Hon. Lomer Gouin, Prime Minister of Quebec, is an Able Lawyer, a Shrewd Political Fighter and Executive Officer—Possessed of a Judicial Mind, the Statesman, Who Has Just Been Re-elected to the Highest Office in the Gift of His Province, is a Born Leader of Men.
C. D. Cliffe
"THE last gun in defence of the British flag in Canada will be fired by a French-Canadian."
So spoke the illustrious French-Canadian statesman, Sir Etienne Tache many years ago. Never were the words in spirit more true than to-day, and never had the King more loyal and happy subjects than his French-Canadians in Quebec. This is all applicable to the occasion of the Tercentenary celebration, this month in the cradle of Canadian civilization, Quebec City, and serves to introduce the Hon. Lomer Gouin (pronounced Goo-ah, and said quickly), who was re-elected Premier of the Province of Quebec on June 8th, and will be prom-
inently in the world’s eye during the ceremonies at the Ancient Capital. Next to the Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr. Gouin will be recognized as first citizen on this occasion, while as a constructive statesman he stands second to none in the Dominion.
At this 300th celebration of the founding of Quebec by Samuel de Champlain and practically the founding of Canada, the Prince of Wales, heir to the British Crown, will be present, escorted by warships of Great Britain, France, the United States and other countries. Surrounded by many thousands he will witness the view of the allegorical representations of three centuries
of Canadian history, of the discovery of the coureurs des bois, the missionary, the explorer, the founders of the cities, the devoted women of the past. To commemorate this great event, he will inaugurate the great Canadian National Park, comprising the historic battlefields of the Plains of Abraham and Ste. Foye, where France lost and Britain won half a continent. The parkwill be dedicated to the honor and glory of both armies of which each won a battle there. This park will serve as a memento of the union of the French and English races in North America for the advancement and prosperity of the country to which they now belong. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Hon. Lomer Gouin and hundreds of other distinguished French-Canadians have contributed to this great result ; they have by their policy and example assisted by capable ministers and a loyal people, solved in America one of the problems which divided Europe for generations. It so happened that these three hundred years were almost equally divided between English and French rule. The story of the French rule would take columns to tell, and is one of notable adventure, hardihood, devotion and romance, and as was recently said by a distinguished French-Canadian, embalming on the scroll of history, achievements which are surpassed by no other country in the world. It has been further said by men who know that if Britain had not captured Canada, and it had remained a French possession, Napoleon would have sold it over to the United States as he did Louisiana. Too much cannot be said by way of explanation in favor of making sectional and prejudiced people better understand French-Canadians and the Province of Quebec. One must know the splendid French-Canadian races to appreciate them fully, and in briefly describing Mr. Gouin, who is a fine type, it is hoped that Ontario especially will be able to come closer to the proper amity and appreciation of these sterling people. First of all, they are great readers. Their papers have wider circulation than any English papers in Canada. They are great artists, and have the blood of the artists of old France coursing in their veins; they are all fond of their homes and love their children. This quality alone will make Quebec one day one of the greatest parts of the Empire. The Quebec under the present Government is not the Quebec of years ago.
This is the day of progress and liberty, and with Mr. Gouin s excellent policy of education and encouragement of commerce and farming the possibilities are almost unlimited. It has been duly credited to Mr. Gouin and his Ministry that he has constructed a new Quebec, and he will go down to history as the best constructive statesman the Province has ever seen. Political pedants and demagogic Castors were unable to traduce the record of the Premier, and he is to-day entrenched stronger and better in the dignified will of the new Quebec than ever before. An explanation of the word “Castor" is necessary, so that the last election may be understood. The Castor party is a kind of a third party. The word means Beaver, and is nsec! to represent the views of a group of sectionalists whose ideal is a religious thocracy bounded by the FrenchCanadian race, a group whose easy appeal to race prejudice is their chief strength, seeing that the people are in no way enamored of ecclesiastical guidance in civil affairs.
In this election Mr. Gouin and his Ministers practically crushed the Castors, as well as the Opposition.
An able lawyer, a skilful politician, and, above all, an honest man, the present Premier’s service to his people had been practically heroic. Augustus Caesar said of Rome : “I came to a city of mud and gave you a city of marble.’’ So Mr. Gouin came to the Province when the laws and legislation were of the non-progressive type ; party and religious strife were dominant; education was being neglected ; the great natural resources of the Province were lying undeveloped, and her loyal people were fleeing to the factories of the New England States.
To-day the very antithesis is the case. Progress and prosperity mark the whole domain; repatriation of the U. S. Canadians has occurred in thousands ; special appropriations of money for education and school buildings have been made every year, and technical and commercial schools have received Government support and encouragement while better teachers have been employed for country schools, and every possible effort has been made for settlers to take up land, thus completing a record difficult to surpass by any party or by any men. To Mr. Gouin and he alone much of this is due. He has made the Quebec Parlia-
ment the home of dignity and system. Bills are thoroughly discussed to-day before passing, and new tone and despatch marks every session of the House.
He was born in 1861 at Grondines, near Quebec, educated in Sorel and Levis and at Laval University, where he graduated B.C.L. and was called to the Bar in 1884. He practised his profession with Mr. S. Pagneulo. now judge of the Superior Court, then with L. O. Taillon, afterwards Premier of the Province, and with the late Hon. Raymond Prefontaine. He was next part-
ner of the late Honore Mercier, ex-Premier of Quebec, and is now law partner of Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux. As a lawyer he occupies an eminent position and has been engaged on some of the most important cases in the Province. He began his political career in 1891, when he was defeated by Sir Hector Langevin by a small majority.
In 1897 he was elected to the Legislature from the St. James division of Alontreal and has held it ever since. In 1901 he became Alinister of Colonization and Public Works, and retained that portfolio until
1905, when he resigned. Last year he was called upon to form a Cabinet, and in the new Administration he was sworn in as Prime Minister and Attorney-General.
It is characteristic of great men that they always secure good men about them as assistants, and Mr. Gouin has selected a brainy Cabinet. Personally, he would have made a success of whatever he might have undertaken. It so happened that he turned to law. He has been singularly successful in an advisory capacity, while his personal magnetism and physical power made him a formidable counsel on heavy trials by jury. Wise men nowadays try to keep out of the court. They know that in a lawsuit both sides lose, and also that a bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit. Mr. Gouin is possessed of a judicial mind and sees keenly both sides of a question regardless of its size, and his sense of justice and British fair play to his bitterest opponents have won for him the greatest praise. Race and creed prejudice have never entered his platform. He never sat on the treasury box of favors and asked whether Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, when favors were to be given. His question was worth first.
From his earliest career as a lawyer, the man had presence, persistence, courage and that rapid, ready intellect which commands respect with judge, jury and Opposition. Always an aggressive debater, he was easily a leader in his profession. He said himself one time that public speaking opens up the mental pores as no other form of intellectual exercise does. It inspires, stimulates and calls out the reserves.
The Premier is a sound, direct, practical thinker on economic questions, and has perfect command of both French and English. Still about him is that mysterious gift which is inexplicable, namely, he is a born leader. Like all the great men he is courteous and easy of approach, and the poorest man in Quebec gets a hearing and a fair chance always.
In his Government he has been unfortunate to some extent in having too one-sided a House, yet by good generalship he has kept his many followers loyal and steadfast. In this last election a brilliant fight was put up by Hon. Mr. Leblanc, leader of the Opposition, and to all of the fair tactics Mr. Gouin was most generous. He has always permitted the Opposition every chance to probe into any acts of the Government.
He has possibilities before him in Canada, having many plans for the advancement of the Province as yet not in force. Personally, he is brimming with enthusiasm and optimism, and it is no wonder that his followers believe in him for his influence is remarkable on everyone with whom he comes in contact.
Emerson says, “We are half expression,” and so it is interesting to read one of Mr. Gouin’s best political speeches made just before his election. It gives a first-rate idea of the political situation in the Province, and is given herewith, and this must be taken as not being voiced by the magazine, but just to show his ability in explaining the situation.
The main question before the electors, said Mr. Gouin, was whether they would maintain the present Government in power, or transfer the administration of Provincial affairs to a Cabinet of which Mr. Leblanc would be the leader. There was only one answer to that question which would be in conformity with public interest, and that was to support the present Government. Why? Because on the Conservative side was a party without cohesion, without principles, with a leader who only depended upon bitter criticism. On the other hand, was the Liberal party, united in action and ideas.
“Our policy has order for its base and progress for its object. Our means of action is confidence in democracy and faith without limit in the glorious destiny of our Province.”
He dwelt at length on the Opposition criticisms of the Government’s revenue and expenditure, referring with satisfaction to the fact that while the total expenditure exceeded the total revenue by $1,365,230 when the Liberals came into power, this deficit had been totally wiped out, and at the end of the present year there would be a surplus of one million dollars. Their opponents pretended that they had brought about this state of things by creating new taxes and to raising those already existing. This he emphatically denied, saying that his adversaries generally confounded two things : the rate of taxation and the revenue from taxes. That the revenue from taxation had increased was not surprising, because the Government had seen that all sums due it were paid, something which, he declared^ had never been done before 1897.
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