Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 92 pages of information about Laurier.
general interests of the public, or even the cause of the war, than a purely Liberal government, of which he would be the head, probably struck him as presumptuous.  Three days before Sir Robert Borden made his announcement of an intention to introduce conscription, Sir Wilfrid, anticipating the announcement, wrote to Sir Allan Aylesworth his unalterable opposition to the policy.  This being the case, there never was a chance that Laurier would entertain Borden’s offer to join him in a national government.


Sir Wilfrid, rejecting Borden’s offer, adhered to his plan of an election on party lines; but he knew that conditions had been powerfully affected by these developments.  His position in Quebec was now secure and unchallenged—­even Bourassa, recognizing the logic of the situation, commended Laurier’s leadership to his followers.  If he could hold his following in the English provinces substantially intact the result was beyond question.  He set himself resolutely to the task.  Thereafter the situation developed with all the inevitableness of a Greek tragedy to the final catastrophe.  Sir Wilfrid surveyed the field with the wisdom and experience of the veteran commander, and from the disposition of his forces and the lay of the land he foresaw victory.  But he overlooked the imponderables.  Forces were abroad which he did not understand and which, when he met them, he could not control.  He counted upon the strength of party feeling, upon his extraordinary position of moral authority in the party, upon his personal hold upon thousands of influential Liberals in every section of Canada, upon the lure of a victory which seemed inevitable, upon the widespread and justified resentment among the Liberals against the government for things done and undone to keep the party intact through the ardors of an election.  One thing he would not do; he would not deviate by an inch from the course he had marked out.  Repeated and unavailing efforts were made to find some formula by which a disruption of the party might be avoided.  One such proposition was that the life of the parliament should be extended.  This would enable the government, with its majority and the support it would get from conscriptionist Liberals, to carry out its programme accepting full responsibility therefor.  Sir Wilfrid rejected this; an election there must be.  This was probably the only expedient which held any prospects of avoiding party disruption; but after its rejection Liberals in disagreement with Laurier still sought for an accommodation.  There was a continuous conference going on for weeks in which all manner of suggestions were made.  They all broke down before Laurier’s courteous but unyielding firmness.  There was the suggestion that the Liberals should accept the second reading of the Military Service Act and then on the third reading demand a referendum; rejected on the ground that this would imply a conditional

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