Conference. Laurier stated clearly his position on the autonomy of countries like Canada in the British Empire and again returned to the possible implications such treaties might have on defence issues: “It might seriously embarrass the Government if they had to consult the dominions, as they might have advice from Australia in one direction, advice from New Zealand in another, and advice from Canada in a third.

Ibid. , 188,453, Laurier to Ward, August 2, 1911. 19. See the correspondence in ibid. , reel C-906. 20. See Stevens, “Laurier and the Liberal Party in Ontario, 1887–1911,” 407–09; for the slow decline of the Ontario Liberals, see Chapter 7. 21. Paul Stevens, “Laurier, Aylesworth, and the Decline of the Liberal Party,” Canadian Historical Association, Historical Papers (1968): 100–05. 22. For example, see the correspondence between Laurier and J. A. Macdonald of the Globe in LAC, Laurier Papers, reel C-892, 172,237–39; 172,896–901.

Zebulon Lash was selected president and Thomas White, also of the Toronto Eighteen, as nominal treasurer. Filling the role as secretary of the Canadian National League was Arthur Hawkes, a British immigrant and former reporter for the Manchester Guardian, who freelanced for different newspapers in Canada and was a director of publicity for the Canadian Northern Railway. An expert in public relations and propaganda, Hawkes devoted his time to public speaking, writing newspaper articles, and producing campaign material, most notably his imperialist pamphlet An Appeal to the British-born, which was produced for distribution among the large number of British-born Canadians.

What better issues could a man want? Let them claim that I am crooked, and let me claim that I’m not. Surely that was good enough without dragging in the tariff. ” During the campaign, the local bar demonstrated its loyalty by replacing its sign for “American drinks” with one that read “British Beers at all Hours,” while Jeff Thorpe, the local barber, went “home to his dinner, the first day reciprocity was talked of, and said to Mrs. Thorpe that it would simply kill business in the country and introduce a cheap, shoddy, American form of hair-cut that would render true loyalty impossible.

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