The Member For The Hudson's Bay Company
On one memorable occasion poor frustrated McDougall added to his public services by a really happy hit in malicious nomenclature. He struck out by a felicitous inspiration of his own or judicially adopted from the nick-naming ingenuity of others, a very suggestive title for one considerable aspect of our hero's activities—the function namely which the latter discharged for a good many storm-tossed years as a member of the Dominion parliament. In the course of a certain debate McDougall rose to interrupt the flow of Donald A's eloquence with the following monumental words;—"I object to this irregular proceeding. The people of this country will soon come to regard the Honourable Member for Selkirk as representative of the Hudson's Bay Company sent to this House to rehabilitate them before the Dominion." The name hit the nail on the head—Donald A. Smith, member for the Hudson's Bay Company and Advocatus Diaboli.
He had seven continuous years of it as member for Selkirk, from 1871 to 1878. At the same time he sat in the newly constituted Legislative Assembly of Manitoba doing good work there. These, and the ones that followed down to 1896 with the herculean labours of the Canadian Pacific Railway in them, were Smith's eventful years, his burning noon-day after the long grey misty morning. A change indeed from the even tenor of sequestered obscurity at the back of the north wind among the Arctic fogs, or even in the Hudson's Bay Company's warehouses and sombre head-office in Montreal! The life which had flowed so smooth and still in dark places through apparently almost stagnant reaches till the memorable day when it touched the troubled streams of the Red River began from that moment to leap and boil in full daylight before all men's friendly or unfriendly eyes. It had to pass through its tormented stage of rocks and rapids, whirling eddies and dizzy cataracts, a very Pyriphlegethon, before it found refuge, like Arethusa persecuted by Alpheus ducking under the ocean, in the broad-bosomed unruffled lake of the Canadian High Commissioner's dignified routine and the spacious gilded peace of our British Valhalla, the House of Lords.
A rapid glance will indicate how much was doing in these tempestuous times. The troublesome question of the Riel Amnesty, the bargain with British Columbia, both of them long-drawn out drearinesses emerging first in 1871; the Pacific scandal in 1873 following close upon the muddy heels of the notorious '72 election, in which both sides surpassed themselves and each other in the heroic surgery they practised upon the brains and consciences of the Canadian voter, the operations in the constituency of Selkirk not being conspicuously distinguished for the scrupulous avoidance of septic matter; the storms of 1873 to which Donald A., like one of Macbeth's witches, contributed his own private wind, which nevertheless he rode victoriously, being returned in the brand-new rôle of "Independent"—more or less in the train of Alexander Mackenzie; the desperate gropings and fumblings of that short-lived government with the disaffections of British Columbia, the clamours of Manitoba, and its problems of transcontinental communication, its ruinous overthrow in the annus mirabilis of 1878 and the triumphant return of Sir John Macdonald to a life-long lease of power on the high wave, raised by his breezy picnics, of his famous National Policy, Sir John, whose first use of his omnipotence was to hurl down from his western citadel the "snake in the grass" who had interrupted it, and relegate him to outer darkness for almost nine years, by seeking a verdict of the Supreme Court which reversed the decision of an inferior tribunal upon a contested election, and by unsparingly concentrating all possible means to overwhelm the object of his loathing in the isolation of the resulting bye-election—the mere mention of these passionate conflicts reminds us vividly that the member for Selkirk had something more to think of than the constituency of his nick-name, something more to stand up for than the Hudson's Bay Company. He did incidentally stand up also among other things in these fierce days and anxious nights for the outraged sense of the Canadian people, who showed themselves still capable in extreme cases of that sort of reaction. Hence the not very heavenly anger against him of such celestial minds as Macdonald's and Tupper's. Hence, too, Smith's long holiday from Canadian politics from 1878 onwards until, after the triumphant completion of the C.P.R., with which he had filled up the interval, he emerged from his inter-lunar cave a belted knight to shine among the stars at Ottawa as the unchallenged choice of Montreal West—still an "Independent" and eccentric luminary but still revolving well within the general orbit of the National Party shedding a helpful light in particular upon the earthly business of the Jesuits' estates and in that and other ways gradually returning more and more within the more benignant solar aspects and influences of Sir John. His seat in Montreal he retained without the slightest difficulty or opposition, till in 1896 he was translated from the rough and tumble of our Canadian politics to the somewhat dingy but peaceful splendour of the High Commissioner's Office in Victoria St., Westminster, and soon after to the Olympian quietude of the House of Lords. But the very last thing he did before leaving for England and shaking off for ever the last speck of the clinging prairie-mud was to visit his old haunts once more and pour oil on the troubled waters there. The Manitoba school-question was extent by a farewell pat from that large and dexterous hand. He still represented the N.W. and with it the Hudson's Bay Company. Whatever other titles he might acquire elsewhere, in Glencoe or on the banks of the Dee or Spey, he never ceased to be the Duke of the Prairies and leader in Labrador, the Sagamore of the Saskatchewan. He was to his dying day the heaven-born and earth-grown representative of that north-west with whose welfare the true interests of the Hudson's Bay Company had at last, happily for them and largely by his guidance, become quite undistinguishably identified. It was not his way to drop anything he ever once took up. And so he remained what McDougall called him the member for the Hudson's Bay Company, their apologist, himself their best and not superfluous apology.
The aptitude of the man for the new job assigned to him by the election of 1871 was really conspicuous. Smith had a natural talent for representation. He was almost an ideal spokesman for any considerable aggregation of his fellow mortals. Himself a thoroughly average man, only built on a scale considerably larger and burning with a much keener and steadier fire of life than the average, he had the inestimable power so often denied to far more showy talents and far finer qualities of mind of hearing what other ordinary people had to say. He was a good listener. He was not the sort of sage that cries in the streets while no man regards his sapient utterances. He was not too much above the common level to be reached by others or to reach them. Nobody was ever less like Edmund Burke or St. Symeon of the Pillar or any other prophet of a truth to high for the mind of the vulgar throng, preaching from a perch so elevated that the lispings of their folly could not rise to it nor the words of his own wisdom descend. Never in all his life did he have anything to say which the man in the street could not quite completely take in. He had to perfection the representative's first requisite, the very same range of thought, belief, desire and feeling as the common clay of humanity which he had ambition enough to wish to represent—and could represent effectively because while he shared their other limits he did not share their confusions, their listlessness, their cowardice, or their incapacity to give some sort of tolerably coherent expression to the opinions, hopes and fears that stirred obscurely in the muddle of their minds. And being thus unusually endowed by nature to interpret at least the more obvious of the ordinary political aspirations of his fellows, so his experience and training had fitted him above all others to speak the word for that particular constituency. His connections with the country and with the life of all classes of its inhabitants were of the closest. He knew the Indians from long dealings with them as no one else did. His own wife, like many other very well-born people in those days, was a half-breed and in some ways a very well-marked specimen of the kind. One of her brothers had been famous in the plain-hunts. And there was nothing in the life of the lonely forts which was not an open book to Donald. He was the complete north-west "Bourgeois." The dog-sleigh, the portage, the outfitting of brigades, the counter, the ledger, the annual stock-taking and the packing whether in bales or car were things familiar to him as his five fingers. Trained as few ever were in that particular school of doing and suffering, he had learnt if not to pity at least thoroughly to understand the men whose money he had long been trusted to manage, and who now, with no dissenting voices to speak of, were delighted to hail him as their parliamentary standard-bearer. The member for Selkirk was the member for the whole north-west; above all for the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, who were then, and were likely for some considerable time to remain, the brains of the north-west.
They needed a representative and deserved to have one. They were badly in want of mediation before the Dominion which knew scarcely anything about them and entertained the wildest notions about their country, their habits, their profits and their power and the manner in which they had exercised it. The part they had taken or failed to take in the late troubles was liable to grotesque misapprehensions and did not fail to encounter them. The ill-starred McDougall had no sweet memories of them or of those parts. Schultz, the inveterate enemy of the company, who had done so well all along by their weaknesses, was now in Ottawa as member for Lisgar helping to make the laws he had consistently trampled on at Red River, with rancour undiminished and an eye to the main chance as keen as ever, Orange Ontario still breathed fire and slaughter over the murder of poor Scott. French Canada sputtered and gesticulated and chopped logic on the other side. To this day the French-Canadian view of Riel is that he was a constitutionally appointed magistrate martyred by the brutal English for exercising with a somewhat Roman austerity, but with perfect right, his legitimate executive functions in spilling Scott's blood upon the snow. Ontario had showed her delicate sensitiveness to the Provincial rights of other Provinces and the decencies of law, and gone near to explaining if not justifying the childish unreason of her fellow-bigots in Quebec by setting a price of $5,000 on the heads of Riel and Lepine. The luckless Hudson's Bay Company was not in good odour with either of those extremes of blind passion and factiousness. Even the mass of cool Canadian business men had a strong sovereignty had not exemplified the best traditions of Anglo-Saxon administration, or guided its flock into any reasonably green pastures by any tolerably still waters. The times were badly out of joint, the wheels out of gear, creaking and complaining horribly. The inflamed passions, and the thick clouds of smoke which issued from them as from a hot-box, needed lubricants as well as light, needed besides whole pailfuls of cold common sense to allay and quench them and heal the cursed spite.
Donald A. Smith was the very man, born and bred and reared, to set all that right. He had stores of all the needed qualities, innate and acquired, and in particular was rich in all the plausibilities, moderations, reticences, and other gifts and furnishings of the naturally predestined mediator. There was not a more useful man in Ottawa, none who could or did do so much to smooth the transition over that very rough and rocky bit of political ground. He had the knowledge, and he had it in her bones, not merely in his sensorium. If anyone could explain the west to the east, and bring about some working approximation to mutual understanding, he was the man. He knew what could and must be made of the new country. The keen spur of private interest, too, was there to reinforce, what it did little on the whole to deflect, the strong sense of public duty in a man who was neither fool nor knave. Nobody had any stake in the country, either of reputation or of fortune, comparable to his. It soon became evident in Ottawa that this parliamentary greenhorn had more of a hold upon the north-west, the crux of the problem as it then challenged the utmost wisdom and resources of Canada, than the prime minister himself. Sir John, in particular, speedily took his measure, quick as usual to see and pathetically eager to recognize the thing he craved so intensely and so seldom had the luck to find, any real ability to help him in his Atlantean task not only of holding up but of first constructing the pillars of Empire.
At first Sir John thought him rather a dumpy people, though of manifest ability. Soon, however, as things got warm under the chafing of that valuable irritant Schultz, he discovered to his joy that his friend the Honourable Member for Selkirk was not mere unreacting cold mutton with a blue ribbon round his neck. He could at least butt on occasion. There was flint in him, capable of sparks if well struck—"that amount of venom when attacked" said this astute observer, "which a good statesman ought to have," beside the almost undue amount of "coolness, resource, and plausibility."
Above all, he had the facts at his finger-ends all ready, orderly arranged, and clear. Good enough at the war-shout he was, still more excellent in the more excellent way of council. Well did he know, with the most realizing sense of this cardinal fact, that the very first need in those priceless wilds was that absolutely firm and steady handling of the reins of justice with the correspondingly rare but terrifically resounding crack of the whip, which had been for such a weary while so disastrously and ludicrously to seek up there. Two things have made our north-west shine where our rich neighbours have made but a sorry show; the mounted policeman and the missionary. Smith was a good friend to the missionary, and was quite aware of his value for the world that now is, whatever he might think, and he probably had few real thoughts of his own on such subjects, about that which is to come. He was just as much alive, too, as the most fervent exhorter could be, to the fact that rum was the Indian Moloch as well as the Indian Belial. Though far from being a bigoted teetotaller, he was always the most rhadamanthine of prohibitionists in refusing the red man anything more exciting than tea. Whatever might be the cut of their ecclesiastical vestments, the aims and endeavours of the evangelists, pastors, and bishops of the west, like all other traditionally consecrated institutions and efforts directed to minister to the plain and obvious necessities of mankind, never failed to find from him warm sympathy and generous support, so long at least as they did not shock his common sense. But he had learnt from bitter experience as well as from the history of the fur-trade, which he knew probably better than any one else then living, that the other of the two pillars of our civilization in that quarter was if possible even more indispensable than the missionary himself. The name of Sir Robert Peel is in both its parts immortalized in those "Bobbies" and "Peelers" whom many men regard as the most indubitable triumph of the social and political genius of the English people. In like manner the name of Donald A. Smith has a good right to be associated with the North-West Mounted Police, who are, as it seems to me, distinctly the best thing in the way of public service which we have as yet turned out for ourselves in Canada. Except their English rivals for the palm—not soldiers as they are, and working in an environment which is at the very opposite pole from theirs, but with such a complete identity of method and spirit as seems to demonstrate a point of essential superiority in the race—there is nothing like them in this world. One thing at least of real value in the art of government may still be learnt by the foreigner,—grown somewhat contemptuous of late,—from poor old England, and that is the apparently engrained capacity of her breed to keep their heads and their respect for God's image in the face of man, even in the vigorous and resolute exercise of punitive righteousness, to limit the disturbances in which a quite legitimate authority is liable in times of stress and haste to overflow its banks and degenerate into foul brutality. Our North-West Mounted Police are a signal proof. Guardians of order and sleuth-hounds of the law, untiring and ineluctable as death, they have often proved themselves in many astonishing cases which made almost incredible demands upon keen scent, the power of patiently piecing together the most evanescent clues of evidence, with tenacity and courage that shrank from nothing. But that side of them has almost entirely fallen out of sight by comparison with their normal and familiar aspect as the brave and indefatigable protectors of the helpless in those vast frozen solitudes where so often there was no eye but theirs to pity and no hand to help. Where the ghastly official incompetence which prevails under our easy-tempered unbuttoned democracy has squandered millions these men have saved us millions.
Donald A. Smith had a great deal to do with laying this broad stone of honour and foundation stone of peace and prosperity. The first suggestion was his. In his report to the government on the Riel troubles, handed in on April 13th, 1870, he respectfully submitted some very cogent and obvious reasons for establishing a considerable permanent military force in the new territories. He was a member of the council for the Indian country which organized that splendid troop of truly platonic "guardians," who have so completely realized the philosopher's ideal and showed themselves at once the gallants and the blood-hounds of the north-west. So were his brother-factors of the Hudson's Bay Company, the only persons available or of any use for the purpose. His credit was not more for what he did himself than for what he inspired or gently bullied others into doing.
The west needed immigrants above everything. The problem was to bring them in. For want of the means of going where they were most needed at home, thousands of them were losing their birthright and accepting a different type of civilization by flocking into the American west. The member for the Hudson's Bay Company was well aware of that. It kept him awake at nights. He had long seen clearly that the one thing need from for the Hudson's Bay Company as well as for Selkirk and Manitoba was just that inevitable influx of settlers that they had long regarded as their day of wrath which it was a matter of life or death for them to postpone. He left no stone unturned to hasten it as their only possible way of coming by their kingdom. The change from the old order roused no regrets in him. He would just as soon see the company provide Parisian hats, the milliners to make them, and even the advertisements to puff them for the wives of prosperous farmers on the prairies as sell the latest novelties in beads and the dernier cri in duffle blankets to Cree and Blackfoot bucks and squaws. His eye was not fine enough to discern any superior lustre in the colour of the latter kind of money. The champion of that fine old crusted antiquity, the fur-trapper and trader, was also the herald and indeed the energetic charioteer of the new day for Red River under the sign of the plough. His unique significance in our history lies precisely in the achievement of that difficult synthesis. At an age when most men would have been mere grave-diggers and lugubrious chief-mourners of the past, he girded up his loins like a fresh forward-looking youngster to his share in the perilous and thankless task of lightening the birthpangs of the future. His inborn conservatism showed, not in kicking against the pricks, or in opposing the inrush of the Atlantic with a broom for the benefit of his moribund vested interest, but rather in such an infusion of new blood into it and such a readjustment of its methods and machinery as would enable it to profit by the flowing tide of change which it could not possibly prevent. As the dividends and good name of the Hudson's Bay Company could only, according to his conception, be secured in the strictest subordination to the prosperity of the north-west in general, and as its interests were identical with those larger interests, the member for the Hudson's Bay Company found it possible, while by no means neglecting his own private concerns, at the same time to be the best representative available not only of Selkirk but of that whole great country and of the interests of Canada and the Empire there.
It was essentially, as we have said, a work of mediation. But the way of the mediator is no primrose path. It is often harder for a time at least than the "way of the transgressor." He pleases neither side. The Scotch proverb says that the most deadly strike of all is the "redder's straik," the one which falls upon well-meant intervention. The member for the Hudson's Bay Company in his part as apologist for the guilt of the scape-goat McTavish, and even for his own valuable services in the Riel fiasco, had ample experience of this truth. At a very early stage in his parliamentary career he had introduced to the House a neighbour of his, the member for Provencher, a certain Delorme. This person had been a friend of Riel, had taken part in both the meetings, the "Convention" and the "House of Assembly of Red River," in which Donald Smith as Canadian Commissioner had tried to get some expression of the sense of the people there and a belated opportunity to show that the Ottawa authorities meant them no harm. Delorme, however, had not been a member of the "Provisional Government," still less of the infamous court-martial. Yet appearances were badly against him when one of the members, asserting that he had been all that, denied the right of a rebel to a place among Her Majesty's counsellors. His sponsor, an eye witness of these scenes, had just sat down after presenting a certificate of character in his favour when another formidable witness, no less than the sun his, was summoned in evidence against the trembling Frenchman. McDougall, burning to discredit Smith and all his crew, jumped up in his place, brandishing a photograph, in which the infallibly recording light showed Delorme as one of a group along with Riel, Lepine, O'Donoghue and the rest. Fortunately however the damning testimony proved too much. Several other faces well known to have had no cause to blush for any share in those dark doings had been included by the impartial artist along with the lineaments of the member for Provencher. McDougall, who had a talent that way, had discovered another mare's nest.
For all his good-will to hurt, however, McDougall was not rich enough in impudence to make much trouble. The assailant that never let go was Schultz. He buzzed like a blue-bottle about the remains of the poor old Company, whose disintegration had engendered him. Treacherous complicity on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company with the rebellion was the everlasting burden of his bullying hum. They had done nothing to help McDougall or to put Riel down. They had on the contrary left nothing undone to flout and embarrass the duly designated governor, or to aid and abet the rebel in his lawlessness, and after his fall to speed his escape from justice. The chief factor, who had also been Canadian Commissioner to Red River, had been worthy of his master's traditions and worse than useless to Canada. He had made a memorable display of treachery, incompetence and cowardice, recognized the provisional government and virtually sanctioned all its doings, and when the game was up had lavished counsel and coin to hush things up and build a golden bridge for the evasion of the criminals, who could not be brought before the law-courts without fatally compromising his Company and himself. The only evidence for the absurd charge that Smith had shown any approbation whatever of the so-called government, which he had ceaselessly laboured to undermine, was drawn from the only one of the rebels who was in addition a notorious liar, O'Donoghue. That perfect gaol-bird had been got to issue a wild statement in such a sense which was eagerly exploited by some Ontario newspapers. Smith's explicit denial of it on the floor of the House was of course accepted by all decent people as much more than sufficient to dispose of such an authority. Not so by his virulent assailant, an adept in the art of getting some of any kind of mud to stick. Schultz, whose own fixed principle it was never to lose a point if words could hack a way through to it, had the impudence to declare the question still unsettled. "He could not take it upon him to decide which of these two was more likely to be telling the truth—." One thing was certain. Neither of them could possibly be more frugal in the expenditure of that precious luxury than the modest Daniel who refused to judge between them.
The worst of it for Donald Smith was that certain aspects of the very complex and delicate situation he had to deal with at Red River gave some colour to a hostile interpretation, while the racial and religious passions aroused in Ontario and Quebec made sure of an eager acceptance for every ingenious twist of the facts to his disadvantage. The Hudson's Bay Company had long accustomed the half-breeds to that impunity in the contempt of rule which was one great cause of the rebellion while another was the well-grounded dread of designs upon their vineyard by Schultz and the other Orange Ahabs in their midst. Smith, like a specialist summoned from the capital to the remotest rustic solitudes at the last moment to treat a desperate case, had just come in at the death. It was only natural that one of the quacks with a strong reversionary interest, who had worked with glee to ensure death, should have tried to shift the blame upon the physician who could only partially alleviate and could not possibly cure. Smith's commission had been to cut the ground under the feet of his demented gaoler, who could shoot him at any moment and had the best will in the world to do so. His only weapon against that sulky tyrant was discretion. Naturally then he had no choice but to show so much of that very questionable-looking better part of valour and go so slow that it was quite plausible to say the reason lay in the coldness of his feet.
It was quite true too that after Riel had fled Smith did not thirst for his blood with as much passion as Schultz and Company. He knew better than the good people of Ontario that the unfortunate man and his race had been more sinned against than sinning, and that for other reasons than those alleged by the traducer of the Hudson's Bay Company, it ill became an officer of that corporation to pursue him with unrelenting vengeance. Above all he was more concerned about the peace of the community than about the untimely exaction of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. While acting as civil authority in the interval before the arrival of the first Canadian Governor of Manitoba, Mr. Archibald, he had been besieged by a crowd of zealous Protestants clamouring to be enrolled as special constables with a commission from him to shoot Riel at sight. He had of course refused to arrogate to himself the right of issuing a licence to commit murder, and the great majority of the House had no difficulty in seeing the wisdom of his conduct in that matter.
It was, however, a little less easy to explain the zeal he had seemed to share with Archbishop Taché, in speeding the parting guests, Riel and Lepine, on their way to quarters less hot than they had made in the new Province for themselves and the Canadian Government. These men had soon come back after their flight, and were still very much in evidence upon the scene of their recent exploits. Riel was actually twice returned to the Dominion parliament by the loyal electors of Provencher! The kindly old Archbishop whose absence in Rome and the presence of whose ecclesiastical subordinates Fathers Richot and Lestanc, had been so helpful to the rebels in the establishment of their power, had come home just in time to help once more in securing indemnity for the somewhat energetic use they had made of it. He had proclaimed in the name of the Ottawa Government, who always declared, in Ontario at least, that he had interpreted their meaning much too liberally, a complete amnesty to all who had taken part in the recent troubles, including even the stern judges of Scott. The Church had exercised her old prerogative of scantuary and wrapped the ample folds of her robe around her erring children. That was much with Quebec behind. But the position of the offenders was soon further strengthened at little cost to themselves, by their adroitly patriotic use of an opportunity which they certainly owed, in great part at least, to their own previous exertions in a very different direction. In 1871 their late associate O'Donoghue, carry out, as he declared, the scheme which had always been agreed upon between them, appeared upon the border at the head of a characteristically futile Fenian invasion. Just at the last moment Riel and Lepine, obviously not without the approval of their astute spiritual guides, came forward gallantly to shed their blood for their Queen and country against the invader who by that time had no great prospects of escaping the vigilance even of the American police. The gentle Governor Archibald eagerly accepted the repentance of these eleventh hour workers in his vineyard. He received a letter from them, made a gracious reply to the prudent conditions for their personal safety stipulated in it, assuring them that for the moment at least byegones should be byegones, and encouraging them to believe that good service in the present would cover a multitude of sins in the past, reviewed their troops, and publicly took into the hand of the representative of Canada the hands that were stained with Scott's blood. Smith, like all sensible men, saw that this proceeding practically settled the question of amnesty. It is impossible to hang men who have been publicly thanked for loyalty and shaken hands with by a lieutenant-governor. It may, however, be highly advisable in their own interest and everybody else's to get them quietly out of the country and even to pay them handsomely for going. Thus far at least it is clear Smith did agree with Archbishop Taché and Governor Archibald. So did Sir John Macdonald, that old parliamentary hand, who at that moment was cornered so painfully for his own sins and the people's between the devil of Ontario and the deep sea of Quebec, and whose chance of gathering votes upon his native heath was not bright so long as Riel remained unhanged at Red River. Smith, accordingly, made no difficulties about finding the £600 declared by the other two impecunious local authorities to be indispensable for that purpose, and acknowledged by Archibald as a loan in the public good. Riel and Lepine were offered that sum to vanish for a year, or at the very least till after the next general election—the famous one of 1872. They took the money—and quietly spent most of it at Red River! Their valuable absence was not to be had at such a figure. Riel had the impudence to stand for Provencher at that very election, and, after gracefully retiring in favour of Sir Georges Cartier, was returned at the bye-election which followed the death of the latter, and actually presented himself in Ottawa, though in 1870 a true bill for the murder of Thomas Scott had been found against him by the Grand Jury of Manitoba. He had actually found means to take the oath as a member of parliament and inscribe his name in the book before he took the trouble to go into quite unmolested hiding! No wonder the foreigner finds it hard to understand the ways of the English-speaking peoples! At length in 1874 on the motion of Mr. Mackenzie Bowell he was formally expelled from the House of Commons as a fugitive from justice. In that same year he was declared an outlaw, his companion Lepine being at the same time sentenced to two years imprisonment, and Canada was thenceforth free of him until in 1885 he returned from his school-mastering in Montana to head that second rebellion which ended for him upon the gallows at Regina. Smith might just as well have kept his £600 in his pocket. The money did no good whatever and it was a long time before he ever saw it again. Sir John naturally found the debt a very awkward one to proclaim abroad. It might very appropriately as well as conveniently have been discharged out of the Conservative campaign funds. That method however does not seem to have occurred to him, and a bribe which missed fire, though it seemed well aimed for its purpose of projecting rebels, accused of murder and equally embarrassing to clear or condemn, out of the way of Her Majesty's Government, would not have been a very presentable item in a budget. At any rate by a curious irony of fate it was not by Sir John's government, not whose interest the money was expended, that it was ultimately repaid, but by the men against whom it was partly at least intended as munitions of war, Alexander Mackenzie's government—by that time grown extremely benevolent in their feelings to Donald Smith! In the discussion on the subject Schultz made the most of such a golden opportunity of establishing secret complicity with the rebels on the part of his victim. He even went so far as to suggest that that frugal gentleman had had an eye upon the accumulated interest at seven per cent in deferring collection for three years. Smith had of course, as everybody else saw, acted merely as a banker who did not necessarily have any opinion of his own as to the destination of his loan. But a good many people must have gone home with the impression that although Sir John ought to have paid it long ago, yet, as it had so happened that he did not, the best and simplest way for the Hudson's Bay Company and its member would have been to cut that loss and write it off in pious humility as a small fragment of the great penance due from them on account of their own past sins.
Schultz at least, the other culprit, whom it suited to accuse the Hudson's Bay Company mostly of the things in which they chanced to be innocent, had little thought of wearing the white sheet. Fortunately his antagonist did not make the tactical mistake of confining himself to a mere defence. He succeeded indeed in giving his resourceful enemy some shrewd Rolands for his Olivers without, however, once achieving the feat of bringing a blush upon that armoured forehead. He indicated in the most parliamentary style that those who knew the sternly denouncing moralist best were least inclined to expose themselves to the perils involved in leaning too hard upon his spoken words. He pointed out that no martyr had ever found persecution and bonds so obviously lucrative, that no child of Israel had ever come out of a fire so much enriched if not purified, as this fortunate victim to his loyalty had emerged from the late rebellion. The compensations for losses in it had been nearly monopolised by the good householder who before it broke out was not generally supposed to have anything particular to lose, except his skin. The late retail dealer with trustful Indians in advantageously acquired government flour and pork was now a wealthy magnate, the man who a few years ago had fought to the death, and wrecked the sovereignty of the Hudson's Bay Company in the struggle, to avoid the payment of two small debts, could now well afford to lavish an equivalent sum in a year's tips to waiters. But in spite of the portentous transparency of his own glass house Schultz went on gaily throwing stones. There was something admirable in his joyous resilience.
On the occasion of the amnesty debate he charged Smith, apparently quite by a happy inspiration of the moment, with having stolen under cover of night into a certain meeting of the half-breed Catalines. Smith took the trouble to procure affidavits from reputable persons on the spot which conclusively proved the statement to be the airiest figment of an ingenious fancy. Of course it took some time to get this evidence. Instead of being overwhelmed by it when at length it came thundering down upon him Schultz merely sighed wearily like a man who has been reluctantly compelled to reopen the stalest page of ancient history. "His friend from Selkirk," he said, "was like the Ancient Mariner:—He suffered from the indigestion of an ancient crime. He could not get away from it. It was always 'coming up with force.' He was doomed—'by his long grey beard and glittering eye'—to stop all passerby on all occasions and pour out that everlasting tale of woe in their ears—." Who had really killed Cock Robin? Whose extremely long bow had laid low the poor foolish Métis? Certainly not the member for Selkirk's. And if the Hudson's Bay had not been guiltless in that sad business, it was not they, but the Honourable Member for Lisgar, afterwards Senator for his Province and Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, who had—not merely shot—but also skinned the luckless albatross.
That was the end, so far as we are concerned with it, of the Riel Rebellion. It is a wretched story, and yet extraordinarily significant of the stage of development which public life had then reached in Canada. Donald A. Smith was almost the only man who took any conspicuous part in the labours and wrangles it was rich in who managed to come decently out of them.