“The Little Grey Man!
” A Personal Sketch of Hon. W. S. Fielding
T. M. FRASER
THE world always reserves considerable admiration for the man who, in the language of the sporting fraternity, can “stage a come-back.” Spectacular performances of this nature are confined largely to pugilists and politicians. Pugilists can do it only up to a certain age; politicians, apparently, are qualified to do it up to almost any age. The most striking instance in Canadian politics of The Man Who Came Back is probably that of Hon. William Stevens Fielding, veteran of forty years in politics and captain of seventeen budget battles.
During that “interregnum” after the defeat of the Liberal party in 1911, following fifteen years of power— of which Mr. Fielding could well say, like Aeneas, “All of which I saw, and much of which I was”—the ex-Minister of Finance returned to his old journalistic love, in Montreal, broken politically and financially.
One wet, raw night two Montreal newspapermen, making their way home at a late hour, passed Mr. Fielding hurrying along on foot, wearing a not notably’ stylish rain-coat.
“Isn't that old man a tragedy,” said one to the other. “Thirty years in politics; Premier of Nova Scotia; Finance Minister of Laurier; runner-up for the Prime Ministership of Canada; and now—down and out!”
“This finishes Fielding,” was the general verdict, even of his friends, after the reciprocity debacle. And to-day, ten years later, well over the allotted span, he is by general consent the outstanding figure in the government of the day—many would agree, in parliament. Not apprecably less keen or vigorous than when he delivered his first budget twenty-six years ago, he is, as this is written, öusily engaged defending the more contentious items of «is seventeenth.
lir. Fielding’s boyhood ended and his working-life •egan when, at the age of fourteen, he entered the employ of the Morning Chronicle, in Halifax. Among those vhe had worked with him on the Chronicle there lived until a few years ago an old compositor who, when questioned about his former associate, always began with the •amt reminiscence:
“We always knew Fielding’s step on the stairs. He in♦ariably ran up.”
From the time he entered the newspaper as an appren«csä he was always running up, or endeavoring to do so. Se had his eye on that editorial chair which he afterwards ■attained. The then editor of the paper used to relate that one day he found on his desk a well-written article «n some subject of current interest in Nova Scotia. The thoughts expressed and the short, terse sentences struck tis fancy, and he made inquiries as to the writer. After going over the staff’s personnel, he found that the writer was the “boy,” young Fielding, who had not then attained even to the dignity of a reporter. He got his first atep then, and became a regular contributor. He kept on industriously running up, until he reached the editorial «hair, and made the Morning Chronicle easily the most Influential newspaper in the Maritime Provinces.
The greater part of his journalistic experience was gained on the Halifax Chronicle, where he began as an apprentice in 1864 and remained for twenty years, or until he became Premier of Nova Scotia. His career was «aarked by the same degree of intelligence and thorough«ess as afterwards distinguished him in politics. In many ••speets it resembled that of the present editor of the Toronto Globe. Both men left school at an early age. Cach acquired the command of a plain, terse, easy style through natural aptitude and the study of good models. 4hort, pithy sentences are the distinguishing feature of Mr. Fielding’s style. In looking over the files of the Morning Chronicle recently I happened upon an article of oss than half a column written by him. It contained twenty-six sentences, with a thought in each.
Young Fielding’s Scoop
ÖRE-EMINENT as an editorial writer, he was fully * equipped with that “sixth sense”—a nose for news. He was correspondent for a number of outside papers in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, and served them well. On one occasion, at least, he secured a very decided scoop.
On April 1, 1873, the steamer “Atlantic” was wrecked off Halifax harbor, and 562 out of 952 on board were drowned. As the story runs, Mr. Fielding seems to have encountered some of that luck a share of which all newspapermen hope for at some time in their career. He was making his way home at an early hour in the morning, when he met a man on horseback in a very excited condition, who told him he had just ridden in to report a terrible shipwreck. Young Fielding promptly proceeded to corral this source of a big story, sent word of the disaster to the proper quarters but first made sure
that it should be exclusive for his own papers. The story may be embroidered a little, but it used to be said in Halifax that he kept his man sequestrated until all fear was past that his story might leak out to the opposition.
Mr. Fielding was correspondent in Nova Scotia for the Toronto Globe. He always valued this connection very highly, and apparently still retains a very decided partiality for that paper. Old habits are hard to shake off. No doubt, when on the Chronicle he followed a common practice of newspapermen with “a string,” and made a carbon copy of his Chronicle stories for the Globe; and, even to this day, when he has any announcement of a general character to make, it goes to the Canadian Associated Press for all papers, but there is a special note also for the Globe alone.
That journalism was still his profession and politics merely his avocation was shown when after being temporarily retired from public life in 1911, by the action of ■the electors, he settled down to the editorial chair again in Montreal, at first on the Hera’d and Telegraph and ' subsequently on the Journal of Commerce. The severance of his connection with the Herald, Mr. Fielding explained in a statement published in the Herald and Telegraph of January 30, 1914. It was, in brief, that when he found the Telegraph was to be amalgamated with the Herald, with Sir Hugh Graham in practical control, he felt he ’ “could not have satisfactory connection with a journal controlled by him, not because of any personal difference between Sir Hugh and myself, but because our views of public affairs differed so widely.” He then became connected with the Journal of Commerce, where he remained until he entered the present government in 1921.
Entry Into Politics
THE circumstances connected with his entrance into politics he related last year at a little family party of the Liberals in the House of Commons, held to celebrate his fortieth anniversary as a politician. The occasion induced “reminiscing” on his part, and he recalled somp of the circumstances attending that far by-gone day. Nova Scotia was not then, as it soon afterwards became. almost a Liberal preserve. The brief regime of Alexander Mackenzie in federal politics had ended with disconcert -ing suddenness, Sir John A. was back in the saddle, and the Holmes-Thompson Conservative administration was established in Nova Scotia. Mr. Fielding had been for
some years editor of the Halifax Morning Chronicle, carrying on the traditions established by Hon. Joseph Howe and Hon. William Annand, who had preceded him in the editorial chair, which each had successively left to become First Minister of the province. The political
fight he waged in the columns of his paper marked him as likely to follow the same path as his predecessors, and it was the assaults of the Chronicle, particularly on the financial administration of the government, which led to its defeat in 1882.
There was a hope in the hearts of the Liberals that they might win one of the Halifax seats, but Mr. Fielding was not looked upon as the probable winner; nor was he actually elected. When the result was declared, the Liberal elected was a man named Foster. It was recognized, even by Foster himself, that it would be more advantageous to have Mr. Fielding in the House; and a recount was arranged. Mr. Fielding was counted into the House and Mr. Foster into a probate judgeship.
The future finance minister had apparently no expectation himself that he would be elected. He was not, like Cincinnatus, at the plough when the call came. He was, in fact, witnessing a ball game on the Common, without any expectation that he had been launched on a life-, long political career, when a friend strolled up and congratulated him. Since that day, over forty years ago, he has been, with one brief interval from 1911 to 1917, continuously in political life.
Becoming Premier Casually
IT HAS been true of Mr. Fielding from the beginning that, in his case, the office always sought the man; but there have been few instances in Canadian political history where promotion came so soon after the beginning of a political career. The new administration which he found himself supporting when he entered the Nova Scotia legislature in 1882 seems to have been somewhat taken by surprise at being elevated to the seats of the mighty, and quite unprepared for its triumph. The man selected to lead the government, apparently much against his own inclination, was W. T. Pipes, of Amherst, a young lawyer who later became father-in-law of E. N. Rhodes, speaker of the thirteenth parliament. Beyond those closely in touch with the situation, Mr. Fielding was mainly known as a very trenchant editorial writer, but he had quickly impressed himself on the House of Assembly. After two years as head of a government of which he and everyone else recognized that the editor of the Chronicle was the real leader, Mr. Pipes decided to resign. On his way back from Government House, where he had left his resignation with the Lieutenant-Governor, he dropped casually into the Chronicle office, where he found Fielding busy with a bundle of proofs, entirely unconscious of the mantle which was about to fall on his shoulders.
“Good morning, Mr. Premier,” he said, courteously, “have you any news for us this morning?”
“Yes,” replied Pipes, who seems to have had a sense of the dramatic. “I thought I would just drop in and tell you that I have left my resignation in the hands of the Lieutenant-G overnor. ’ ’
“Ah,” replied Fielding, “that is news, indeed. Would it be indiscreet on my part to ask if you have recommended a successor!?”
“I have,” replied Pipes, who seemed to be getting con-
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Continued from page 25
siderable enjoyment out of the situation.
“Perhaps,” said the editor, “I might risk the further indiscretion of asking whom it is to be?”
“I believe,” said Pipes, as he arose and took his departure, “if you look up the office bible and turn to 2 Samuel, Chapter 12, you might get a clue to it.” Fielding turned up the passage and read:
“And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man."
A Coat. Tail Tugger
THE fourteen years Mr. Fielding spent in the Nova Scotia government are now almost ancient history, the details of which need not be recalled here, although there are many interesting stories told regarding them. Power had come unexpectedly. The government following in the House was not strong, and^ there was an able opposition, led by the late A. C. Bell, afterwards representative of Pictou in the federal House and Senate. A Liberal scout, also named Bell, was sent out over the Province before the legislature met to look over the situation, and possibly secure the allegiance of certain doubtful ones among the new members who might be open to conviction.
Among those to be interviewed was an Acadian whom, for the sake of convenience, I shall call Adelard Lenoir. There was only one man by the name of Bell who connoted anything to him, and when ! the Halifax scout introduced himself hè was greeted warmly by Lenoir as his cherished leader. He was delicately made aware of his mistake, but was not at all
disconcerted; and when the situation was explained to him, intimated that any bell might sound as sweet in his ears providing the note were strong enough. Eventually he had to be taken into the government, without portfolio.
There he became a source of delight to the Opposition but of considerable embarrassment to the government, as he considered his function to be to arise and question his fellow-members of the administration on all sorts of subjects, some of which were of a delicate nature. It became Mr. Fielding’s duty to tug at the coat-tails of his associate when he began to encroach on dangerous ground. The watchful eye of the reporter of the opposition paper soon noted and remarked on this.
One day Hon. Mr. Lenoir arose to ask a question which he considered perfectly legitimate, as it concerned his own constituency, and immediately felt the familiar tug. Indignantly wrenching his coat-tails away, he exclaimed in a very pronounced stage-whisper:
“De Halifax Herat' she say dat Meester Fielding he always pull my coat-tail. Dere is no need to pull my coat-tail dees tam. I only wan’ to know who ees to be appoint’ de shereef of Richmon’ county.”
The difficulty with this member of the government was solved by translating him to the Legislative Council, or upper house.
Mr. Fielding displayed conspicuous ability in a field which was circumscribed : obtained the confidence of the people of Nova Scotia so firmly that his government was returned at each successive general election in 1886, 1890, and 1S94;
and when he retired to enter the federal field, he handed on this tradition of unbroken successes to the administration which succeeded his own. The Liberal party has now been in power in Nova Scotia continuously since 1882. The people of that province are said to be very intense political partisans. Reviewing the results of elections there, provincial and federal, during the past forty years, Mr. Fielding would probably be inclined to say that they are strenuous politicians, but the record does not strongly support the charge of intense partisanship. In the period named the province in federal elections has returned a Conservative majority three times; a Liberal majority four times; a Unionist majority once; and twice it has been equally divided between Liberals and Liberals and Conservatives. If, during the same period, the same electorate has unfailingly chosen a provincial administration of Liberal stripe, Mr. Fielding and his successors would probably ascribe it to peculiar virtues in the government of the province.
Called to Ottawa
MR. FIELDING’S translation to the wider field of federal politics came' directly as a consequence of the part he took in the Ottawa^C (invention in 1893; but his reputation as an able administrator, his acknowledged personal integrity, and his exceptional political gifts had paved the way for the reception he got at that convention. The speech which he made as well as the attractiveness of his personality, so impressed Laurier that when he came to select his cabinet he called Fielding as his first minister.
He arrived at Ottawa punctually. Punctuality' has always been a cardinal principle with him, and he likes it in others. It is related that before leaving Halifax he asked his secretary what time the train was due to leave the following morning.
“About eight,” said his secretary.
“At eight,” corrected the new Minister of Finance.
His translation to Ottawa was anóther instance of the office seeking the man. As he had entered the legislature to assume high office without political experience of any kind, so he entered federal politics to become Minister of Finance without having sat in the federal House.
It is now more than a quarter of a century since Mr. Fielding came to Ottawa. He was than less than fifty years of age, but not notably different in appearance from to-day. His hair and beard were already white; but his quick, nervous action and dynamic energy gave the lie to any suggestion of age. His energy still appears unabated. He hurries up the steps and along the corridors of the House as if still intent on arriving somewhere not “about” but “at” the very second he has assigned for himself.
Impartial Tribute of Applause
FORTY years in politics, seventeen hard-fought budgets to his credit; maker of treaties innumerable, seventyfour years behind him with probably not an hour consciously wasted, “panting time toils after him in váin.” The silver chord of his eloquence is not loosed, scarcely slackened; the golden shield of his integrity is as untarnished as when he took it up and went forth to political warfare almost half a century ago. There are a number of men still in public life in different parts of the British Empire who justifiably reckon the few budget speeches they have delivered as outstanding events in their career. It was not surprising that when this veteran of fifteen budgets arose to deliver his sixteenth last year he should have been greeted with applause from every quarter of the House and have been accorded equally impartial spoken tributes to his record, unique in political history.
A political commentator of twenty years ago gives an interesting picture of the budget speech of 1903, which he called “the most impressive ever delivered in this country.” This was the year when the retaliatory measures against Germany, which country had for five years before refused to make a new commercial treaty with Canada, were announced. The double-headed eagle was warned by the little Canadian bantam that, until such time as the policy of fiscal
“Schrecklichkeit” was changed, one-third more duty would be collected on German goods than on those from any other nation.
“Even the cables were interested,” says a contemporary writer, referring to the scene in the Press Gallery, "for a Canadian minister of the Crown was, for perhaps the first time, to breathe defiane® against a European nation.”
It was probably the first time, as well, that Germany realized that there had arisen a young and self-reliant people called Canadians—a knowledge which was to be borne in upon her long afterwards in even more bitter fashion.
Mr. Fielding seems to have been in a somewhat militant mood that year, as he intimated very plainly to Great Britain that she was slow in showing in a practical —that is, reciprocal,—way her appreciation of the trade preference extended several years before.
He appears to have made an effort to present some distinctive feature in very many of his budgets, the mile-stones of his parliamentary career. They are too numerous to be fully dealt with here, but his first one may be referred to. He approached the situation with that caution which has been one of his salient characteristics. The revenue had alread begun to show an improvement during th fiscal year in the early part of which h« assumed office; but he did not propose to assume that he would break even. .He placed his probable deficit at $550,000. The Opposition critics predicted that it would be in excess of three million. It actually was $519,000. He began his career as finance minister with a measure —preferential trade with Great Britain— which evoked from that somewhat dispassionate critic, the London Morning Post, the tribute that it was “the embodiment of imperialism.” Whether that was entirely acceptable praise to its author or not, there was no doubt of the largeness and generosity of the conception which evoked it. It was the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and this was Canada’s jubilee gift.
“I speak with pride,” said the Minister of Finance in concluding his speech, “in the name of the Liberal party, and the honorable gentlemen around me will share that pride, when I say that tomorrow morning, at every custom-house in Canada from ocean to ocean, the doors will open on terms of preferential trade with the mother-country.”
On the occasion of this first budget, he outlined his ideas of tariff policy for the Liberal party in years to come as one “which looks to moving in the direction of a lower tariff.” The Progressives would probably say that the movement is somewhat like that of a glacier, which is so leisurely as not to be appreciable in an ordinary life-time. On this occasion, also, he referred to a hope, never afterwards absent from his mind, of obtaining some measure of reciprocal trade with the U. S. Without entering into a discussion of that measure or pronouncing on its merits, it may be said that the result proved that it was his one big political error and most notable departure from his customary cautiousness.
THERE has been a tragic element in the last phase of Mr. Fielding’s career. For nearly forty years he continued to “run up” pretty steadily, and it might reasonably have been anticipated that he would reach the very top. That, at the Liberal convention in 1919, he tripped on the last step which would have landed him in the premiership, was one of the cruel mischances of a political carrer to which greater men in wider fields have similarly fallen victims; but it was due. to no fault of head or heart. Young Quebec, fresh from the war years and with the recollection of imagined slights, was at the convention not so much to get a leader as to “get” Fielding. He realized the situation, but was not taking back-water for a premiership or anything else. To a friend who discussed the situation with him the night before the convention, he related the particular incident which had stirred up the wrath of Quebec, said he was unconscious of having done or said anything meant to be offensive to the people -of the province or from which offence should be taken; and as for truckling before the convention on the morrow —with a tap on the shoulder before he
walked away—“Friend--, it’s not good
Well, there are some defeats that are greater than victories. How gallantly Mr. Fielding took his reverse when the convention decided against him on ththird ballot, is one of those memoriewhich every one of generous instinct'who saw it will cherish when perhap«very other incident of that day—leaving aside greater qualities—for equablenesr and for what the man in the street callbeing “a good sport,” would be hard »■« match
At the end of that day "which had se«.-* his failure to achieve the goal of a long life, he was hurrying along with the erowrt to catch a street-car at the entrance to tb-' exhibition grounds where the conventio» ■ was held. To a newspaperman whover-took him and expressed regret s the outcome of the ballot, he said:
“Thank you for that. I do not kno just how I feel about it myself. I shoulo not be speaking frankly if I said that ï was not disappointed at the result. Nman can lose what is, after all, a ver considerable honor, without some natur» regrets; but, at the same time, I realia» that it is probably the very best thiny that eould have happened so far a& I an personally, concerned. The burden 0 leading a party still fighting tc aehievpower, and the still greater burden obeading an administration, hp become ftremendous one. I question if the publiunderstands just how heavy and trying i is. I am no longer a young man and iwould almost certainly shorten ray lif* 80 I can honestly say that I am not surthat I am not just as well pleased at thway things have turned out.”
This, with some kind things about tb leader who had just been chosen, was hbphilosophic and no doubt his sincere comment on the outcome.
Without this sort of philosophica temperament, no man is likely to fine political life entirely agreeable nor t* enjoy it long. He must be, to *ndur» the happy warrior—
“Who, with a toward or untoward loi “Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not “Plays, in the many games of life, that on“Where what he most doth value mum be won.”
Mr. Fielding has apparently never beei. either unduly elated by victory nor depressed by defeat. He has never lost his grip on the essentials of life, nor failed to accept his lot, whether toward or untoward, with the same spirit of philosophic calm.
“I have happened to see Mr. Fielding under very varied circumstances,” recently remarked a Canadian of cosmopolitan habits. “I first saw him in London, surrounded by the great ones of the earth; next in Paris, signing a French treaty and being entertained by the President of France; again in London, acclaimed by and entertained by the foremost British statesmen as an equal; some years afterwards, in Halifax, getting off a tram-car and carrying his own valise after his defeat in Shelburne in 1911; and once again at a public reception in the old Parliament Buildings in Halifax, after he had again become Minister of Finance. In all the years covered by those incidents he did not seem to have changed much in appearance and not at all in manner. Up or down, he seems to have taken it as all in the day’s work.”
The Philosophic Strain
AN OLD friend, Judge Russell of - Halifax, recalled not long ago that after the defeat of the Mackenzie government in 1878, and while Mr. Fielding was a member of the Chronicle editorial staff, a few rather disconsolate Liberals had gathered together to hold the inquest. Some one had to write the leader for the Chronicle next morning, and extract such sunshine as might be from this rather acrid cucumber, and the task fell to Mr. Fielding. Mr. Russell recalled that the principal deduction from the victory was that it was so complete that there was no call for vain regrets or unhappy reflections that the result might have been otherwise “had this, that, or the other thing been done or left undone.”
“It was a small comfort,” he adds, “but I have often thought of the incident as an illustration of the philosophical spirit which has sustained him in many trying disappointments and preserved the serenity of his spirit through a long and highly effective political career.”
This spirit of flegmatique is a quality in.
a public man which appeals particularly to the people of France, where the more frequent changes in administrations perhaps require that it shall be more extensively cultivated. After the successful conclusion of the French treaty negotiations at Paris last year, the French government expressed a desire to give Mr. Fielding a decoration, apparently not realizing that anything much higher than a “J.P.” is now taboo in Canada as the oft-quoted words of their own Moliere put it, “nous avons change tout cela.” A decoration he could not accept; but they presented him with a marble statuette of “The Old Philosopher,” and M. Dior, Minister of Trade and Commerce for France, expressed the pleasure he had had in making this treaty with Canada, and particularly because of the excellent relations which had been maintained between the French and Canadian delegates. The felicitations exchanged were so cordial as almost to partake of the nature of diplomatic embraces. Judging from the criticism to which the treaty has been subjected recently by Mr. Meighen, he would smile sardonically and find sufficient reason for the French effusiveness.
How the Canadian Minister of Finance impressed the French people who came in contact with him has been told by some of the French-speaking members of his party, who picked up their information from conversations overheard and remarks let drop by those with whom they came in contact. The estimates were in some cases amusing. “He is a particularly nice type of Canadian,” said one, “and tres original. He reminds me of one of those old steamboat-captains!”
“I used to greatly enjoy watching Mr. Fielding at the negotiations,” said one of the French tariff experts. “He often looked as though he were asleep; but no sooner had one of our men made his point than your minister would be ready with one of his sharp answers. We have been treating with quite a few able leaders, such as those of the Belgians and the Czechs, but they were nothing when compared with Fielding and his Canadians.”
Reverence for Tradition
MR. FIELDING has always been a stickler for constitutional practice. He reverences constituted authority; hè firmly belives that “divinity doth hedge a king.” No obeisance was more profound than that which he made before the young Prince when he held his reception in the Parliament Buildings. At the opening of the Nova Scotia Legislature, the procedure followed is practically that of the time of Queen Anne; and he would never permit it to be deviated from by a hair’s breadth. He sees nothing to laugh at in the elaborate obeisances of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, which Parliament generally finds so amusing. He was never a believer in Confederation, but he would blast anyone so irreverent as to attempt to lay a hand upon the British North America Act. The little experiment which Mr. Lapointe has been making in direct treaty negotiation with the United States by passing up the British Ambassador, gets no sympathy from Mr. Fielding. Although he would never accept a title for himself, his attitude towards the abolition of them in Canada was not exactly enthusiastic. There is an inherited reason for all this.
I should not be at all surprised if Mr. Fielding thinks pretty well of Hodge’s litany:
“God bless the Squire, and his relations; And keep us in our proper stations.”
He is himself the son of an old English soldier, who took his discharge from the ranks in Halifax, and seemingly displayed none of the qualities which his son has in such full measure. His lineage is, therefore, comparable with that of LlovdGeorge; but while the latter in the early part of his career, at least, carried into public life an Almost holy hatred and contempt for those set over him. Mr. Fielding has always been inclined to reverence them, and his reverence has been extended in fullest measure to the institutions, and the personalities connected therewith, of Great Britain. For himself, he is one of the people, and quite content to remain such; but his democracy is of the kind which, while reverential of those above him, demands the fullest observance of his own position. The respect he pays to the King is not to
George Wettin, but to His Most Excellent Majesty, George the Fifth, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, etc., etc., and Mr. Fielding would never abate a particle of those titles as I have done here; the respect he demands for himself is not for William Stevens Fielding, but for the Minister of Finance and member of the King’s Privy Council for Canada.
Mr. Fielding had an intimate acquaintance in Halifax, named Robert Murray, whom he was accustomed to address as “Bob” and by whom he .was always called “Bill” before the member of the Chronicle staff became a member of the House of Assembly. After that it was always “Mr. Fielding” and “Mr. Murray.”
Those who have travelled much with him have a great deal to tell about his kindness of heart, his consideration for those about him (so long as they do their duty faithfully), his delight in a good story, and his interest in people in the mass. When abroad, he loves to drive or walk at random, or to wander about large stores, to see what the crowd is doing. Some years ago, when travelling on government business in the west, the train to which his business car was attached was held up by a snow-storm. He took pains to have enquiry made in the colonist cars to be sure that none of the new settlers were suffering any discomfort, and the larder of his car was placed at the disposal of the children on board. On another occasion, while hurrying along the station platform at Montreal, he saw a poorly-dressed woman struggling with three children and a huge travelling bag. The Minister of Finance, in the most natural way possible, seized the bag by the protruding end of a strap, the .handle being missing, and lugged the bag along to the station.
Although a rapid talker, he is a man of the fewest words that will serve the purpose. When he finds a phrase that fits an occasion, he uses it as often as the occasion occurs. During the travels of the Tariff Commission, it was his desire to place witnesses entirely at their ease and to assure them that the proceedings were informal. He did it with the following formula:
“Sit down. Sir, if you wish, but stand if
you prefer. Take your own time and state your case in your own way.”
This, accompanied with a smile, was repeated without variation to the hundreds of witnesses who appeared before the Commission.
Mr. Fielding, in council, as elsewhere, he is always “on the job.” Not long ago he was presiding in the absence of the Prime Minister, and faithfully reading through a series of long documents which were so little interesting to the Cabinet as a whole that they were conducting a series of little private discussions among themselves. Mr. Fielding read on, but the fact that he was at the same time drumming somewhat impatiently on the table with his fingers was evidence that his mind was not completely absorbed with the documents. Finally, he laid them down and said: “Gentlemen, a little story
occurs to me. A celebrated pianist was once engaged to perform at a private house, to which many prominent people were invited. In the course of his pergram he stopped suddenly. The hostess hurried up and asked if there was anything the matter with him. ‘No,’ he said mildly, ‘it is merely that I was afraid I might be interrupting the conversation.’ I feel somewhat the same myself,” concluded Mr. Fielding.
A man of great sincerity, he is the same in private as in public. One who has travelled with him .and been intimately associated with him in a' confidential capacity for many years, has told me that he has never known him, either in public or in private, to speak harshly or unkindly of any person, in politics or in private life, friend or foe; but that he could relate countless instances of his thoughtfulness for old friends, his modesty and his sincerity. There are undoubtedly those who have no great affection for Mr. Fielding, but it would be difficult to find anyone who does not respect and admire him. Finally, let me give the verdict of the man who has known him longest and most intimately, and who is an acute student and judge of human nature:
“I regard him as the sanest and best equipped all-round man we have had in this country in my day. We have had more brilliant and more aggressive men but none with the sane judgment, equipment, and political morality of this man.”