Sir Wilfrid fell; but his Imperial policies lived. During the campaign the old country Imperialists had been very busy from Rudyard Kipling down—or up—in lending aid to the forces fighting the Liberal government; and its defeat was the occasion for much rejoicing among them. Mr. A. Bonar Law, M. P., doubtless voiced their views when he predicted under the incoming regime, “a real advance towards the organic union of the Empire.” All these hopes, like many which preceded them, were short-lived; for Sir Robert Borden, once he got his bearings, took over the Laurier policies and widened them. In that significant fact the clue to these policies is found. They were not personal to Laurier, owing their coolness towards perfervid Chamberlainism to his lack of English blood as his critics held; they were in fact national policies dictated by the necessities of the times. To the casual student of the development of Imperial relations for the decade following 1896, it might seem that the Liberal conception of an Empire evolving steadily into a league of free nations was only saved from destruction by the fortunate circumstance that Sir Wilfrid Laurier was during those years the representative of Canada at successive Imperial conferences; but this would be, perhaps, to put his services too high. Canada’s public men have never failed her in the critical times in her history when attempts were made through ignorance or design to turn her aside from the high road to national sovereignty; as witness Gait in 1859, Blake in his long duel with Lord Carnarvon, Sir John A. Macdonald in 1885, when he resisted the premature demand for a Canadian contingent for service in the Soudan, Tupper in the early nineties when his vigorous resistance to the proposal that Canada should pay tribute for protection had something to do with the demise of the Imperial Federation League. Any man fit to be premier of Canada would have taken pretty much the position that Sir Wilfrid did. This does not in the least detract from the credit due Laurier. The task was his and he discharged it with tact, ability, patience and courage. For his services in holding their future open for them every British Dominion owes the memory of Laurier a statue in its parliament square.
There have been prime ministers of Canada casually thrown up by the tide of events and as casually re-engulfed; but Wilfrid Laurier was not one of them. There may have been something accidental in his rise to leadership, but his capture of the premiership was a solid political achievement. The victory of June 23, 1896, crowned with triumph the daring strategy of the campaign. But popular opinion regarded the victory as a gift of the gods. The wheel of fortune spinning from the hands of fate had thrown into the high office of the premiership one about