Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 77 pages of information about Laurier.
met a notable defeat at the hands of Bourassa—­an incident which clearly revealed how the winds were blowing.  Bourassa, fanatically “nationalist” in his convictions and free from any political necessity to consider the reactions elsewhere of his doctrines, was outbidding Sir Wilfrid in the latter’s own field.  Laurier received the news of the electoral result in a hall in Quebec East, surrounded by the electors of the constituency which had been faithful to him for 40 years.  He accepted the blow with the tranquil fortitude which was his most notable personal characteristic; but the feature in the disaster which must have made the greatest demand upon his stoicism was this indication that his old surbordinate and one time friend was—­apparently—­about to supplant him in the leadership of his own people.  The election figures showed that whereas Laurier had carried 49 seats in Quebec in 1896, 58 in 1900, 54 in 1904 and again in 1908, he had been successful in only 38 constituencies against 27 for the Conservatives and Nationalists combined.  Laurier, at the moment of his defeat, was within two months of entering upon his 70th year.  He had been 40 years in public life; for 24 years leader of his party; for 15 years prime minister.  He had had a long and distinguished career; and he had gone out of office upon an issue which, with confidence, he counted upon time to vindicate.  He had long cherished a purpose to write a history of his times.  The moment was, therefore, opportune for retirement; and it must be assumed that he gave some thought to the advisability or otherwise of living up to his St. Jerome pledge.  But neither his own inclination nor the desire of his followers pointed to retirement; and the next session of parliament found him in the seat he had occupied twenty years before as leader of the opposition.  The party demand for his continuance in the leadership was virtually unanimous.  There was only one possible successor to Sir Wilfrid—­Mr. Fielding.  But he was not in parliament.  Also he was in disfavour as the general whose defensive plan of campaign had ended in disaster.  His name suggested “Reciprocity”—­a word the Liberals were quite willing, for the time being, to forget.  He was left to lie where he had fallen.  For some years he lived in political obscurity, and it was only the emergence of the Unionist movement which made possible his re-entrance to public life and his later career.

THE REVIVAL OF LIBERAL HOPES

When Sir Wilfrid resumed the leadership after the formality of tendering his resignation to the party caucus it meant, in fact, that he intended to die in the saddle.  Thereafter Sir Wilfrid talked much about the inexpediency of continuing in the leadership, and often used language foreshadowing his resignation—­indeed the letters quoted by Professor Skelton in the latter chapters of his book abound in these intimations—­but these came to be regarded by those in the know as portents:  implying an intention to insist upon policies to which objections were likely to develop within the party.

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Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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