Chrice elected to Canada's Parliamentary Chair, Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux links to-day with a glorious past
‘He marched and bivouacked with Laurier . . .’
FRENCH CANADA has given to the nation few more distinguished sons than Honorable Rodolphe Lemieux, K.C., M.P., LL.D., F.R.S.C., whose recent re-election to the speakership of the House of Commons set a record. He is the first commoner since Confederation to be appointed to this exalted office by three parliaments.
As ‘Father of the Heuse,’ Speaker Lemieux takes the mind trippingly through three decades of Canada’s parliamentary history. Although comparatively young as years are now measured, he comes down to us like a reminiscence of the days of Blake, Mercier, Cartwright and Laurier, linking the present generation with a past that will soon be fading into the twilight of legend.
For long one of the brilliant touches of color in the House of Commons, there is about Mr. Lemieux a sense of antique chivalry and ancient culture conspicuously rare in the present all too-hurried world. He stands a
lone reminder of the glamor and pomp of the days of Laurier. Only youth and the claims of more seasoned politicians debarred him from inclusion in the famous ‘Cabinet of the talents’ Laurier gathered about him when the Liberal party returned
to power in 1896 after a stay of eighteen years in the wilderness.
The Sole Survivor of ’Ninety-Six
'T'HE commoners were rather sharply reminded of the uncertainty of human life and the fragility of political careers when mention was made at the opening of the current session that Mr. Lemieux was the last survivor of the old brigade of ’Ninety-six. Of the 213 deputies who received a mandate from the electorate in June of that year, he is the only remaining member who has sat continuously in parliament since that date. During the intervening years hundreds of members have come and gone.
To the ‘Father of the House’, Time has been not merely a fashionable host but a generous entertainer, bidding him to tarry and avail himself of the special dispensation. And the favored guest has lingered on until his own distinguished parliamentary career has become merged with the very history and traditions of parliament. He stands as an examplar of what is best and most wholesome in our parliamentary traditions.
The older politicians adjust themselves with some difficulty to the veteran parliamentarian’s present role. To them he appears not unlike Prometheus chained to the rock, a gallant fighter who cast off his armor long before his best fighting days were over. They still think of Mr. Lemieux as the Liberal party’s ‘75’, the best piece of oratorical field artillery Laurier had at his ever ready command when the political battle raged most fiercely. They also think of him as the tireless, swiftly moving campaigner; the lone Liberal who had the courage to match swords with Henri Bourassa in a famous joint meeting at St. Hyacinthe in 1911, and as the man whose telling blows did much to prevent the rising tide of Nationalism from engulfing Quebec.
With the passing of his old chieftain and the death of an only son, killed on the battle-fields of Flanders, Mr. Lemieux undoubtedly lost much of his enthusiasm for party warfare. Something more enduring than mere
political association linked him to Laurier. Their partnership was an alliance of the heart and the mind. A hard fighter in his day who asked and gave no quarter, a comrade or foe of worthy political stalwarts. Mr. Speaker has had his full share of the battle but the shout of command and the beat of the drums no longer carry the same appeal.
A Man of Many Activities
\17HILE an exceptional union of qualities and a record
* * of constructive statesmanship should ensure Speaker Lemieux a permanent niche in the chronicles of the nation, he will probably always be best remembered as an orator. His is an eloquence that scales the heights and sounds the depths, that deftly touches the clavier of human emotions and captures the imagination. Of the many notable speeches he has delivered, his panegyric upon Laurier in the House of Commons in 1919 stands as his most memorable utterance.
His voice is of rare range and flexibility. His gestures are at once forceful and restrained. When he speaks, one comes under the spell of an eloquence devoid of studied effort. His speeches have an imaginative sweep, an originality, a fidelity of diction, a sustained cadence that enthrall orally, his is the art of the etcher. With his fine command of both the French and English languages, he would be at home at either the Palais-Bourbon or Westminster.
Mr. Lemieux’s eloquence is well served by a powerful personality. He has a commanding presence, magnetism and urbanity of manner, qualities which by themselves compel attention. His rugged physique has withstood the wear and tear of countless political battles. Maturing years have touched him gently. His features are serene, the brow broad and significant, the eyes clear and searching, the nose small and shapely, the lips delicate and close-pressed, the chin firm. Whether at close or long range, the impression conveyed is that of a puissant intellect and of a mind ever orientated toward action.
Speaker Lemieux is a man of diversified activities. He has held the varied roles of politician, statesman, jurist, diplomatist, university lecturer, journalist, historian, litterateur, business man. In his present role, he takes rank with the best Speakers the Canadian Parliament has had since Confederation. His intimate knowledge of parliamentary procedure and customs, his tact, unfailing courtesy and sense of impartiality make him an admirable presiding officer.
A Distinguished Family
1V/T R. SPEAKER’S career has a fascinating background.
For some unaccountable reason, people are all too prone to think of those who have achieved a worth-while goal in life as persons touched by a magic wand, with all the elements of success at their beck and call. Mr. Speaker was handed no golden key. He learnt his first lessons in citizenship in a humble home, where the example of moral and civic virtues was never lacking.
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and where the stern realities of life were paramount factors in the moulding of his character and the shaping of his future.
The son cf plain people, and issued from sturdy French-Canadian and Acadian stock, Rodolphe Lemieux was one of several children reared by God-fearing parents. His father, the late Hormisdas A. Lemieux had for years held, in the federal customs service at Montreal, a modest post cu te incommensurate with an ability which subsequently received merited recognition. His mother, the late Marie-Anne Philomene Bisaillon, was a former rural school teacher who had received an excellent tuition at the Convent de Longueuil, one of those Quebec institutions that impart a solid culture and train young girls in the old-fashioned traditions of womanhood.
Quebec’s reputation for the raising of large families was no empty tradition in the Lemieux home. Ere many years passed, there were seven boys and three girls gathered about the family table. Handicapped by an all too small income, the mother and father accepted their responsibilities with courageous hearts. Their growing boys and girls increased their obligations. They had all passed through the elementary schools. Other parents in similar circumstances would have felt their task at an end and settled the problem of education and career right there with the curt command: “You are old enough to help yourselves now. Go and get work.” But not so the Lemieux parents. If they could not endow their children with worldly goods they would to the best of their ability bequeath them the heritage of a sound education. Such a decision implied untold sacrifices, yet they did not hesitate. Their boys and girls did go to college and the convent; the boys beyond, to the leading universities of Quebec. To-day, those boys count among Canada’s worth-while citizenry. They have all won their epaulets. French Canada has seldom produced such a family of distinguished brothers. Including Mr. Speaker, they are Dr. Louis Joseph Lemieux, former M.L.A., for Gaspe, now Agent-General of the Provvince of Quebec in Great Britain; Dr. Gustave Lemieux, M.L.A., for Gaspe and a former deputy Speaker of the Quebec Legislature; Auguste Lemieux, K.C., of Ottawa, one of the outstanding members of the Ontario and Quebec bars; Alphonse
Lemieux, broker; Dr. Arthur Lemieux’ D.D.S.; Major Dr. Eugene Lemieux, a veteran of the South African war. Mr. Speaker’s only living sister is the wife of Justice Camille Pouliot, of the Quebec Superior Court. It might be stated here that parental self-sacrifice similar to that which started the Lemieux brothers on their successful careers is not uncommon in French Canada.
The School For State Craft
yOUNG RODOLPHE received his 1 grounding in the classics at the college-seminary of Nicolet in the late seventies. As a boy student, he already evinced keen relish for all things political.
In those distant days, Quebec Liberalism, which for long had been represented as the replica of the Radicalism and anticlerical Liberalism of France, was practically anathema in ecclesiastical quarters. Liberal leaders were striving to correct the ‘great historical misunderstanding’ and wean Quebec from its allegiance to Macdonald. The great majority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and clergy in Quebec sided with the Conservative party. Yet young Lemieux, who neither then nor in after years adjusted his shoulders to any yoke, fearlessly extolled the Liberal cause in sham electoral battles waged on the college campus. He left Nicolet before the completion of his course. His father had been transferred to the Capital by the Customs Department, and the family moved to Ottawa in 1881.
Rodolphe Lemieux was among the students who registered at Ottawa University in the autumn of 1882. His classmates and intimates included ‘Charley’ Murphy, who subsequently was his Cabinet colleague for many years; a youth named Latchford, now the Hon. Frank i Latchford, a Chief Justice of Ontario, and a student who is to-day Bishop Ryan, of Pembroke diocese. At Ottawa Varsity, young Lemieux showed no keen desire to head his class. At least he did not strive very hard. His inclinations ran more to the reading of history and of literature. Apart from the reputation he won in college theatricals and debates, he also held a regular place on one of the famous championship rugby teams Ottawa University turned out in the eighties. He played on the back division and figured in many a sensational gridiron clash
i between the garnet and grey and such I noted teams as Montreal and Montreal I Britannias.
Student days at Ottawa University ! were happy, care-free days. Lemieux and ; Murphy, who were to hold such a con! spicuous place in politics some years later, relished nothing better than attending the : sittings of the House. When Parliament was in session, ‘home studies’ were dismissed without any qualms. To watch Macdonald, Blake, Mackenzie, Laurier, Abbott, Tupper, Tilley and Chapleau in action was much more fascinating than some dull Greek version or the dry laws of physics.
From Reporter to Professor
O ODOLPHE’S was an experience that proved a searching test of character ; and capacity. Lacking the funds to enter i Laval and study law, he unhesitatingly ! took the longest route to a coveted goal.
! He would work his way through the unii versity. Fortified with literary talents, a resourceful command of English and I French, and a flair for journalism, he ¡ turned to Montreal’s Fleet Street. News: paper work fascinated him. And good • copy abounded in the eighties. Quebec ! was seething with indignation over the i execution of Louis Riel, the half-breed I rebel leader of Western Canada. Honore Merrier, one of the greatest orators of his ' time and the idol of his followers, had, with keen perception, quickly turned the tide of popular ferment to practical 1 political account. The tocsin of revolt against the Conservative regime both provincially and federally was being sounded in the cities, in the villages and along the back concessions of Quebec. Impassioned oratory flowed lava-like from platforms all over the province. Quebec had not seen the like since Papineau had aroused hundreds of his fellow-citizens to armed revolt against colonial misrule.
With reporter’s pad and a hurriedly sharpened pencil in hand, Rodolphe Lemieux, then a youth of twenty, had to ‘cover’ almost the whole city of Montreal ! for his paper. Riel had been executed at Regina on November 16, 1885. The Sunday following the hanging Quebec was aflame with passionate, unbridled i oratory. Thousands had gathered on the ¡ Champ de Mars in Montreal to listen to vehement denunciations of the ‘judicial murder’ as Laurier qualified the hanging. Laurier, Merrier and A Desjardins, M.P., were speaking simultaneously from three different platforms. Young Lemieux with a resourcefulness which many newspapermen of the present day would envy, flitted from one husting to the other, picking out the highlights, jotting down the most scorching utterances. And it was on this occasion that Laurier exclaimed: “Were I on the banks of the distant Saskatchewan, I, too, would have snatched the old musket of our forefathers from the wall and blazed away with the half-breeds.”
Mr. Lemieux’s budding oratorical talents were not lost on the political leaders of the day. Honore Mercier had soon mustered him into the ranks of his campaign artillery. And this boy of twenty, who already gave much promise, experienced his baptism of fire and first tasted of victory in 1886 when he mounted the hustings in Montreal East in support ; of the late Senator L. 0. David whose i opponent was Hon. L. 0. Taillon, then Attorney-General of the province.
What between serving on the répertoriai staffs of La Presse, La Patrie, the Montreal Times and acting as correspondent fer Quebec papers for a weekly cheque I that a reporter of the present day would I look upon as ‘pin money,’ young Lemieux still found time to ‘plug away’ at his law studies. He graduated in law from Laval : in 1891. Lack of funds had prevented his i admission to the bar three years earlier.
Already he had won the friendship of ¡ such distinguished men as Hon. P. J. O.
¡ Chauveau and Sir Louis Jette, two of his professors at Laval, and that of Laurier,
Mercier, Francois Langelier and C A. Geoffrion. On graduation, he joined the law firm of Honore Mercier and (Sir) Lomer Gouin. His well-handled briefs earned him quick recognition at the Montreal bar. The submission of a remarkable thesis on ‘Imprisonment for civil debts’ to the faculty of Laval in 1896 not only proclaimed his legal knowledge but brought him the degree of doctor of laws. At twenty-nine years of age he was appointed a member of the law faculty of his Alma Mater. Lecturing on the history of Canadian law, he was the youngest member of Laval’s professorial staff.
The Victory of ’Ninety-Six
AND then young Lemieux’s hour of 2"*destiny struck. The year 1896 had dawned with premonitory signs of a great upheaval in federal politics.
During the late ’eighties and early ’nineties the ramparts of Conservatism, securely foundationed by Sir. John A. Macdonald in the days of his political supremacy, had began to show ominous fissures. By ’ninety-six the fissures had widened into gaping breaches under the sledge-hammer blows of Laurier and his phalanx of brilliant lieutenants. Among these lieutenants, few fought more gallantly to reduce the Tory keep in Quebec than young Lemieux. With an inspiring leadership to spur him on, he gave of his best to the party cause and his efforts were a not inconsequential factor in the sweeping Liberal victory of ’96. Laurier had charged him with the task of wooing to Liberalism the county of Gaspe, a Conservative stronghold since Confederation. The able young campaigner did not disappoint his leader. The returns showed that he had swung this seemingly impregnable Tory riding into the Liberal column.
When the first session of the Eighth Parliament opened at Ottawa in August 1896, a young man of graceful mien and impressive appearance rose from the back benches tospeakasseconderto the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. His speech, couched in elegant French, delivered with effortless eloquence, stamped him as a real orator. He had come through the trying test of a maiden speech in the House with flying colors.
From then on, the star of the young deputy from Gaspe was constantly in the ascendant. He did not long remain a private member and was soon singled out to take a hand in the government of the country. In 1904, at thirty-seven years of age, he was appointed Solicitor-General: at thirty-nine, he was entrusted with one of the most important federal portfolios, that of Postmaster-General to which was soon added that of the newly created Ministry of Labor. As Minister of Labor, Mr. Lemieux had as his able and energetic deputy the present Premier of Canada, Rt. Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King. In 1911, when the Laurier cabinet was reorganized as a preliminary step to a general election, he was appointed Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
As an administrator, Mr. Lemieux brought the departments confided to his charge to a high state of efficiency. While Minister of Labor, he sponsored the Industrial Disputes Act, more popularly known as the Lemieux Act, one of the most progressive enactments ever placed on the Canadian statutes. He also initiated other important legislation.
Few men of his generation worked so energetically to advance the cause of Liberalism, in parliament, on the hustings, through the press, in pamphlets. Wielding a trenchant pen, he constantly kept the activities of his party to the fore. As a pamphleteer, his shafts always struck home with force and accuracy. A prolific, well-informed writer, he was the purveyor of militant campaign literature which helped shape victory for the Liberal party in many a keenly contested election. To one of his famous pamphlets was attributed the effacement of his party's most dangerous foe, Hon. Israel Tarte.
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Laurier never had a more faithful or trusted ally. Lemieux stood by his chieftain through thick and thin, when the sun of victory flamed the standards of Liberalism across Canada and again when defeat was shadowing the party’s sky. The white-plumed knight, ‘le deux coq’, as Laurier once styled himself in a moment of oratorical exuberance on the hustings, placed absolute reliance in his clever young lieutenant. As the years sped on, irretrievable, bringing to the aging statesman alternations of triumph and defeat, the evanescent mirage of success and bitter disappointments, the passing of gallant swordsmen and proven friends, or defections in the party, one of his greatest comforts lay in the indefectible loyalty and friendship of political supporters of the Lemieux stamp. Here was a friendship with the resonance of weü-tempered steel. An English writer said of Morley’s association with Gladstone that he was:
‘As true as the dial to the sun
Although it be not shined upon.’
These lines qualify with equal fitness Mr. Lemieux’s fealty to Laurier.
Canada’s First Diplomatic Missioner
A PART from all his political activities,
Mr. Lemieux still found time to invade other fields. He is the author of an authoritative work ‘The History of Franco-Canadian Law,’ a volume comprising 500 pages.
In 1907, when an acute situation culminating in riots and bloodshed developed on the Pacific Coast as a result of a large influx of Asiatic immigrants, Laurier selected him for the delicate task of placing before the Japanese Government Canada’s views on the necessity of restricted immigration. This was Canada’s first diplomatic mission in a foreign country without resort to British mediation. The Canadian plenipotentiary, who was accompanied by Madame Lemieux, was received by the Emperor and Empress of Japan and entertained in regal style by the leaders of the nation. His tactful, statesmanlike presentation of Canada’s case soon clarified the situation.
Three months’ deep study of the sociological, political and economic conditions of Japan before proceeding to the Orient were not foreign to the complete success of the mission. The Japanese dealt with an envoy who knew and understood their country’s problems. Here stands revealed one side of this versatile Canadian: thoroughness in all he undertakes.
With his gift of oratory and courtly manner of the noblesse oblige type, Mr. Lemieux was for years Canada’s official delegate and spokesman at international functions. He was the bearer of the Dominion’s message of good-will and friendship to the people of the newly created Union of South Africa at the inauguration of their parliament at Capetown in 1910. On that occasion, he was the guest of the former Boer general, Louis Botha.
This eminent Canadian has won merited honors at home and abroad. For preaching the gospel of good-will and closer relations between France and Canada, he received from the former nation the decorations of Knight, Officer and Commander of La Legion d’Honneur. Pope Pius XI has vested him with the title of Knight Commander of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great. The Royal Society of Canada welcomed him as a Fellow in 1908, and elected him president ten years later. From universities he has received many degrees.
Mr. Lemieux is one of Canada’s best informed men, not only on Canadian constitutional and political history but also on world affairs. No finer tribute was paid to his knowledge of international politics and economics than was contained in the late Frank Munsey’s offer to him of the editorship of the Paris edition
of the New York Herald. A most attrac| tive salary was held out as a lure.
He Represents Canada’s Oldest Constituency
EXCEPT for the lapse of a few years
' after 1911, Mr. Lemieux has represented Gaspe in the Commons since 1896. There is a singularly happy coincidence in this association: the member with the longest parliamentary servi ce recordrepresenting a riding which is historically the oldest by discovery and occupation in Canada. For it was back in 1534 that Jacques Cartier landed on the shores of Gaspe Bay near the site of the present town of Gaspe and claimed the country for the King of France. In the days when there was no rule against dual representation, Mr. Lemieux frequently stood for two constituencies. He has also represented Nicolet, Maisonneuve and Rouville, and had already been returned from the last named riding in 1911 when he suffered the only reverse of his long career in the deferred election held in Gaspe.
By marriage, Mr. Lemieux is allied to an old and distinguished Quebec family, the Jettes. Madame Lemieux is a daughter of the late Sir Louis Jette, one of the leading Canadian jurists of his day, for two terms Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec and also Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench in that province, Sir Louis, when only thirty-six defeated Sir George, Etienne Cartier, one of the Fathers of Confederation, in Montreal East in 1872. Lady Jette was a sister of the Hon. Rodolphe Laflamme, Minister of Justice in the Mackenzie Government. The late F. J. Bisaillon, K.C., Bâtonnier of the Montreal Bar, who unsuccessfully contested Chambly-Vercheres for the Conservative party in 1896 against the Hon.
C. A. Geoffrion, Minister without Portfolio in the Laurier Cabinet, was Mr. Speaker’s uncle.
The wife of the first Commoner in the land is a woman of delicate refinement. She has followed her husband’s public career with sympathetic interest and understanding. In the many social functions and entertainments associated with the Speakership of Parliament, Madame Lemieux has enhanced a long standing reputation as a kindly and gracious hostess.
To Mr. and Madame Lemieux it has been given to experience all the pathos of the French saying ‘tout coeur a sa blessure.’ They nurse in their hearts the unhealing wounds of two heavy bereavements within recent years, the death of their only son, Lieut. Roddy Lemieux on the Western front in August, 1918, and the passing two years ago of an accomplished daughter who had reached young womanhood. Lieut. Lemieux enlisted voluntarily at nineteen and died of wounds received while leading a company of the 22nd French-Canadian battalion in a charge on the enemy trenches near Cherisy in Flanders. For valor in that and other engagements, he was posthumously awarded the Knighthood of La Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre by the French Government, while the British War Office bestowed the Military Cross.
Despite the heavy sorrows that overcast his private life, Mr. Lemieux courageously stood hard by the helm of public duties. His has been a crowded life and the urge to slacken his efforts must come to him occasionally. Yet, the cherished hope of his legion of friends and fellowcitizens is that his undoubted abilities will long be at the disposal of his country.
For Mr. Speaker’s career has been one of real devotion and service to the nation. He has played a worthy part in helping direct the currents of Canada’s national life into clear channels. A trumpeter of good-will and understanding between the citizens of divers races and creeds who people this country, he is also a herald of healthy optimism in the destinies of Canada. With him exaltation of things Canadian goes hand in hand with unwavering loyalty to the British connection.