What Becomes of Our Politicians?
An answer to the question: Where do the lawgivers go when they cease making laws ?
A. G. DEXTER
WHAT happens to politicians? Consider them. There are, at any given moment, 700 odd legislators in this country who make more laws every year than the average judge has time to read, and who occupy their spare time with investigations and enquiries into every conceivable activity of the nation. Then there are those who are not legislators, but would like to be. These exceed 1,500 and while they don’t make laws, fortunately, or carry on public investigations, they keep a sharp eye on those who do, and are ready at any time to take the platform and tell the electors how they are being misgoverned and how the nation is to be saved.
The term politician covers upwards of 2,000 men and women in Canada, mostly men. And the very first thing that may happen to any of them is their election to or ejection from a legislature or parliament.
The game of politics resembles in many ways the childhood sport, “I’m the king of the castle.” The successful politician gains his seat in parliament by dint of his exertions. He wrests it from an opponent weaker than himself. He holds it only by further exertion and when he weakens, he, too, is flung aside. And so a constant stream of men passes across the stage of politics. Each of them is endowed, temporarily, by the people, with the power of making laws and of governing. Each of them, for a time, becomes a superman—one at whom little children point and whisper, “There he goes!” And each of them, at last, is reduced once more to the rank of an ordinary citizen.
What happens to this legion—our rulers and law makers? Who now listens to the voices which once moved our senates? Pick up a volume of Hansard, ten years old, and you will be amazed at the names of men, once in the full glare of the spotlight, whom you recall but dimly.
This article is not a plea for a home for aged and needy politicians. As a class they are well able to look after themselves either in public or private life. Rather, it is a quest, like the song of the Shalimar: “Where are they now? Where are they now?”
The Ladder of the Law
IT IS all very well for Canadians to fool themselves in the belief that the humblest son of the humblest parents may some day be a prime minister. Unless he is a lawyer his chances are negligible. If he is a Liberal, there may be a little hope, particularly if he is a stonemason or a journalist with a deep interest in social life and conditions. But on the whole, before hitching his wagon to this particular star he should enter a law school, for out of the ten prime ministers of Canada who have ruled the country since Confederation, eight have been lawyers. Indeed, the Conservative party has only once had a leader who was not a lawyer.
However, if he aims only to be a cabinet minister there are many admonitions which he might take into consideration. According to Goldwin Smith, Sir John A. Macdonald, who ruled Canada for nearly twenty years, laid down this qualification for a cabinet minister. “The perfection of a cabinet would be twelve men, each of whom, if you liked, you could put into penitentiary.” That, no doubt, was Sir John in a lighter moment. There is no rule of thumb by whioh a young man can achieve high place in the political firmament, but if he be a lawyer, the prospects of reward for services rendered to a party are infinitely brighter than otherwise. There are judgeships to be had; royal commissions; railway commissionerships, and other posts of great prominence and satisfactory emolument—all within the gift of the government. And while a politician who is not of this profession can sometimes be looked after, the
problem of after-care, as it were, presents much greater difficulties. For this reason, law is regarded as an important stepping-stone to high office in public life, and to no other profession does public life hold out such glittering prizes.
The Romance of Political Life
"DUT, after all, the vast majority of those who have played a part in the government of Canada have been men who knew little of law. They rose, many of them, out of obscurity and have retired into it once more. Their downfall has been caused in curious ways. There was R. C. Henders, of Manitoba, who was con-
sidered a man of great promise until he donned a morning coat in Ottawa. Apparently a morning coat was more than the Spartan democrats who had elected him would bear, and so he disappeared from the public stage, never to be heard of again.
The more one burrows into the careers of politicians, the more one is amazed at the variety and interest of their lives. Take Hon. J. C. Patterson as an example. His name may not be familiar to Canadians of today, but he was an outstanding politician and a cabinet minister when Sir Charles Tupper was in the full splendor of his power, and before Borden, Fielding, George Graham and other Nestors of today were heard of. Mr. Patterson was born at Armagh, Ireland, in 1839 and came to Canada in 1857. He entered the civil service, but resigned, like a wise man, and began the study of law. He was called to the bar in 1866 and practised at Windsor. Then he became reeve of the town and finally warden of Essex county. Next he was inspector of schools. Public life opened to him in 1874 when he was elected to the legislature. In 1878 he entered the House of Commons, remaining a member until 1895 and attaining the distinction of cabinet rank, first under Abbott and later under Thompson and Bowell.
Now in 1895, Mr. Patterson was fifty-six years of age and no doubt looked forward to early retirement and a cheery fireside. Not so. He was appointed lieutenantgovernor of Manitoba and filled that post until 1900. Meantime the government at Ottawa had changed and his appointment was not renewed. He retired and once more, no doubt, thought that his active days were passed. Once more, however, he was mistaken. In 1910, when seventy-one years of age, Mr. Patterson was appointed, “a Commissioner to investigate into titles to ownership, by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of all lands in the Arctic Seas, whether acquired by discovery, occupation or otherwise, and to report to the Rt. Hon. the President of the Privy Council for Canada, from time to time.” Well might Mr. Patterson, in engaging upon such an adventure, have exclaimed with Mr. Gladstone, “While nature cries aloud for rest,
I put on my armor.” Mr. Patterson held this commissionership for nineteen years. Until a few months ago, when he died, he was presumably conducting his enquiries, although he had attained the great age of ninety years. The task, unquestionably, was heavy, as there are innumerable islands in the northern seas.
Public life in Canada seems to be replete with interest and adventure. And it may be said that if, as John Morley held, the greatest test of a minister is his ability to surrender office, then Canadian politicians are of a high order. Time and again, ministries in Canada have been flung out of office, and yet there has never been a murmur of resentment nor a trace of a whine. Perhaps the quickest fall from high office which ever occurred in Canada took place in Manitoba more than forty years ago when a government party, defeated on a snap vote in the legislature, promptly exchanged seats with the opposition and the business of the house went on as before.
The Cabinet of All the Talents
Y\ THAT has become of the members of
the first Laurier cabinet of 1896
“The cabinet of all the talents?” A few still survive. Fielding, after 1911, and despite fifteen years as finance minister, resumed his career as a working journalist, and without a penny. He became editor of the Montreal Herald, but upon finding that the paper was not controlled by Liberals, started the Montreal Journal of Commerce. Once more, in 1922, he was called from the editor’s chair to the finance ministership. His health broke down, and for years he was an invalid, confined to his room in a little red brick house on Charlotte Street, Ottawa. He died a few months ago.
Frank Oliver, who was minister of the j interior in Laurier’s last cabinet, ran the Edmonton Bulletin for a time, went broke,
! and was appointed, finally, to the Railway j Commission. About a year ago he reached the age limit and was retired, but a new ! post was found for him as a commissioner charged with the task of eliminating level crossings. In recent weeks there have been rumors of his re-entry into public life.
Charles Murphy, who was Laurier’s secretary of state, is in the Senate and is practising law as well. He takes an exceedingly active interest in public affairs and is said to be rather at outs with his party.
Dr. Henri Beland, who was postmastergeneral, also is in the Senate.
Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, who was Laurier’s solicitor-general and later his minister of justice, served a term as chief justice of the Supreme Court and then went to Quebec City, where he is still practising law and making a lucrative living.
The Borden Cabinet of 1911
HTHE Borden cabinet of 1911 is dispersed in all directions. Sir Douglas Hazen is chief justice of New Brunswick. Pelletier, his fiery postmaster-general, went to the bench and then died. Nantel went on the Railway Commission and died. Thomas Chase Casgrain became a member of the International Joint Commission and also died. Coderre, who was his secretary of state, went to the bench and is still alive. Sir George Foster is in the Senate with no other visible calling. Poor old Tom Crothers died trying to get into the Senate. Sir Thomas White is practising law and writing a book setting out Canada’s financial part in the war. Bob Rogers is in Winnipeg; and Martin Burrell is parliamentary librarian and doing a little journalism on the side.
And there is Sir Robert himself. He plays golf in Ottawa during the summer, and goes south in the winter. He comes down to the By-Ward market in Ottawa in the morning, purchases vegetables for his dinner at night, takes a light luncheon at the Rideau Club, goes out and plays a round of golf at the Royal Ottawa or the Chaudière in the afternoon, and comes home to read or to play a rubber of bridge in the evening. Sir Robert, who is a
wealthy man, occasionally takes a cautious flip at the stock market and is said to be lucky. He is understood to be writing a constitutional history of Canada since 1896, lectures occasionally, has been known to contribute an occasional editorial on international and Imperial affairs to an Ottawa newspaper, reads a lot of biography and history, interspersed with an occasional novel, and is proud of his garden. Since quitting the premiership in 1920, Sir Robert has never even set foot in the galleries of the House of Commons. Yet he retains his interest in politics and politicians, and is never happier than when indulging in humorous yarns and reminiscences about his old associates and colleagues. Often, when he has friends in for dinner, he will insist in ending the party with a few hands of show-down, and enters into the luck of the game with boyish impetuosity.
The War Parliament
r"PHE war-time parliament is considered A by many to have been the greatest of the sixteen parliaments which have been elected since Confederation. Where are the leading members of that parliament?
Charles Doherty, who was Borden’s minister of justice before and during the war, is practising law in Montreal, and no matter what government is in office, manages to have it give him a retainer. The late Roch Lanctôt, who was one of the oldest Liberal members of the House, and a bit of an iconoclast, once figured out that Doherty had drawn six dollars a day from the Dominion Government for every day that he has lived since he was born. He was once a judge, then retired with a judge’s pension. Then he entered the House of Commons, getting both a pension and an indemnity. Then he became a minister and added his ministerial salary to the indemnity and pension. Then he retired from politics, and managed to get a retainer from the government in connection with the Labrador dispute before the Privy Council. And, still further, there were his expenses on various trips to Europe. Lanctot got a parliamentary return totalling all these amounts.
Crerar, whose voice was heard with awe in the War Parliament, is back at his desk with the United Grain Growers Ltd., but may soon re-enter public life.
George W. Kyte, who made the famous “Kyte” charges which so stirred Canada at the time and struck the first blow at the prestige of Sir Sam Hughes, is carrying on a small law practice at St. Peters, Nova Scotia, and is also a member of the International Joint Waterways Commission. Andrew McMaster, who was the most respected and formidable advocate of free trade since “Red Michael” Clark left the commons, lost his seat in the redistribution of 1925 and after four years of retirement has emerged to be provincial treasurer in the Taschereau government in Quebec.
W. F. Nickle, who abolished titles, is practising law at Kingston, after having served a period as Attorney-General of Ontario. Hume Cronyn, who was the ablest of the new men in the war parliament, is back at business in London, Ontario, and is recognized as one of the country’s most successful financiers. It is not commonly known, but Mr. Cronyn nearly became minister of finance in the Meighen administration of 1926. Sir Henry Drayton is head of the Ontario Liquor Commission. Dr. S. F. Tolmie, former Conservative organizer and member, is premier of British Columbia, Arthur Meighen, the most turbulent and ablest of them all, is associated with an investment trust company in Toronto and, unless rumor is untrue, is not yet through with politics. F. B. McCurdy, who was minister of public works, is a financier in Nova Scotia. Armstrong, who was Liberal premier of Nova Scotia before the Conservatives won under Rhodes, is now practising law in Halifax, and is understood to be an applicant for a judgeship. Robinson, a former premier of New Brunswick, is now a member of the Senate. R. W. Wigmore, who was minister of customs under Meighen, is holding down an obscure position in Saint John, as commissioner of streets. Ned Macdonald, who for years was a doughty warrior behind Laurier and King, is supposed to be practising law in Pictou, N.S., but actually spends much of his time in Ottawa. It is said that he would not be deeply offended if offered a job in the International Joint Commission or the Railway Commission or almost any government tribunal. A. K. Maclean, who was also a fighting Liberal in the old days, but who joined the Union cabinet, is a judge of the Exchequer Court. Hance Logan, long one of the most picturesque figures in the house, is practising law at Amherst, and helping, as a member of the directorate, to run the Canadian National Railways.
N. W. Rowell, who led the Liberal hosts in Ontario for several years and who was president of the council under Borden in the Union government, went back to the practice of law and is reputed to be making $75,000 a year. Mr. Rowell is one of the few politicians for whom men of all parties seem to have a word of praise. Ex-Premier Drury, after his defeat retired to his Crown Hill farm, but recently became associated with an elevator company. Mr. Raney is on the bench. Peter Smith is out of jail.
CIR Rodmond Roblin, former premier of ^ Manitoba, appeared on Main Street, Winnipeg, the day after his defeat, in a
rather dispirited and depressed Ford. However, he took his defeat with true philosophy, went into the automobile and garage business, and is said to have made a modest fortune.
T. C. Norris, former premier of Manitoba, is on the railway commission. Edward Brown, his treasurer, is a member of the Canadian National Railway directorate. Dr. R. S. Thornton, the famous minister of education who abolished bilingual schools in Manitoba, has so far refused all proferred gifts from the provincial and Dominion governments and has gone back to his medical practice at Deloraine. Malcolm, the minister of agriculture, is once more behind the plow.
Walter Scott, who was the first premier of Saskatchewan, is never heard of now, but is understood to be living quietly in retirement at the Pacific coast. William Martin, who succeeded him, and who could have had the leadership of the Dominion Liberal party in 1919, is a justice of the Saskatchewan Supreme Court. Jim Calder, who once blotted out the western political horizon, is a backbencher senator, rarely heard of or from. Haultain, once a great figure in the North-West Territories, and sometime leader of the Conservative party in Saskatchewan, is on the bench.
Greenfield, a former premier, is agentgeneral for his province in London. Dick McBride, former premier of British Columbia, perhaps the most picturesque figure to appear in Canadian politics in years, ended his days as agent-general for British Columbia in London.
These are but a few of many who could be cited. Looking over the list, noting the happy fortunes which have been inherited by most of the servants of the people, one may conclude, too hastily, that it answers the question so often asked—why do men desire to enter politics?