Keeping Them in Line

H. F. Gadsby February 1 1917

Keeping Them in Line

H. F. Gadsby February 1 1917

Keeping Them in Line

H. F. Gadsby

Il ho arate “Proches and Lemons,” “Conserving the Conservatives,” etc.

WE ARE all democrats because we are aristocrats at heart. We support the rule of the many because we hope to be of the few who do the ruling. Having uttered these two trite paradoxes of democracy we can now pass on to cabinet control.

We believe

in responsible government by, for, and of the people because the people have very little to do with it. We elect a Parliament of two hundre d and twenty mem-' bers, knowing well that fifteen men on one side will do all the executive work, and that the same number o f clear thinkers on the other will do all the criticizing. This brings the re-, sponsible government of eight mil1 i o n people down to a matter of thirty men, fifteen of whom are in office and fifteen not. The fifteen men who are in office are the Cabinet. The fifteen clear thinkers who are not in office would be the Cabinet if the Government changed hands. A seasoned Ottawa correspondent can always pick out the Opposition Cabinet a year before it is necessary. For instance, if Sir Wilfrid Laurier came into power to-morrow his Finance Minister would be—but that would be telling.

We have reduced responsible government for Canada to thirty men. but that minimum is reducible still further. For the purposes of this calculation you may now get rid of the fifteen clear thinkers in Opposition. They have no authority. All they can co is suggest ideas, inflame the public and harass the fifteen men in office who are doing the business. The outfit you need to keep your eye on is the fifteen mer who make up the Cabinet. Fifteen—courl ’em—fifteen, approximately one-fifteenth of the Parliament that was elected to govern a country as large as Western E arope, or, to make it more absurd still, three sixteen-hundred-thousandths of the sovereign people who are supposed to do the ruling.

Come again. A little more arithmetic.

The theory, as we have seen, is that all the people rule; the custom is that a Parliament of two hundred and twenty members is elected; the practice is that a committee of fifteen share the work and the actual fact is, if our democracy is run-

ning as smoothly as it should, that one man bosses the job. So that in the last analysis democracy gets back to the rule of one pian—the more or less benevolent despot of our dreams. We do not call that

man king, but for all practical purposes he is one. He is a king with a difference. We can put him in and we can take him out. The king can do no wrong. At least he can’t go farther wrong than five years. We can always chase him at the next general election if he doe9. In that lies our democracy.

This One Man of ours is not a king by name, but he must be one by nature. He must command the respect and obedience of his followers. If he can command their love so much the better, but if he^ can’t there are ways of getting along without it. He must above all command the respect and obedience of his inner privy council, being at all times able to say to one go and he goeth, and to another come and he cometh; and no back talk from either. The tradition is that when a new prehtier takes office he has the signed resignations of all his cabinet ministers in his pocket, so that he can cash in, so to speak, on any or all of them as need arises, but I have always doubted that pretty tale. I cannot imagine a reason-

able man providing a sword to hang over his own head, and I cannot imagine a strong man asking him to do so.

I prefer to believe that our One Man has the lion-taming eye, the winning smile, or whatever he does it with, and

that he is Master of the Administration on his merits. I could almost swear that he doesn’t blackmail his colleagues with their own signed docum e n t s for two reasons —because he hasn’t the documents to do it with and because h e would d o it oftener if he had. I say this, in the full assurance that in politics you may ascribe the lowest motives t o anybody and be perfectly right in your surmise.

As a demo-

c r a c y we must all be glad to feel

that Cabinet ministers do not resign for mere scraps of paper previously signed, but under duress from the big boss who /knows when it is time for them to get out Resignations are all of that kind in Canh-

dian cabinets—resignations at the toe of, the boot, as it were. They call it resignation, but often enough the victims are far from being resigned. Some go so far as to seek and wreak revenge—but more of that anon. Resignation—let it go at that. By any other name it would smell as sweet.

This power of kicking his subordinates out, which a strong premier exercises freely, is what is known as cabinet control. I am aware that the public are often agitated over another kind of cabinet control—cabinet control over the rank and file of the predominant party in the House of Commons, but this kind of control is too bald and uninteresting to follow up here. It will always exist so long as the people send to Parliament that ordinary basswood, the average member. The average member is a sheep. He follows the bellwether. There are, as I said before, about thirty conspicuous thinkers and debaters in the House of Commons and they are the bell-wethers for the rest. The cabinet is, of course, the bell-wether group for

the party in power so that cabinet control of that sort is about as easy as breathing.

IN MY seventeen years’ experience in the Press Gallery at Ottawa I have only been present once when cabinet control failed to work its charm on the average member. Some ten years ago I saw the Ontario Liberals hesitate when Sir Wilfrid Laurier injected, separate schools into the Autonomy Bills, but they all came to heel when the division bell rang. At the last session of Parliament I thought I saw signs of rebellion in the average member when it came to voting on the Quebec and Saguinay railway, but it was only imagination. When the whip cracked the average member swallowed his scruples in a gulp, stood up when the Clerk called for “ayes,” and put it across like a little man.

Later on in the session I had the pleasure of seeing the average member assert his independence of cabinet control and insist on an inquiry into the Kyte charges which the Government was not anxious to grant. And that time the average member got away ^gth it. O happy day! But he had been working up to it for seventeen years, and may not spring it again for another seventeen. One forebodes that it was only an accident and that it will not become a habit until the average member increases his average by having a mind capable of doing its own thinking. Perhaps some day the Canadian voter will pick out men like that. Meanwhile cabinet control of the average member goes without saying. If the average member, by any chance, shows a gleam of intelligence, which would make him uncontrollable by the cabinet he is made a chairman of a committee or otherwise absorbed into a responsible position where he is little brother to the con-

trolling influences. Not to go more than three thousand miles away for an illustration look at R. B. Bennett.

Cabinet control of the garden variety, cabinet control, that is to say, of the House of Commons, or speaking more broadly, party control by the party leaders in Parliament, is an understood thing and not worth mentioning. But cabinet control of the cabinet by the man at the top is picturesque, complicated, often stormy and always full of human interest. A cabinet is a microcosm of man’s passions — ambition, jealousy, hatred, revenge, treachery, ingratitude, all the black rout. Sometimes love enters in, but notoften enough to attract attention.

A cabinet is witches’ broth, and the more it is stirred the worse it smells. The cabinet that can control itself, even in this Christian age and country, is a marvel. Greater than he that taketh a city is the cabinet that conquereth its own heart. What does Lloyd George say to that, or Lord Nor-thcliffe, or Sir Edward Carson, or Lord Curzon, or. any of the outstanding figures in the Mother of Parliaments? Cabinets must have their quarrels and politicians play their little game, though the world crack and heaven fall. That Ex-Premier Asquith should have driven his wUd horses for seven years—five years of cwil discord and two of Armageddon thunder—that he should have done this wonderful thing shows him a?cabinet controller of whom history will be proud.

No matter what form democracy takes — republic, autonomous dependency, constitutional monarchy—the head man must have control or friction develops. Too many premiers spoil the game. To state it in terms of baseball, the pitcher is the star player and the rest of the team figures as his support. The pitcher must have plenty of time for his

wind-up. He must at liberty to rei-se the catcher’s 9igns if he will and act according to his own judgment. Sometimes he puts a good one over, cuts the very centre of the plate, and fools* the enemy that way. Anon he slips one round the corner or drops one under the bat, or sends up a floater or otherwise deceives his adversary. I need not expand the political analogies. Tne reader will trace them out for himself. The point 1 am making is that the premier is the pitcher; and the pitcher must have control or all his good intentions go for naught. Even at that the pitcher can still lose the game if his support boots it away.

How about cabinet control in Canada? Well, time was when there was no. such thing. Control was the last thing a cabinet wanted! It thrived on lack ofcontrol. The more rage it displayed the better it seemed to 9uit a peevish electorate which had a habit of burning Parliament Buildings

and stoning governor-generals when

things did not go to their liking. That was the dim, crepuscular - period before Confederation when ancient night struggled with the dawn of hope and there was hell to pay generally. They called it the Union of Upper and Lower Canadá. The Union ! God save the mark! It was more like a rugby scrimmage—everybody homing in—and those who went down got their faces kicked off!

In those day9 cabinets did not aim to harmonize. They stood better with their constituents if they gouged each other’s eyes out. The voters were fierce too. They had open ballot, cheap whiskey and free fights and many a cracked head went with the independent exercise of the franchise. Every Government had an AttorneyGeneral east and an Attorney-General west, whose chief object in life was not to get along together—and they invariably'attained their object. Each successive government had two premiers and a double name and tried to lead a double life under one roof, which is one of the things^ that cannot be done. Deadlock got the' best of them at last. It was this bloody welter that produced the Fathers of Confederation. They were giants. They had to be to survive that hard school.

' 11 HE MOST conspicuous of the Fathers was Sir John A. Macdonald. His Ijf® is the history of Canada—the dark, the dawn, the bright morning. He was born into chaos and he did not like it. Although he was in many of the hyphenated, inharmonious cabinets between 1854 and 1867, he never learned to love that Janusfaced misery. Sir John wa9 a hard fight-

er—none harder—but he hated bickering. He dwelt in the midst of alarms. He never went tjo bed without feeling that he might have to get up and answer an alarm before morning. The first thing he asked when, he heard the fire bell ring was, “Who’9 been fired?” That was the hold a cabinet minister had on l^is job in those dear dead days now happily beyond recall. What Sir John saw in those faroff twilight struggles determined him on one point—when he had a cabinet of his own he would have control.

But it was a long way to Tipperary. Many a year passed before Sir John was in sight of his desire. Heaven only knows how many cabinets of the double-headed, tooth-and-nail, bite-and-scratch sort he was in prior to Confederation, and nothing is to be gained by naming them here —but three blessings he got out of them — training, experience, increased prestige. Cabinets might come and cabinets might go, but John Alexander Macdonald seemed to go on forever. To the voter he loomed up as the one constant figure. Just before the coalition cabinet was fbrmed which carried Confederation there were two general elections and four ministers were defeated, but John A. Macdonald was in all of them. Canada couldn’t lose John A. He had his hooks in. He had learned to hang on.

INCIDENTALLY those years of storm

and stress developed his method of cabinet control. Let me say right here that his method was the direct antithesis of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s. The difference will explain itself as this article proceeds. The difference is two-fold-^of the man and of tne manner. I got n>y first inkling of it many years ago when Sir John received his LL.D. degree, honoris causa, at the hands of Toronto University. We ware givi lg him a student’s welcome in Convocation Hall—“He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and that sort of thing you know. And he was a jolly good fellow—that was the truth -of t. The students felt it in their bones, as many other men had felt it, that the little man with the great dome of a head and the nose beloved of the cartoonists and the ready smile was bon camarade to mankind in general. When I studied his career later on I came to the conclusion that that was half of his success—his geniality. He was the original Sunny Jim.

By the same token he was also the original cabinet controller and his method was just that—rplenty of sunshine. He smiled as he made them walk the plank. It was not until 1864 that Sir John got a cabiet together of which he was the titular head, but he had been the actual head of many cabinets before that. In fact he was the thread of common sense and equable temper that ran through most of them.

The first t<st of his method occurred in 1856 when it fell to him to ease Sir Allan McNab out of his place m the McNab-Morin government. An yon ».who has ever gazed on the portrait of Sir Allan in the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa will realize v^hat a truculent old gentleman he was. One sees there a fine old tawny countenance, a nose to threaten and command, but somewhat fat at the end, the prominent George the Third eye, sidewhiskers, short but bristling, a double chin.

and a checkered waistcoat of many colors. The whole picture seems to say “Demme, sir l” One needs no historian to tell that Sir Allan was a Tory squire of the oldest school and the purplest sort and that in 1856 he had the gout and a violent témper.

Sir John no doubt regarded him, as Lord Northcliffe might to-day, “as an “aged and inept mediocrity,” but he never told him so. No doubt also Sir John realized that Sir Allan and his kind would have to be got out of the way if the new party which he had in mind, consisting of moderate Reformers and reasonable Conservatives,, was to succeed; but he never said as milch to Sir Allan’s face. Instead he smiled and smiled, warmed the old man’s vanity with his kind words and when the time came to bump him off the old man took it like a lamb. People who knew’ Sir Allan McNab as he was in his palmy days could hardly believe that he had quit the job without first working himself into an apoplexy thrpugh rage. But so it was. Writing about it afterwards Sir John could say, “He is very reasonable and requires only that in his sere and yellow leaf we should not offer him the indignity of casting him aside.” Well, Sir John didn’t cast him aside exactly, but he let him out, which sounds better and amounts to the same thing.

THE NEXT human obstacle Sir John had to exercise his charm on was George Brown, who was a member of the coalition government which carried Confederation. * George Brown was by disposition the Scotch thistle crossed with the American cactus and the fretful porcupine. He had one of those minds which needs something to.gpt mad about or the owner is not happy. His love for a grievance was almost Irish. He defied people to take his grievance away from him and when they did he immediately snatched up another. George Brown was a great man. He loved his country, but he did not love John Alexander Macdonald. In fact he hated him up and down, clear across and through the middle. He hated Mac-

donald because—well, because Brown was Brown and Macdonald was Macdonald and the former couldn’t see how* the latter could be earnest about great matters and not carry a long face with it.

Still George Brown was patriot enough to sink his hatred for the time being, dine with his enemy in public places, play euchre with him while crossing the Atlantic, and go into society in England with him—all to advance the great causé of Confederation which he had at heart. And yet on the day after Brown resigned the two men resumed their old positions. Brown never spoke to Macdonald again and kept on hammering hin> in the Globe newspaper as before the truce. All of wnich goes to show tiat George Brown was a good long-distance hater. Brown remained in the coalit, on cabinet for one year—just long enough to do the job— and then he quit cold. He couldn’t stand Sir John’s sunshine any longer. It made him gag. It interferid with his meals. Confound that fellow Macdonald and his hair-trigger smile! Wo lldn’t he ever quarrel about anything? H i wouldn’t. Whereupon George Brown resigned and felt much better ever afti rwards. He , kept his grudge, but it was in great danger for a while of being mel;ed by Sir John’s su^ny temper. -

T N HIS first cabinet after Confederation Sir John had some big men, but not so big that they were above quarrelling. To paraphrase the famous Mr. Fitzsimmons, the bigger they are the sorer they can get, and Sir John soon found out that such was the case. For example, Cartier was miffed because he hadn’t .been made a knight; .McDougall because his Liberal friends weren’t getting their -share of the Government jobs, and Galt because he thought he wa9 too big to play second fiddle. Sir John smoothed Cartier out by getting him a baronetcy; placated McDougall by giving him his bit and let

Galt go. It is not on record that Galt and Macdonpld parted other than as friends. Indeed, Sir John’s smile did a lot to light Sir Alexander on his way.

Joseph Howe was a hard man to handle, but Sir John put it over him with his bright smile and his gentle diplomacy. Joseph Howe was the local great man of Nova Scotia. As Nova Scotia s favorite ¿on he had a spoiled child’s faults. For instance, he wanted to be the centre of attention. He didn’t like to share Hie playthings. He was in favor of Confederation for Novà Scotia but, when he came back from a trip to England ánd found that Dr.

Charles Tupper had grabbed his crusade in the meantime,

Joseph sulked. He was a great man, as I said before, but he had a peacock streak in him— he liked the whole terrace to himself. There wasn’t room for Joseph Howe and Charles Tupper to spread their tails at the same time. At least that was the way Joseph Howe figured it out and on that line of reasoning he opposed Confederation.

He opposed it until he came under Sir John’s spell and then he ceased to oppose it because the spirit and the bride said .orne and his own conscience told him that Confederation was right. Thus did Joseph Howe become right and at the same time cabinet minister in Sn lohn Macdonald’s governr~ment Whereat there wa9 considerable jeering in Nova Scotia which was not lessened when Howe subsequently resigned to take a position of emolument under the Crown.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave and, when Joseph Howe was smigly interred in a government job, there is reason to believe that Sir John went on smiling.

The sunshine of Sir John’s smile also melted Charles Tupper out of his road. Hero was a man who might cause him trouble, a robustious riva! who might easily'throw him out if he remained in the cabinet, a rival, however, who had done good work in bringing Nova Scotia into Confederation.

Good work! It was more than that. It »as Stone Age, Cave Man work. Sir Charles had dragged Nova Scotia in by the hair of her head. He was worth keeping an eye on; Sir John having no fancy to be subject to that sort of treatment himself. So, when Dr. Tupper got it into his head that destiny called him to England with a view to founding afamily of Tuppers who would in due time ornament the 'British peerage. Sir John did his best to help the bright idea along. Sir Charles became High Commissioner at London and left Sir John and Canada in peace for many long years to come. In fact Sir John war in his grave and beyond reach of harm when his old rival came back. S.O.S. signals having been sent out bj son Hibbert, Foster and others.

Tiña stormy spirit, summoned across the vasty deep, made a wonderful campaign for the Conservatives. Calling

to his assistance Hugh John Macdonald, his father’s son, with his father’s nose, and a bust of Sir John garnished on occasion with the famous red necktie, Sir Charles stumped Canada from one end to another. Seventy-four years old he might be but he showed that he was as young as his courage, just as Sir John Macdonald did when he made his last fight at the age of seventy-five and as Sir Wilfrid Laurier probably will at the same age when he leads hi9 "party at the next general election. Sir Charles, as a rule.

delivered a couple of two-hour speeches' every lawful day, ate like a hired man and slept like a child. He had great staying power. Once I saw him talk the East wind down at a political picnic, and again a howling mob at Massey Hall who ob-, iected to the overwhelmingness of his Ego. “I,” “I,” they shouted for three hours, but the old man kept right on. He made his speech ,to the reporters and it got into the newspapers, which was the main thihg. After it was all over and the Conservative party was combing the mud out of its hair it was agreed that Sir Charles’ campaign was a marvelous performance and that Sir John Macdonald must have been an even greater man than was supposed for having rubbed Tupper out so easily. Talk about endurance ! Sir Charles lived twenty years after that— dying at last, aged ninety-four. What he did in 1896 was merely for exercise.

A FTER Sir John Macdonald died there **was a period of quiet decay during which Sir John Abbot and Sir John Thompson seem to have had fairly good control and fairly poor cabinets. To them succeeded Sir Mackenzie Bowell, who had no control at all, and a cabinet that was more like an oven. Sir Mackenzie himself called it a nest of traitqrs, but he may have been overdrawing it. A great deal of it was his own fault. Sir Mackenzie was too amiable for that period of unrest. However, he had a happy issue out of all his troubles. He wa9 edged out by his colleague? about April, 1896, and some, three months later the party went out with him. Sir Mackenzie is no Samson, but he certainly brought down the pillars. Once clear of the debris Sir M&ckénzie has lived on carefree until now he is ninety-three years of age and bid9 fair to beat the Senatorial record for longevity which Senator Wark left at one hundred and one. May Sir Mackenzie live forever. There is no reason why he shouldn’t now that guarding the powder magazine is another man’s job.

SIR WILFRID LAURIER came into power in 1896. and in the course of fifteen years assisted five cabinet ministers out of'office—an average of one every three years. Sir Wilfrid’s admirers speak of his sunny ways, but these sunny ways are not the ways of Sir John Macdonald. Sir Wilfrid’s cordiality is of the brain. Sir John’s was of the heart. Sir Wilfrid is an intellectual with political affiliations. Sir John was a politician with human attachment^ Sir Wilfrid has dignity, wins by grace of manner and charm of presence, but is no mingler. Sir John cared nothing for dignity, slapped men on the backs and called them by their first names—in short was a mixer. When Sir John was obliged to get rid of a cabinet minister he led him to the door with a smile and shook hands at parting. When Sir Wilfrid let a cabinet minister out he let him out—and that was all theré was to it. He did not wave the parting guest good-bye or blow him a kiss.

Sir Wifrid was always master in his own house. He started that way and kept it up. There came a time, however, when he had to assert his authority. His time of testing, as the Globe would call it. was from 1902 to 1907. During this period five cabinet ministers passed out—three for trying conclusions with the master and two for minor offences. After 1907 there was peace — peace and, as some people said, a fatal sleep. At all events there was no disturbance until the great catastrophe in 1911.

Mr. J. Israel Tarte was, as I recollect, the first to get gay. It was in 1902, when Sir Wilfrid was absent on a visit to England, that Mr. Tarte invaded Ontario and with his hand on his heart told the people what a fine thing protection was. Mr.

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Tarte spoke at many picnics, blossomed with the flowers of summer and ended, alas, with them. He was a great hand at sentiment, touching the human chord and all that kort of thing. He spoke of the National ! Policy in a way to bring tears to the eyés. It certainly did to mine. An onion could not have done more. I gathered that he had a brief from the manufacturers and that his object was to make high tariff stir us like a trumpet or a

noble passage from the poets. It was * some job and Mr. Tarte had not finished it when Sir Wilfrid got back home. Biff! After that it was silence.

Silence till 1904, when the Hon. A. G. Blair contracted the opinion that, as Minister of Railways, he ought to be told more about the railway policy of the Government than he was being allowed to hear at that moment. Mr. Blair threatened to resign and waä taken at his word. Mr. Blair was accustomed to swinging New Brunswick by the tail and he had made the mistake of thinking that he could do the same thing with Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Mr. Blair broke out in another spot later on, talked of ' revelations, but failed when it came to a show down. There is an old story that it was J. Weslev Allison, of fuse contract fame, who came forward with the fatal knowledge that put the clamps on Mr. Blair.

T N 1905 the Hon. Clifford Sifton had a *■ difference of opinion with Sir Wilfred Laurier over separate school clauses of the Autonomy Bill. He went away for a rest and to think it over. When he came back he found that the clauses had been slipped in. He blamed Sir Charles Fitzpatrick for it and Sir Wilfrid took up the chal| lenge. Mr. Sifton resigned. The current gossip was that he was looking just at that time for a soft spot to fall on, but that did not prevent people with sharp | ears hearing him hit every step as he went ! down. For this little incident Mr. Sifton naturally cherished revenge and, when his chance came in 1911 to organize his vendetta, he did it with great skill. He paid special attention to the Laurier cabinet ministers, most of whom were defeated by his cléver tactics. It took Sir Clifford j six years to get even, but he made a fairly 1 good job of it.

After "Mr. Hyman passed out in 1905 i and Mr. Emmerson in 1907, Sir Wilfrid had no more trouble in that direction. He was monarch of all he surveyed, and his right there was none to dispute until the reciprocity election came along and took his monarchy, but not his absolute leadership, away. Sir Wilfrid is still the master of his own party and when his ; party wants him to be anything less they can get another leader. In short, Sir Wilfrid is in good practice for cabinet ¡ control if ever again he has a cabinet to control.

CIR ROBERT BORDEN’S feat of der^ ring-do in asking for Sir Sam’s resignation is almost too recent for comment. ; The facts are not all known yet. Sir Robert can be stern enough when he pleases—he has excommunicated members of Parliament before now—but he has a reputation for long suffering on which some persons might presume. One never'*saw Premier Borden and Sir Sam together without thinking of that old wheeze about the immovable body and the irresistible force. What would happen if the irresistible force met the immovable j body? Well, my guess is that at the end, say, of two years, the immovable body would get tired of the irresistible force and just roll over and crush him.

EDITOR’S Note.—In an early issue Mr. Gadsby will deal with the control of policies; how party policies are formed or changed and the part that premiers and cabinet ministers have borne in recent political developments.