Friday, 13 October 2017

1886 - Circus Comes to Hamilton

“The circus never gets stale”
Hamilton Spectator     September 11, 1886.
So began a lengthy Spectator account of the appearance of Forepaugh’s Circus in Hamilton on September 10, 1886:
“It is as new today as when we first stared at the marvelous feats of the trapeze actors and bareback riders, loved the heavenly faces of the divinities in pink tights, and tinsel and laughed immoderately at the excruciating jokes and gaudy painted face of the clown. It was all as bright and fresh as it ever has been, and though life may have lost some of its youthful glamor, we can never find it in our hearts to like the circus the less.”1
1  “Forepaugh’s Circus : A Fine Show Attended By Thousands of People”
Hamilton Spectator     September 11, 1886.
As always, the canny managers of the circus combined the need of advertising and the need of transporting all the necessaries to the location seleted (presently that street intersection of that site is Locke Street South and Charlton Avenue West) by having a parade through the city’s major thoroughfares :
“The procession started at an early hour from the ground where tents were pitched, for the performance, at the corner of Hannah and Locke streets. It wound its glittering length through the principal streets of the city, and thousands upon thousands of people were content to be baked beneath the broiling sun for the sake of seeing it.
“The procession was headed by an immense chariot drawn by eight horses, and in which was seated Prof. Menter’s excellent military band. Then came a number of heavy vehicles containing animals, followed by a cavalcade of gaily-caparisoned ladies and gentlemen.
“The clowns, each seated in a small wagon drawn by a pair of ponies, were well-supported by a crowd of admiring small boys, who cheered lustily at different points. The cowboy band attracted a good deal of attention, but not more than the swarthy sons of the Western plains, who assist the cowboys in their wild west show, deserved.
“The fine herd of elephants which Mr. Forepaugh possesses came in for well-merited praise, and the other animals in the parade, camels, dromedaries, lions, bears, all had their particular supporters. Not the least admired was the vision of a beautiful, dark-eyed, voluptuous-looking woman who sat in state in a chariot, fashioned after Cleopatra’s barge. The rich trimmings of the chariot set off its luxurious occupant to advantage, and it needed but slight imagination to conceive her a true daughter of the Nile.
“Taken on the whole, the street parade of Forepaugh’s circus was fully up to what it is represented to be, and was well worth seeing.”1
The location where the circus tents was well-chosen for the convenience of the paying customers, particularly as it was located on a line of the Hamilton Street Railway :        
 “The free show on the streets doubtless acted a stimulus to many to see the whole of it., as by 2 o’clock, a vast crowd surged around the main entrance, and gorged cars and hacks discharged an additional quota every minute.”
The Spectator reporter in attendance at the matinee and evening performances was hard-pressed to describe it, in the space allotted for his article:
“The collection of animals was exceptionally good. The performance in the main tent, as usual, was the most attractive feature to the thousands in attendance. A grand spectacular entrĂ©e and Oriental pageant procession on the hippodrome track gave a faint idea of the number of employees and the amount of stock involved in the successful management of the show.
“Then followed what to many was probably the most interesting feature of the program – the wonderful shooting of Captain Bogardus and his four sons. The boys, in every imaginable position, fired at a bell target with unerring aim, hardly a shot missing.
“The cowboys made their appearance on the track, and gave an exhibition of lasso throwing, a band of Indians at the same time amusing the spectators with a war dance on the stage to the music of a tom-tom. After they had withdrawn, the Overland main rumbled by. Presently, the ‘whoops’ were heard and Indians, mounted on swift ponies, appeared and dashed after the stage coach. Numerous shots were exchanged, and just as it seemed that the occupants of the stage would have to succumb to attack, the cowboys appeared on the scene, engaged the Indians, drove them off and rescued the occupants of the coach. The performance was a very realistic one, and afforded a capital idea of a not infrequent incident on the plains years ago.
“To do justice to all the admirable feats performed in Forepaugh’s circus would require more space than the limits of this notice will permit. Suffice it to say, that for two hours, without intermission, the spectators had presented to them a succession of circus marvels such as are rarely to be met with.
“The training of the animals is evidently young Mr. Forepaugh’s forte, as his handling of the troupe of performing elephants clearly showed. One of the best features of the show is the boxing exhibition between the small elephant Sullivan and one of the clowns. It kept the vast audience in roars of laughter.
“William Showles and Sam Watson carry off the honors in the equestrian performance. Showles is a daring bareback rider and his work is venturesome and, in many instances, really dangerous.
“Debar Bros. are magnificent contortionists and Fisher Bros. do many trapeze acts. The show closed with exciting chariot races, double team standing races, etc., and gave unqualified satisfaction to the thousands of people that attended it.
“In the evening, an immense crowd gathered under the canvas. It was a much larger audience than the one which attended the afternoon performance. On the whole, the show gave very good satisfaction.
“The events were numerous and varied enough to keep the people well-entertained throughout, and nearly everything that was done was first-rate in its own line.
“There was one disappointment, however. Most people who went to the show expected to see Blondin, the horse trained by Adam Forepaugh, Jr, walk a tight rope. Well, Blondin did walk a tight rope, technically speaking, but not in reality. The ‘rope’ was apparently not less than sixteen inches wide and had a flat surface; it was stretched some twenty-five or thirty feet from the ground and had a net stretched under it. It strongly resembled a plank. Young Forepaugh led the horse over and backed him back.
“Probably the best features of the show were the elephant acts, in which young Adam Forepaugh’s great ability as an animal trainer was shown to much better advantage than in the Blondin feat.
“The races of various kinds, which closed the performance, were quite exciting, and so well-managed as almost to make people believe the assurance of the manager, that they were run on their merits.
“The ‘concert’ given after the main performance was of the conventional kind.”1

Thursday, 12 October 2017

1885 - The Town Tramp Returns

In the mid-1880s, one of the young men who was a reporter with the Hamilton Spectator was a well-known character, not only in Hamilton but in the other cities in which he had lived and worked for the local newspaper.
In fact, this reporter was a free spirit, and a man who liked his spirits, liked his drink very much. His love of drink often was the cause of his dismissal from one newspaper, but his talent as an writer, storyteller and keen observer often gained his another job in short order.
In August, 1885, this reporter returned to the pages of the Spectator, using the pseudonym, The Town Tramp. He had used that nickname before, but any writings by The Town Tramp had been interrupted. While the cause of the interruption was not specified, it was probably related to his love of good whiskey, card games and perhaps some financial indiscretion.
In the article which appeared on August, 15, 1885, the Town Tramp only hinted at the reason for his temporary absence. He also hinted at his awareness of gamblers in the reference to the height of the tower at what he called was the “new customs house” but which was also the immense new post off at John and King streets.
Following is The Town Tramp’s breezy observations on various things, written in his characteristic style:

 ‘Come into the garden broad,

                           For the tall, tall weed has grown.’

-       Old song (revised version)

“Yes, the Town Tramp is back again. And he feels sure his many friends will not be too inquisitive as to where he has been for so long. He will tell so much as is good for the public to know. Men in positions of responsibility and trust – turnkeys and the like – will understand when the Town Tramp remarks that it is sometimes absolutely necessary for gentlemen of his profession to retire for shorter or longer periods from the activities of a cruel world to enjoy a change of occupation and diet in the seclusion provided by a paternal government. But – no more on a painful subject.

“The Town Tramp’s next friend (a useful person in law) says: ‘There can be no question that the girl with the cork leg would be safe in patronizing the new salt water baths.’

“ ‘How so?’

“ ‘Do you suppose anyone with cork enough to float her could drown? Let her take it off and use it as a life preserver.’

“The Town Tramp never bets – on principal. Always on interest. And he was much interested in a bet made by two gentlemen the other day as to the height of the new custom house tower. Both gentlemen were losers. The tower is 175 feet from the roadway to the top.

“The Town Tramp was delighted the other day with the appearance of the house and grounds of Mr. B. E. Charlton, on John street north. Mr. Charlton and his accomplished lady are true lovers of the beautiful in both nature and art, and their good taste is shown in the removal of the fence which formerly encompassed their grounds, and the good effects they have obtained with the limited area at their disposal. The house is almost covered with the luxuriant growth of a handsome creeper, and on a summer day is to the traveler an oasis in the desert of dusty roadway and heated brick, most refreshing to the eye. Mr. Charlton is an enthusiastic and successful amateur photographer, and his love of the beautiful is no doubt nurtured by the pursuit of his favorite pastime.

“Talking of the beautiful reminds The Town Tramp of its opposite – ugliness; and for a specimen, pure and unadulterated, the citizen is recommended to a sight of the city hall, meat market and market place on Sunday morning. All sorts of refuse, rubbish, old papers and dirt is allowed to accumulate around the city buildings and on the market place, and left there to offend the eye and nostril until Monday. The Town Tramp has no love for the law, but thinks it would be well to enforce one against littering the public streets with handbills and refuse paper.

“The Town Tramp has heard that during his retirement the city fathers went on a tramp, and that they enjoyed themselves well, although when one of the most respected of their number went off alone on a trip to the opening of the Niagara Falls Reserve, he was unlucky enough to lose a gold watch which he valued more for the associations connected with it than for its worth as a watch, though that is considerable. There was a tremendous crowd at the Falls that day, and robberies were quite numerous. Three bold fellows got on a car on the American side and, shouting to the passengers, ‘everybody change cars here, leave by the other end,’ almost drove the passengers out of the car. They and their confederates reaped a rich harvest of purses and watches in the crush, and made good their escape. But two of them were caught on the Canadian side next day and extradited without any ceremony.

“Speaking of the new national park on the American side of the falls reminds The Town Tramp of a story. Previous to the American war, the hotels at the Falls did an immense business. All summer long, the Cataract and Clifton houses would be thronged with guests, principally southerners, who travelled north as regularly as the year rolled around to escape the heat of the southern clime. These sojourners were, most of them, wealthy, and poured out money like water, so that the hotel attaches came to look more for pecuniary returns from the gratuities of the guests than from their salaries. Among these generous travelers was a captain from New Orleans who fairly rolled in riches. He was the beau ideal of a southern gentleman. Tall, and well-proportioned, with dark, curly locks and a fine open countenance betokening a high strung generous nature, he attracted attention both by his personal appearance and the munificent manner in which he distributed his favors, he was an especial favorite with the ladies, but season after season passed and they lavished their smiles and attentions in vain. He had bestowed his love in early youth, met with disappointment, and remained true to his early attachment. No siren in later days could win from him his allegiance to Jenny Lind. When that famous songstress visited America, the captain heard her sing, was enraptured, sought for and obtained an introduction. He was fascinated and his passion grew with time. He neglected his line of Mississippi steamboats to follow the singer from city to city, until at last, he declared his love and asked for her hand in a fiery, passionate poem, which he had printed upon satin and sent to the cantatrice. Jenny Lind was impressed, and sent the love-stricken captain a little poem, in which she gently but firmly declined his proposal, and soon after sailed for Europe. Thus ended his life’s romance, and when the cruel war had stripped him of his wealth, and age had deprived his eyes of fire and his steps of vigor, he still travelled north each summer, and managed by the grace of the men upon whom he had formerly lavished his wealth, to live for a few weeks within the sound of the mighty cataract. But drink claimed him and he died a beggar.

“He was no relation of

                   THE TOWN TRAMP.”1

1“The Town Tramp”

Hamilton Spectator.    August  15, 1885

The Hamilton Market Square to which the Town Tramp refers. The flag-topped tower is the Hamilton City Hall, the Meat Market is the one story roofed, structure center left.
 Photo courtesy Local History and Archives, Hamilton Public Library.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

1886 - Sir John A. Visits the Six Nations

After arriving in Hamilton on September 6, 1886 and spending the night at the Turner residence, in Hamilton, the Prime Minister of Canada was transported in a special car on a morning train from the city for Brantford:

“All along the route, people crowded around the car when the train stopped to get a glimpse of the Premier and cheer him as the train passed on.”1

1 “Sir John A. Macdonald : Makes a Speech at the Brantford Reservation”

Hamilton Spectator.    September 07, 1886.

At Brantford, Sir John was entertained at a special luncheon held at the Kerby House, followed by a short reception afterwards:

“Hundreds of leading citizens crowded in to press the veteran statesman’s hand and compliment him on his health after his long tri[ to the Pacific coast.”

A large group accompanied Sir John in carriages along the beautiful drive beside the Grand River from Brantford to the reserve, arriving at the Council House of Six Nation about 2 p.m.;

“All along the road, arches were built over the carriageway on which were displayed loyal and patriotic mottoes and greetings to the ‘Great Chieftain.’

“About a quarter of a mile out, an immense crowd of Indians, accompanied by a brass band, met the party and escorted them to the council house, where a vast crowd had already gathered and which, later on, was augmented in number by fresh arrivals from the surrounding country, until fully 7,000 people thronged the ground.

“Sir John addressed the meeting for over an hour. His address was delivered with his usual fire and vigor, and, accompanied by flashes of humor that carried his audience with him, while his lucid and forcible remarks on the subjects of the day were listened to with the greatest attention and applauded to the echo.”1

It was not until the following day that newspaper readers in Hamilton were able to read was actually said. The proceedings had been commenced by Chief George Buck, keeper of the great council. He welcomed Sir. John on behalf of the Six Nations, and stated that all gathered were prepared to hear what the “great chieftain” had to say:

“Sir John Macdonald, on rising to reply, was greeted by the dignified councilors with loud applause.

“He said : ‘Chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations : I must thank you most cordially for the kind reception of me today. I had long wished for an opportunity of visiting your band to see for myself the state in which Providence has placed you. I had always heard of the prosperity of the Six Nations, of their obedience to law and order of the progress of education among them, and that, as farmers, as good citizens, as good members of society and loyal subjects of her Majesty the Queen, whom we all reverence, they were not excelled by any portion of Her Majesty’s subjects in the Dominion of Canada (Applause.)

“ ‘I have been travelling, as you know, in the great west for some time. I have been through from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, and I have met your red brethren from one side of the country to the other, and now I have the pleasure of finding myself among the loyal and true-hearted band of the Six Nations Indians. (Applause.)

“ ‘I think it was two years ago that a deputation from the Six Nations was in Ottawa, and I then promised that deputation that I would do myself the honor and pleasure of visiting you here. Circumstances prevented me from fulfilling that promise until now, but here I am in fulfilment of that engagement. (Loud applause.)

“ ‘My first object in making that promise was that I might make the acquaintance of my friends the chiefs and principal warriors on the reserve. It was my duty to do so from the office her Majesty has been pleased to confer upon me as Superintendent-General of Indian affairs, and in pursuance of the solemn oath of office which I then took, I have been trying to perform these duties to the best of my ability. While here I will be glad to hear from the Council of the Nation if there is anything I can do


if anything has been neglected or omitted which ought to be attended to in order to forward these interests, it is my desire to remedy it and do all in my power to increase the development of civilization and prosperity. (Applause.)

“ ‘Another great object, and perhaps the particular object of my coming here today, is for the purpose of explaining to you, in my position as Superintendent-General of Indian affairs, the effect of what is well-known among you as the franchise bill, to be passed in 1885, will have upon the Indians. When the government of which I am the First Minister made up their minds to introduce a bill to extend the franchise and give more people the right to vote, I introduced that bill in parliament as the head of the administration, and while that bill was being prepared, I had to think of my duty to the whole population of Canada, who were fit to exercise the franchise and vote and who were unfit, and who had a moral and political right to have conferred upon them the privilege of voting. It was also my special duty to see that those who were particularly my wards, those who came under my charge in my capacity as Superintendent-General, should not be neglected; that they should be put upon an equality with all other loyal subjects of her Majesty. You all know that every white man having the necessary property qualification has a vote; every African or negro who comes to this country and becomes a British subject, if he has the necessary property qualification, has the right to have a vote; and I was satisfied that  the Indians of the older provinces were equal in intellect and education to the white and colored population that we were going to give the franchise to.(Applause.)

“ ‘Her Majesty, in her wide dominions, which extend to every portion of the world, has subjects of various nations; take India, for instance; there she has two hundred millions of subjects, and not one of these two hundred millions is a white man, but every one of those people are British subjects and if they came here to Canada would have a right to claim a vote if they had the necessary qualification. Her Majesty has colonies in Southern Africa, she has built a great dominion there, but if any one of them came to Canada, they are all black people there, but if any one of them came to Canada and had the necessary property qualification, he would be allowed to vote. In other portions of the world, she has brown subjects and yellow subjects and, except that by special legislation, the Chinese race are prevented, they have all the right to vote if they came to Canada and had the necessary property. And I asked myself and I asked my colleagues and I asked parliament. Isit right for every one of her Majesty’s subjects, no matter what their color, race or antecedents may be, if they come here and have the necessary property

                   TO HAVE A VOTE

the right to stand in a position of political equality with every other British subject, yet the red men of Canada, the original owners of the soil, who were found by the white men when they came here as usurpers, that they who have the same education and capacity, have taken the same stand amongst the civilized races of the world with all the other races of men that call her Majesty their most gracious sovereign, that they in their own country should be considered inferior and placed as inferior by the law of the land to all these other races whether black or brown, and should be placed in such a position by the laws of their own country ? I considered this foul wrong to your great race, a wrong that might be remedied and remedied at once. (Loud applause.)

          “ ‘It is admitted by everyone that you, for instance, in your reserve, stand in intellect, civilization and education, in a position in equality with your white brethren who surround you, and why should you be stamped with inferiority, who should you not occupy the same position as free men sharing in the government of their own country and help to send to parliament the men who you think can best serve the interests of your great race. (Loud and continued applause.)

“ ‘The measure, when introduced, met with great opposition. I do not here propose to impugn or attack the motives of those who opposed the measure; they did that upon their own responsibility, just as I proposed the matter to be law on my own responsibility. The objections raised were various. First, that the bill as framed would apply to the wild Indians in the Northwest. I declared that, in my opinion, it would not do so, but to prevent the possibility of a doubt arising, they were excluded and the bill was framed so as only to affect the civilized and educated Indian. Another objection was taken that the Indians of the older provinces were not sufficiently free men to have a right to exercise the franchise, that they would not vote as freemen, but that under the present Indian act, they would be under the tyrannical government of the Indian agent and the Indian agent would be under the tyrannical government of the Superintendent-General; the Superintendent-General would put on his screw and would give his orders to your agent, and your agent would put on his screw and give his orders to you and that you would vote exactly as I pulled the string at Ottawa, and that you be mere serfs and slaves under the present system. (Laughter.)

“Some were opposed to Indians of any kind having votes; others did not go so far, but said that an Indian who wished to do so could become enfranchised and forsake his tribal relationship; that is, should separate himself from his band, should become, in fact, a white man; should live away from the reserves on a certain portion of land set apart for his own use; that he then, and only then, became a free man, and that until he did, he should not exercise the franchise or get a vote. I considered that the day before a man was enfranchised, he had the same ability and education as the day after he was enfranchised, and that if he did not chose to be enfranchised, and separate himself from his tribe, he had still


“the same as if he took his share of the tribal property, bid them good-bye and moved off. (Applause.)

          “It was a gross oppression of the Indian that in order put himself on the same political platform and have some standing as the white man he should first have to declare himself an outcast from his people, obliged to declare himself as no longer belonging to his band, to give up the traditions and customs of his race, and, as it were, to draw himself away as if he were ashamed of them, and for a mere selfish personal interest, say, ‘Go away, all the rest of you, my uncivilized brethren; I am going to become a white man and have a vote and have a word in the government of the country, and, then, so far as my vote will go, I can tramble upon you.’ (Applause.)

          “It was said that the Indian on his reserve did not undertake the same duties as the white man, was not liable to be drawn upon the militia, was not liable to serve on a jury and did not contribute taxes to the same degree or in the same way as the white man. Well, to the first point mentioned, it is quite true, and that is one of the differences in system, I can look back, and am old enough to remember 1837 and 1838, the years of the rebellion. I carried my musket as a British subject in those to put down rebellion – (applause) – and then I saw fighting side by side with me the Mohawks of Deseronto and Tyendigaga. (Loud applause.)

          “You know your own traditions, you know what you have done in fighting for the British empire, and all that you did was done voluntarily. You did your full duty and more than your duty to the white man in defending the crown of the sovereign and preserving from her enemies the possessions of Britain on this continent. (Applause.)

          “Aye, and besides, suppose you did not form yourselves into a warlike body at all in case of war in this country, suppose you did not do what you have done before, and will do in the future – go forward at the call to arms, form yourselves into military bodies, and

                   FIGHT FOR THE QUEEN

“of England – suppose you should say, however, that you won’t serve, is that a ground alone for depriving you of the right to vote? Then you should take the right to vote from every man of the respectable communities of Quakers, Mennonites and Moravians, all great sects and numerously represented in this country, but who, for conscience sake, will not raise their hands against their fellow men to save their own lives. There are bodies of these respectable denominations in Canada that will not, and did not, when the country was called to arms, assist their fellow subjects to defend the country. They said that their principles would not allow them though they were as loyal to the crown as any subjects of her Majesty – their consciences and religious principles prevented them from raising their hands in war or in conflict. But every one of these men have votes now and no one throws that in their faces, and no one says : You Must not vote because you will not enter the militia; but we know that is an idle argument; we know the pride you have in your traditions and in the gallant deeds of your ancestors, and as long as these remain recorded in your hearts, you will never be backward in case of war, of taking your weapons of war in your hands and fighting for the crown, the soil and the country which is your own. (Loud applause.)

          “Then again, the Indian does not serve on juries. If that was a good ground, it would disenfranchise some thousands of clergymen of the different denomination. I think that every clergyman in the Dominion may be considered to have a vote, and yet not one of them ever served upon a jury or could be called to serve upon a jury, and why the Indian should be excluded on that ground while the clergy are not I cannot see. The day may come when the Indian will demand as a right to sit upon a jury, and when they do, I have no doubt whatever that the legislatures and parliament will grant their request, but until they do demand it, we are sure the present system will and must remain. Then, again, it was said that the Indians did not


“So far as the Dominion government is concerned, and we are speaking of the Dominion franchise, and the right to vote for members in the Dominion parliament, I contend that the Indian pays his full share of the revenue of the Dominion. (Applause.)

          “The revenue of the Dominion is raised principally either by customs duties or excise – a duty paid on articles imported into Canada or on articles manufactured in Canada – and on every yard of cloth bought by you from the United States or England, you have to pay the same duty as the white man has, and though I hope you don’t deal much in the article, every bottle of whiskey you buy, you pay the same excise duty as the white man. If you want to put a letter into the post office, you have to pay the same for a stamp to put on that letter as the white man has. I don’t know in what respect you fall inferior to the white man in your contributions to the public revenue and sustaining the expense of the administration of the Dominion. (Applause.)

          “Then you are told that you have no municipal system or self-government. In some tribes you have hereditary chiefs who form the council, and whether they be hereditary or elective, they form your municipal body and govern you, and manage and administer your affairs. And whether your system be hereditary or elective, that system will be, and must be, maintained by the solemn obligations entered into between the crown and the Indians until you yourselves ask that it may be done away with. Suppose you had no municipality : are the whole of the people of Nova Scotia to be disenfranchised, for they have no municipalities, except a few of them. Are you going to disenfranchise the people of New Brunswick because there are only one or two towns there, or the people of British Columbia, because they have no municipalities; and so on to the Northwest? The contention is absurd; and I take this opportunity of saying so to you, the chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, that your system, so long as you choose to maintain it, will be maintained. The parliament of Canada has got

                             THE HONOR OF CANADA

“in its keeping. It is a sacred trust, and they will not countenance a single breach of any treaty or understanding between the Indians and the government; they will never see them impugned, defrauded or prejudiced. (Applause.)

          “And I will tell you that I know enough of the white people of whom I am one, and can assure you that their sense of justice would not allow them to tolerate anything of the kind, but that throughout the whole country they would make their indignation felt if any attempt was made to tramble on the treaty rights of the Indians. But it does not even rest with the moral sense of the white men or of the parliament of Canada. The Indian, in case he is wronged, has the same appeal as the white man; he can go to the foot of the throne, he can say to her Majesty the Queen : Here are the pledges that your ancestors made to our chiefs, here are the pledges that wee were assured you would honor, that we should be undisturbed in our rights and should be free to exercise all the rights and customs that tradition has handed down to us and which a thousand years of practice have made positive and absolute law, here we appeal to you to protect us if there be any attempt to defraud us of one of those privileges. What would her majesty say? No, my honor is involved in the pledges given by my grandfather, George III, for he was a great and a true king and a truthful, Christian man, and we feel that his pledge is my pledge and is the pledge of the whole nation and empire of Great Britain, and we will see that it is honorably and justly carried out. (Tremendous applause.)

          “Notwithstanding all these objections that I have mentioned to you and have shortly attempted to answer, the franchise bill became law in July, 1885, and now the question is asked, what good will the exercise of the franchise do the Indian? It will do him the same good as the white man, and if you want to know how much he esteems the benefit, just go sometime where the voters’ list is being settled and see how anxious the white man is to see that his name is put on, because he knows that unless he is an elector, he has no say whatever in the government of his country. Every interest is represented in parliament, every industry strives to have


“and insists upon doing so as far as votes can go. If the Indians are not strong enough in any constituency to elect one of your own race, you can go to the candidates and say : We think we will vote for you because we believe you will vote to protect us in case our rights are attacked and we insist upon your doing so.  If you fail in the confidence we give you, we will withdraw our votes and you will never get our votes again. So if that candidate wants to get elected again, he will keep his promise and attend to your interests. There is not a representative in the parliament of Canada pledged to protect the interests of the Indians, except myself, speaking in my official capacity a Superintendent- General f Indian affairs. You should have representative in parliament, men pledged by their own interests and desire to remain in parliament to look after and defend your interests, and until that is done and someone is interested in speaking for you, you cannot well complain if you neglect to exercise the privilege that the act gives you in case your interests are overlooked. If, however, by use and exercise of this great privilege, you elect a member to look after your interests, they will be looked after, for the vote of the man who lives upon your votes and who will expire as a political man if he does not truly carry out his pledges to you, will be cast in whatever way will best promote your interests. One of my duties in going to British Columbia was to look after the interests of the Indians there. They are not in as good a position as you are. By some unfortunate arrangement about British Columbia, they have no treaty rights and they have to depend upon the generosity of the local government. I went to get the Provincial government to give the Indians certain reserves, for some tribes had lands of their own and other tribes had no lands, not a rest of the soles of their feet in the country of their ancestors, and I asked the local government to assign them sufficient reservations. And yet, while I am bound to say that such is the position of the Indians there, the local government has shown a sincere desire to carry out the moral obligation towards

                             THE INDIANS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

“and I got them to sanction the apportionment of certain large reserves for the Indians; but, though the premier there is well-inclined towards the Indians, yet when I proposed a measure for the good of the Indians involving some extra outlay, he said : I am afraid I cannot carry that in this legislature. I said : If the Indians there had votes, would you not be able to get it through? Oh yes, say he, I would get it through very quick (Laughter and applause.)

          I have no doubt you will be able to impress upon the candidates at any election that may take place here in the future what you want, and get a pledge from them to see that your particular interest are properly represented and protected in parliament. That is my answer to the question : What good will it do the Indian to have a vote.? (Loud applause)

          “The Franchise act passed, as I have said, in July 1885, and those who opposed the passing of the bill on the various grounds I have mentioned, and principally on the ground that the Indian was unfit for exercising the franchise, have taken another turn. They are great friends of the Indian now (laughter), and say that if the act is put in force, the Indians will suffer for it, that they will be liable for taxation and various other oppressions that I have mentioned to you. I have this answer : The Indians’ rights are the same as they were before the act passed; there is not a single obligation, either solemnly expressed treaty or custom which has from long practice all the effect and sanction of a treaty – not one treaty obligation or other obligation has been lessened, weakened or taken away by the exercise of the franchise or the passing of that bill. (Applause and cries of ‘That’s so, Sir John.)

          “You can quite understand that an act of parliament comes in force from the day it is passed or that the day mentioned in the act when it is said that the act will come into force; now, that act came in force in July, 1885, and more than a year has elapsed since it passed, and do you find that you have lost any privilege, do you find that the chiefs have been deposed, that the warriors have been drawn as jurors, or that new taxation has been heaped upon you? No, you stand exactly now as you did the day before the act was passed (applause) and you can exercise that franchise according to your inconvenience,

                   EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE

without any fear or favor and without any apprehension of losing anything by it. You gain everything by the exercise of the franchise, you have a voice in the affairs of your country and are put on an equality with the other races of her Majesty’s subjects – you gain in every way and you lose nothing by it. Fraud cannot be used in order to take away from you any one of your rights, which have the sanction of the crown and of the Dominion parliament, and had the sanction of all the legislatures and parliaments and provinces of the Dominion ever since you came here. (Loud applause.)

          “ You will, I hope, stand out boldly and say on every opportunity : We will exercise our fair share in the government of the country, we will vote for the him whom we think will do the most for us as a race, and we will not vote for the man whom we believe will be unfriendly to your race. You will do so, I am sure, for it is a duty to yourselves, to your race, and to your descendants. It is your duty to tradition and to your ancestors. (Prolonged applause.)

          “You will not admit that you are incapable of performing the highest act that a freeman in a free country can perform – that is to give his vote and take the responsibility of it. You will not fall back faintly like cowards from the responsibility of standing in your country the equal of any man in it. You will not say : We will allow the whites to do as they please; we will not by our votes elect good men to represent us or keep out men who will not pledge themselves to protect our interests. We will leave this voting to the whites and the blacks because we think they can attend to it better than we can, and that all that has been said about our unfitness is true. I think you will take my advice about this. I do not come here to talk to you in favor of one party or another. You must vote as you please and as your conscience dictates; you may vote to put me out as Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, and you may vote to upset the government of which I am a member – though, candidly, I think myself you would make a little mistake in doing so – (laughter) but at all events exercise your right as free men and vote as you think best. Do not think it is necessary to give up the customs and traditions of your race to become an enfranchised Indian, and separate yourself from your band, and give up the traditions that have been handed down to it. No; your will still

                   REMAIN ON YOUR RESERVES

and be governed in your own fashion, you will obey your chiefs and preserve your customs and hereditary dress. I come of another race myself, I am a Scotch Highlander, and the Scotch Highlanders still retain their language as it is spoken throughout the most of Great Britain and Ireland. They are a small portion of the population in the north of Scotland, but they still revere and honor the language of their race and their ancestors; they teach it in their schools as well as the English, and they wear the dress of their ancestors on high occasions; you will then see the Scotch Highlander dressed out in full costume and it is a picturesque dress, but not more so than is the dress I see before me. I hope you will not abandon your customs, language or dress. At all events, don’t adopt the Highland Scotch costume, because they have a way of appearing in full dress by taking off their trousers, and it might not look so graceful on anybody else as it does on a Highlander. (Loud laughter.)

          “When I was in British Columbia, there came a band of Highlanders to ask me to be an honorary member of their association. There they were, all blooming in tartan array, with the bagpipes playing before them, and I was proud to see them away off there upon the Pacific coast honoring and perpetuating the dress and customs of their ancestors, and I felt my heart glow at seeing and meeting them there; I have no doubt that you Indians will feel the same when you see the members of your tribe appearing in the picturesque dress of your ancestors, you will feel the same glow of patriotic remembrance and pride as I felt when I saw my own countrymen so far from the land of their fathers still wearing the time-honored dress of the Scottish Highlanders. (Applause.)

          “Let me say in conclusion that I came here with the sincere desire of seeing that the Indian race, with whom I have much to do, are advancing step by step in equality with their white brethren. We have Scandinavians, French, Danes, and now Hungarians and Italians, all pouring into this country; we are all of various races and languages in this large Dominion, but I consider that the great Indian people scattered over this country from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean

                   STANDS ON AN EQUALITY

with all these men in everything that makes the civilized man, and they have this great opportunity over them, that, while they come to this country which is not their own to seek their fortunes, you are dwelling in the country of your ancestors. And in the future, as you were at the time the bill was passed, being in every way the equals of these people, you have a right that is superior to theirs to have a share in the administration of the country that was once your own. (Loud applause.)

          “Do not be faint-hearted, stick to your customs, the white man dare not and cannot take them away, (applause) and if you are guilty of neglecting your duty as electors, you will be guilty of neglecting your own interests. If you do not come forward from this time forth, from the time that I address you, and when the occasion arises defend your race by sending men to parliament to express your mind and look after your interests, and defeat any government that will not redress your grievances, then the fault will be yours. But I feel that you will do your duty as electors and as free men. Do not think that by the exercise of your franchise, you are prejudicing your position in any way or forfeiting any privilege you have hitherto enjoyed. No; you are only asserting your rights as free men, and insisting upon having a share in the government of your own country. (Loud and renewed applause.)

          “Chief William Smith, replying on behalf of all the chiefs of the Six Nations, thanked Sir John Macdonald for his commendation of their progress in education and agriculture, and hoped they would continue to merit his good opinion of them.  He assured Sir John that the patriotism and loyalty which had characterized the Six Nations on former occasions when they had fought side by side with the British against the invaders of our soil was still as strong as it was among their ancestors, and they are just as ready today if occasion required to go out to the front and take up arms with their brother Canadians and fight in defense of their common country. In conclusion, he thanked Sir John for his explanation of the Franchise bill and said that the matter had been discussed by them in council on several occasions, and that now after hearing the great chieftain’s words, they would consider the question in the new light thus shed upon it and come to a decision regarding it.’

                   AT THE PICNIC GROUNDS

          “Sir John and his party were next escorted to the picnic grounds where a vast crowd of both Indians and white people were patiently awaiting him. They received him with thunders of applause, and it was some time before quiet was restored, the cheers being renewed again and again.”2

                2 “A Talk With Red Men : the Six Nation Indians Addressed by Sir John A. Macdonald.”

          Hamilton Spectator.   September 8, 1886.

          (To be continued)