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Canada and the States By Sir E. W. Watkin Characters: 25714

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

Letters from Sir George E. Cartier-Question of Honors.

The "Act for the Union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and the government thereof, and for purposes connected therewith," received the Royal Assent on the 29th of March, 1867.

The following letters may be of some interest to the friends of the late Sir George Etienne Cartier, and to mine:


"30 April, 1867.


"I leave to-morrow for Liverpool on my way to Canada. Allow me, before my departure, to convey to you personally and for 'Canada' the most sincere and grateful thanks for all the kindnesses you have bestowed, on me since my sojourn in London, and for all the political services you have rendered to 'Canada' in having so efficiently helped the carrying of the great confederation measure. I hope that before long we will see you again in Canada, and rest assured that we will be delighted to demonstrate to you our gratefulness.

"Be kind enough to present my best respects to Mrs. Watkin, and to ask her to accept from me the within-enclosed photograph taken at 'Naples,' which I think is very good.

"Good bye, my dear Mr. Watkin, and believe me,

"Yours very truly,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq., M.P."


When the Act for Confederation had been passed, and while some of the delegates were still in England, a notification was made of honors intended to be conferred by Her Majesty on some of those who had devoted anxious hours of labour to the great cause of Union. In my case, my name was mentioned for knighthood, while the names of Mr. Cartier and Mr. Galt were named for the honor of "C. B.," and Mr. Langevin's name appeared to be entirely omitted. When, how, or by whom, the leader of the great French-speaking section of the Canadian people was placed, thus, in a position inferior to that of the leader of Upper Canada, who was made "K. C. B.," I do not care, now, to inquire. But I felt at the time, and I feel now, that it would have been unjust- unselfish and earnest as my services had been-to give to a man like Mr. Cartier, an honor inferior to that which common report had attributed to me. I felt, also, that the proposal would be treated as a slight to the Catholic and French-speaking people. I did all in my, limited, power to represent the mistake and the danger to the leaders of the Government, at home; and, as will be shown in the next Chapter, I wrote to Mr. Disraeli on this serious question on the 3rd August, 1867.

"MONTREAL, "23rd August, 1867.


"I thank you very much for your kind letters. Really you are too good to espouse, as it were, my cause respecting the honors conferred in Canada. There is no doubt that--is the cause of all the evil in the matter of the honors conferred. Some other parties are also not exempt from blame. I have not as yet received a reply to my letter declining the C. B. ship. I presume I shall have it very soon. I have to tell you that I will make throughout all Lower Canada the best electoral campaign I have ever made. The Rouges will not elect 10 members out of the 65 allotted to Lower Canada. Holton and Dorion, the leaders of the Rouge Party, will very likely be defeated. I went to Chateaugay on Monday last to attend a meeting against Holton. I gave it to him as he deserved. I will tell you in confidence that Gait and myself through the large majority I will have in Lower Canada, will be stronger than ever. Mrs. Cartier and my girls are at Rimouska. I will deliver them your kind messages as soon as I see them. My kindest regards to Mrs. Watkin, and believe me,

"My dear Mr. Watkin,

"Yours very truly,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq, M.P.,



"22_nd September_, 1867.


"Accept my most sincere thanks for your such unappreciable kindness in having made common cause with me in reference to the late distribution of honors in Canada. I do really think, and I am convinced, that you have allowed your good heart to go too far in having declined the honor and distinction offered to you, and which you so well deserved in every respect. I hope that my matter will not stand in the way of you having your public and political services in England, as well as in Canada, sooner or later fully recognized, and well rewarded by a proper and suitable distinction. I hope so, for your own sake as well as for that of Mrs. Watkin and your son and amiable daughter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has written you a very nice letter, indeed. With regard to my matter, would you imagine that the Duke of Buckingham has written a confidential note to Lord Monck, telling to this latter that there being no precedent for a resignation of the C. B., the only way to have my wishes carried out would be by the Queen directing by order in the Gazette my name to be struck out from the Order, which proceeding, the Duke adds, would be construed by outsiders and uninitiated that it was for misconduct. Lord Monck having communicated to me the substance of the Duke's communication, I have asked Lord Monck to obtain from the Duke leave to communicate to me the substance of his note in no confidential manner, in order that I may reply to it. I do really think that the intention is to frighten me, in order to induce me to withdraw my letter asking leave to resign the C. B. That I will not do, and when the Duke's communication is under my eyes in no confidential manner, I will send such a reply that will make people understand the injury done to me, and the slight so absurdly offered to a million of good and loyal French Canadians. As a matter of course, all that I say to you in this letter is strictly in confidence to you.

"Mrs. Cartier and myself have had the pleasure, yesterday, to have the company at dinner of your friends Mr. and Mrs. Sidebottom. They are really a very nice couple, and we thank you for having given us the opportunity of making their acquaintance. Be kind enough to present on my behalf, and on that of Mrs. Cartier and my daughters, our best respects and regards to Mrs. Watkin, and to believe me, my dear Mr. Watkin,

"Your devoted friend,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq., M.P., London."

"OTTAWA, "24_th November_, 1867.


"I am so much thankful to you for your kind wish of the 10th of October last. I do appreciate with gratefulness your so kind expression of feelings towards me. I enclose you an extract of the 'Montreal Gazette,' giving the report of a debate which took place in our House some few days ago respecting the 'C.B.' matter, and also an 'extract' of the same paper, containing some editorial remarks on the same subject. I like to keep you au courant of that matter, since you are so good as to take interest in it. I took great care not to take any part in the debate. I have not as yet got a copy of the Duke of Buckingham's letter. I will follow your advice with regard to any answer to it on my part. I will never forget your disinterestedness in this question of 'honor' and nothing will be more agreeable to me than to act in such a way, whenever the opportunity will offer itself, as to show by reciprocal action my thanks and my feelings.

"'The Grand Trunk Act' will be read a second time to-morrow (Monday). Mrs. Cartier and my girls are here for a few days. We were all sorry to hear that your son had an attack of fever. We all hope that he got over it, and that he is well again. Be kind enough to present to Mrs. Watkin and your dear son our best regards and kindest remembrance. I regret very much the retirement of 'Galt' from our government. You will have heard that I have replaced him by Rose. I could not do better under any circumstances.

"Believe me, my dear Mr. Watkin,

"Yours very truly,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq., M.P.,

"London, England."


"15_th February_, 1868.


"I am very grateful to you for your three kind letters of the 2nd, 13th, and 15th January last. Be good enough to excuse me if I have not sooner acknowledged their receipt.

"I am in Quebec since a couple of weeks, attending the 'Local Parliament,' of which I am a member. Things are going on very well. I got elected to the 'Local Parliament' in order to help my friends, the 'Local Ministers' to carry on the 'Local Government' and I must say they are doing it very well. The 'Quebec Legislature' carries this 'business' better than does the 'Ontario Legislature.' I will leave for Ottawa on the 17th instant, to be there on the 20th to attend the Council Meeting for deciding on the route of the Intercolonial Railway.

"I felt so sorry to hear that your dear son was so long unwell. I hope that by this time he is himself again.

"I gave to Mrs. Cartier and my daughters your kind message of good wishes for them and myself during this present year. We are all thankful to you. Have the goodness to accept in return from them and myself for you, Mrs. Watkin, and your dear son and daughter, our best wishes for the prosperity and happiness of you all.

"I must say, my dear Mr. Watkin, that with regard to the C. B. matter, you do really take too much trouble and interest for me. I am very thankful to you for it, and also to Mr. Baring and Lord Wharncliffe. If you have occasion to intimate to them my thankfulness, if any opportunity for so doing should offer itself to you, you would oblige me very much.

"Really it was too kind of Lord Wharncliffe to have brought that delicate matter before Lord Derby, and to have written you about it. I thank you for the enclosures you have made to me of what Lord Wharncliffe had written to you about the C. B.

"I have now to tell you something which happened about that subject since my last to you.

"You very likely must have seen or heard of the 'notification,' published in the 'London Gazette' at the end of the month of December last, about the honors distributed in Canada in connection with the 'Confederation.' In that 'notification' you must have seen that the names of 'myself and Galt' are omitted, and it was stated in that notification that it must be 'substituted' for the 'one' published on the 9th of July last, in which Galt's name and mine were inserted as C. B. Now, you must recollect that some months ago I wrote you about a 'confidential communication' of the Duke of Buckingham to Lord Monck, in order that it should be intimated to me and Gait, that there was no precedent of a resignation of the Order of the Bath, and that the only way left for the carrying out of Galt's wishes and mine would be by 'an order of Her Majesty ordering our names to be struck off the roll.' The communication of the Duke having been made to me in a confidential manner, I had no opportunity to answer it. I had written to Lord Monck to ask the Duke's leave for communicating to me in no confidential manner the despatch of the Duke, in order to give me an opportunity to answer it. I never had any answer from Lord Monck to that request. To my great surprise, at the end of December last, I received from Lord Monck a note, accompanied by the copy of a despatch from the Duke, informing me that a mode had been found to meet my wishes and those of Galt, which consisted in the publication in the 'London Gazette' of a 'notification' omitting our names, and such notification to be substituted for the former one of July last.

"The reading of this last despatch more than astonished me, and my astonishment was greater when I saw by the 'London Gazette' that it was carried into effect by the notification above alluded to. I have had no more opportunity to answer the second despatch of the Duke than the first one, which was marked 'confidential.' Allow me to add, that the 'Duke' expressed in his 'first communication' that he did not like to suggest that my name should be struck off the roll, because an ungenerous construction now and hereafter might be made against me by those not acquainted with the facts. Now, by the course followed, as explained in his second despatch, I feel as badly treated as if the first course had been adopted. In one case my name would have been ordered to be struck off the roll, and by the second course followed up, my name was ordered to be omitted in the second notification. There is not much difference between these two courses. I have written a letter to Lord Monck to complain of the second course followed up, inasmuch as there being no reason assigned for the omission of my name in the second notification, a construction ungenerous to myself and my children after me could now and hereafter be made. Excuse me for troubling you so long about that C.B. matter. Now, with regard to the Hudson Bay matter, not the least doubt that

the speech of 'John A.' was very uncalled for and injudicious. He had no business to make such a speech, and I told him so at the time- that he ought not to have made it. However, you must not attach too much importance to that speech. I myself and several of my colleagues, and John A. himself, have no intention to commit any spoliation; and, for myself in particular, I can say to you that I will never consent to be a party to a measure or anything intended to be an act of spoliation of the Hudson Bay's rights and privileges. I must bring this long epistle to a close.

"My kindest regards and respects to Mrs. Watkin.

"Remember me to your dear son, and believe me, my dear Mr. Watkin,

"Yours very truly,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq."


These discussions were both unfortunate and embarrassing; in the course of them, I had suggested that the way out of the difficulty was generously to offer a baronetcy to Mr. Cartier. During the discussion Dr. Tupper arrived in England. He cordially agreed with me. He deplored the mistake made, and, acting from his official position, and with the great judgment which he has always shown, he was able to assist in the desired happy solution.

On the 22nd of April I received the following letter:-



"The Duke (of Buckingham) showed me (in strict confidence until after the official announcement here) the copy of his telegram to Lord Monck, announcing the fact that the Queen had conferred a baronetcy upon Mr. Cartier, and a C.B. upon Langevin, and was pleased to say that he was very much indebted to me for having suggested it. I told him that I was satisfied that his Grace had conferred a signal service to our country, which would be productive of much good. Knowing how much pleasure this will give you I cannot forbear mentioning it, of course in confidence.

"I enclose a letter received to-day from our late lamented friend. Be good enough to return it to me. Ought I to communicate his wishes to Messrs. Hurst &

Blackwell? I had a long interview with Mr. Cardwell to-day. He will do anything in his power to aid in putting matters right in Nova Scotia, and is anxious that I should see Mr. Bright. Mr. C. takes your view as to the Union question having been an issue before the people in 1863, in the strongest manner.

"Yours faithfully,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq., M.P."

I feel assured that Mr. Cartier was moved, solely, by a regard for the honor of his compatriots.


"28th May, 1868.


"On Friday last, the 21st instant, our Parliament was prorogued. We have had a very hard and laborious session. For my part, I had charge of the two most difficult measures, the Militia and the Fortifications measures, which I carried through successfully, and which were sanctioned on the 21st instant. Without being considered guilty of boasting, I can say, and every man in Parliament will say, that I was the only one who could carry through these measures. My Lower Canada Parliamentary strength supported me nobly. I consider that in carrying these two measures to successful issue, I have rendered a good service to Canada, to England, and to British transactions. I wanted to write you last week, before the closing of our session, but really I could not find a moment for so doing. During ten days we sat three times a day, and we had to attend our executive sittings during the very short intervals allowed us. I have not as yet answered your so kind letter of the 24th April last, nor your also kind former one of March last, and I hope you will have the goodness to excuse my delay. My dear Mr. Watkin, I do really not know how to thank you for all that you have done for me with regard to the injustice done me in the matter of the distribution of honors to the Confederation delegates, and with regard to the baronetcy which the Queen intends to confer on me. As you remark in your last note, I became aware of Her Majesty's intentions by a cable telegram to Lord Monck, and the last mail has brought a despatch to Lord Monck from the Duke of Buckingham to apprise me officially of Her Majesty's intentions, and to request me to send to the Colonial Office my pedigree and my coat of arms, for the preparation of the letters patent to be issued. I am now procuring all the information and things required by the Heralds' College. The first telegram to Lord Monck was to offer me the baronetcy, and to ascertain if I would accept of it. I took a few days to consider the matter, as I would not do anything which might not have been approved by Galt and Langevin. Both of them urged me to accept; and consequently I made Lord Monck aware of my acceptance. A few days afterwards came another cable telegram, informing Lord Monck that the Queen had conferred on me the baronetcy dignity, and the C.B. on Langevin. When the Queen's pleasure was announced in the House, there were cheers and approbation from both sides of the House. I have not the least doubt that I am under obligation to Lord Derby and to Lord Wharncliffe for their interference in my favour; and I must add, that I feel under stronger obligation to you for the honor conferred on me, first, for your having moved so kindly and so urgently Lord Wharncliffe, and, secondly, for your so chivalrous disinterestedness in having yourself declined the royal mark of favour offered to you by Mr. Disraeli, on the ground of the injustice at first done to me. My dear Mr. Watkin, I cannot forget such friendly and disinterested conduct on your part. I hope it will be in my power, in return, to be useful to you. Very likely I will have to go to England on the question of defence before the next Session of our Parliament, and I will not fail to say the proper words to the proper quarters; and if it were possible for me to do something by correspondence, I would gladly do it; but I don't know how to proceed, and whom to move. Besides, I would not like to do or write anything which might not meet your wishes. I would like very much to know your views on that delicate question. I thank you for your suggestion to write a few lines to Lord Wharncliffe. I enclose you a letter for him, which I leave open, in order that you should see it. If the letter meets your views, be kind enough to seal it and to mail it to Lord Wharncliffe. I was so pleased the other day to hear from our friend Brydges, that your dear son had arrived in Montreal, and that his health is improving. I have not failed to let Langevin know your kind congratulations to him. He feels very thankful for the interest you take in him. I showed him your last note to me. I have duly transmitted to Mrs. Cartier and my daughters your kind message,-and they all feel grateful to you. I enclose you the Militia and Fortification measures as they finally passed. I enclose you also the return to an address for the correspondence and despatches on the defence-fortification question. You may, perhaps, like to have all these papers. I enclose you also the return to an address for the correspondence on the C.B. matter, and the report of the Select Committee upon it; you will find the report of the Committee in the Notes and Proceedings of the 15th of May. It seemed to me, that you might like to have these documents, as you took such a degree of interest in Galt and myself. Do me the kindness to present my best regards to Mrs. Watkin, and to remember me kindly to your daughter when you write her.

"We are threatened with a Fenian invasion in the course of June next. We are preparing to meet it. It is too bad that the Imperial Government should allow such an hostile organization to be formed in the United States without a word of remonstrance. In the hope of hearing from you at your earliest convenience,

"Believe me, my dear Mr. Watkin,

"Your sincere and grateful friend,


"E. W. WATKIN, Esq., M.P. London."


Sir George Cartier's allusion to the neglect by our Government in permitting, without remonstrance, the repeated invasion of Canada, makes one shiver with shame. As President Johnson said to me in 1865, "Why don't your people remonstrate?"

My countrymen may feel assured that if remonstrances, firm and dignified, had anticipated each known intended outrage-English and Irish-American conspiracies would have not been as now.

"ROSE HILL, NORTHENDEN, near MANCHESTER, "12th August, 1868.


"I, gladly, enclose a copy of the Gazette notice of your Baronetcy.

"I have had the fees at the Heralds' College, and also the stamps and expenses, through the Home Office, duly paid, and I will send you the papers and receipts as soon as I receive them.

"The completion of this matter will close the somewhat intimate connection which now for some years has given me, if trouble and anxiety, still deep pleasure and satisfaction,-in reference to your now united Provinces.

"With best wishes allow me to remain,

"Yours very faithfully,


"To the Hon. Sir G. E. CARTIER, Bart.,

"Montreal, Canada."


"18th September, 1868.


"The last English mail has brought us the happy news that the honor of knighthood has been conferred on you by the Queen.

"Allow me to offer you, Lady Watkin, and your dear son and daughter, my sincere and heartfelt congratulations on the bestowal on you of so well deserved a distinction. You must bear in mind that I do not forget that the honor so recently bestowed on you would have been conferred on you a long time ago, had not your generous feelings towards me prompted you at one time to decline the same distinction. Lady Cartier and my daughters gladly unite with me in this expression of congratulation, which I now offer you, Lady Watkin, and your son and daughter. I hope that your future election will not give you much trouble, and that Canada and the British people will have again the benefit of your presence in Parliament.

"I may see you before long in England. Be kind enough to accept for you and Lady Watkin the assurance of the kindest regards of myself, Lady Cartier, and my daughters, "And, believe me, my dear Sir Edward, "Yours very truly,


"Sir EDWARD W. WATKIN, M.P., Kt., London."


"Westminster Palace Hotel,

"20th November, 1868.

"My dear Sir Edward,

"You cannot conceive how sorrowful I feel that the result of the election in Stockport was adverse to you. I was watching the incidents and proceedings connected with that election with such an interest and with such sure hope that you would be successful. You have no idea of my grief and disappointment when I became aware of your defeat. Our friend Brydges has mentioned to me some of the causes which have militated against you amongst your constituents, viz. your having attended at the laying of the corner stone of a Roman Catholic School, and your drinking the health of the 'Pope' at the lunch which ensued, and also the displeasure which you have incurred from Mr. Bright and some of his friends for not having supported him in his motion for Nova Scotia against the Confederation. I have already written to some of my colleagues in Canada to let them know there the 'liberality' of these pretended 'Liberals' here. I hope you will not remain a long time out of Parliament, and that very soon some vacancy will occur which will give you an opportunity to be re-elected, and to serve and advocate again in the Imperial Parliament, not only the interests of the three British Isles, but also the Colonial interests, and particularly those of the Dominion of Canada, to which you have always attended with such ability, zeal, and ardour, that you have now the everlasting gratitude of every Canadian. I hope your electoral contretems will not deter you from your political pursuits. I would have had such a pleasure in congratulating Lady Watkin on your electoral success.

"I hope Lady Watkin, Miss Watkin, and your son are enjoying good health. Have the goodness to present my best regards to Lady Watkin, and to remember me kindly to your dear daughter and son; and, my dear Sir Edward, reiterating to you my sincere thanks for all you have done for me, and expecting the pleasure of seeing you very soon in London, believe me, as always,

"Your very sincere,

"And devoted friend,


"Sir EDWARD W. WATKIN, 21, Old Broad Street, London.

"On my leaving Canada Lady Cartier and my daughters have asked me not to forget to present to you and Lady Watkin their best wishes and kindest regards, to remember them kindly to your son, and to offer their compliments to Miss Watkin, in the hope of making her acquaintance hereafter."

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