Born in Logierait, Perthshire. First Liberal Prime Minister of Canada in 1873 and the country’s second Prime Minister. A stonemason by trade (“His mark can continue to be seen in the buildings he helped erect working as a stonemason. Some of which include: the Welland Canal, Martello Towers at Fort Henry, Episcopal Church and a bank in Sarnia and the Courthouses and jails in Chatham and Sandwich“). In Scotland, he had been a supporter of Chartism. After emigration to Canada, he joined the Reform Party. By 1852, he was the editor of the Reform Party’s newspaper – The Shield. Elected to the Provincial Assembly in 1861 as a Reform member. Between 1871 and 1872 Alexander Mackenzie sat in the Ontario Assembly until it was abolished. Leadership of the Liberal Party (formerly the Reform Party) followed in 1873. After a corruption scandal brought down the Conservative government, Mackenzie became Prime Minister of a Liberal government. Ratification of this elevation was given by the general election the next year. Three times Alexander Mackenzie was offered a knighthood by the British Crown, and three times he refused it on egalitarian grounds. Under his leadership the Canadian parliament introduced secret ballots for elections and set up the Supreme Court of Canada. An economic downturn saw the Liberals out of office. Mackenzie resigned as his party’s leader in 1880, but remained in parliament until his death.
“I have always held those political opinions which point to the universal brotherhood of man, no matter in what rank of life he may have taken his origin.’ Alexander Mackenzie, 1875
Speech given in Dundee, Scotland, 13 July 1875:
Mr. MACKENZIE, who was received with loud and prolonged applause, said, — My Lord Provost, my Lords, and gentlemen, I feel very proud of the kindness shown to me by the events of the previous part of this day, and this entertainment, and by the kind remarks that you and some other gentlemen have made regarding my visit to this country. I not only feel grateful at present, but it will be a green day in my memory to the last day of my life. I only hope what some have been pleased to say may be the case, that improved commercial intercourse between Canada and this country may result, perhaps not from my visit, but from information I may be able to get. There is much to be said at a meeting of this kind, but I do not think it would be proper to go into any general discussion about the situation of Canada at the present moment. The gallant Colonel on my right was pleased to refer to military matters in connection with this country and in connection with Canada, and the relation that Canada bears to the Empire. I need not say we consider ourselves in Canada to be quite as much belonging to the Empire as any part of Great Britain or Ireland. We have, in fact, in Canada ceased to speak of the possibility of anything else ever taking place than a continuance of the intimate political relationship which at present exists. We believe it is quite consistent for England’s greatness and Canada’s happiness that this relationship should continue. We believe, as I stated in my remarks today in the other hall, that there is room on the American Continent for two political systems. We have long ago made up our minds to that, and this relationship will continue, no doubt; and I am sure that the same reciprocal feelings will not only be entertained but maintained by every person on this side of the Atlantic. We have had our little trials. The gallant Colonel, in speaking of the condition of the volunteers in England, alluded to the necessity that existed in Canada for something like an active force. We have a force of about 45,000 men — a force which could be turned out in a short time — and I shall only mention one fact — in connection with the second Fenian raid in 1870, when the CommanderinChief of our Militia, Colonel RossRobertson, was able to turn out nearly 20,000 men in 24 hours upon the frontier, and not merely 20,000 men, but 20,000 fairly drilled, equipped and clothed, of all arms of the service — cavalry, infantry, artillery and rifles. (applause). To that efficient organization of our militia system we undoubtedly owed the salvation of the country at the time. After that one night’s business — for I may say that I was out with the rest of my colleagues we were secured from further molestation on the part of the Fenian bands in the United States, and we also destroyed all hope on the part of United States politicians that anything like a separation of the country could be attained by any means whatever in the power of man, unless it should be a desire on the part of England to separate from us. (applause.) We believe in that country we have the means of building up a great and powerful nationality; and although all new countries are perhaps a little inclined to boast and somewhat inclined to feel a little too proud of their position, we believe we have a territory to occupy which will justify some brilliant hopes. We have a will to occupy it in all its parts; and although it is somewhat difficult for a handful of people such as we are compared to you — for we are not quite one-eighth part of your population — to occupy a territory so vast as ours, still we feel that by the natural increase of the population, and by the efforts of our emigration agents in Europe, we will be able in the course of a few years to throw a vast population into the country so sparsely inhabited at present. (applause) I may mention, as an example of the difficulties which we have to encounter in maintaining law and order in so vast a territory, that we have between the Rocky Mountains and Lake of the Woods 1,000 miles of territory from east to west, by 500 miles from south to north, fit for settlement, almost wholly unoccupied, excepting some; 20,000 or 30,000 people in the Province of Manitoba. There are some 50,000 Indians. This country was infested for years by traders from the United States selling intoxicating liquor to the Indians, and causing much disturbance in our relations with them by keeping up a constant irritation on the frontier, and debauchery and war amongst the Indian tribes. The Government determined to send a force of Mounted Police, armed as cavalry, to establish law and order. This force was organized and sent, and you may imagine what sort of country it is when I tell you that it took six weeks marching from one end to the other along the frontier to reach the base of the Rocky Mountains. It accomplished its mission, however; order was completely established; and I was informed by a resident at Fort Benton, in the upper part of the Missouri country (in the United States), that they never knew on the frontier what it was to have order established till the Canadian troops did so. (applause) We hope in — the course of a comparatively short time to be able to enter that great territory by means of a railroad now under construction. It was one of the last things I did before leaving home, as Minister of Public Works, to let out by contract two or three hundred miles of the road for construction, and thousands of men are now engaged upon it in the wilderness north and west of Lake Superior, tracking out a way in which thousands will follow them — some to settle, some to work upon the railway, but all to extend the dominion of Canada and the dominion of Great Britain in those remote countries described by Butler as “The Great Lone Land.” We hope that the efforts made by the Canadian Government will result in obtaining for the country such a population as may be amply sufficient in the course of a short time to develop some of its principal resources. (applause) We believe these resources to be great and that if we are favoured at all by fortune, we will have a most flourishing and industrious population in these new territories, occupying them to the common advantage of Canada and of Great Britain. You were pleased to refer to my political opinions upon one subject; and while I quite concur with you that in such a meeting it is perhaps improper to speak of local politics, still I think in the higher branches of political life we may refer to political principles. I take the true meaning of the term free trade to be the complete removal of all restrictions upon trade so far as that can possibly be done. I believe myself that the principles of Richard Gobden, and the principles of free trade over the world, are the real principles of civilization; and I believe that wherever these principles are interfered with by restrictions on trade by artificial means, to that extent there is retrogression from the higher principles of civilization. (applause) That, I think, is the view generally taken by the people of Canada. We have amongst us, no doubt, as you have amongst you, people who have the idea that the true trade principle is to build up a high stone and lime wall to prevent people coming in or going out; who say; “Let us keep the trade to ourselves, and keep the money in our own country.” But we cannot do that — we can only make money by trading with other nations and individuals, and I quite appreciate your suggestion, my Lord Provost, that the people of Dundee and Canada should endeavour to trade a little more in the future then they have done in the past. (applause) I assure you that nothing will be wanting to that end on the part of the Canadian Government so long as I have the honour of being one of its members; and I believe no Canadian Government, whatever the political party, will attempt to hinder the extension of the true principle of free trade all over the world. We believe we will be in a position in the course of a few years to do a great deal of your business. We believe we shall be able, by way of the Pacific Ocean, to carry your tea across our railway, and to transport your goods to China by a much shorter route than at present. If we do that, you will obtain some advantages in return for wherever a large amount of business is transacted there must be a large amount of profit to somebody. (laughter and applause) A parliamentary friend of mine was privately discussing this subject with me. He said, “The country is going to ruin; the balance of trade is against us. How can we continue to go on in this way many more years? Our exports last year were so many millions, and our imports so many millions more, and we are poorer by the difference between the imports and exports.” I said, “We cannot be poorer, because the difference between the exports and imports represents the profits we have made. You send a cargo of ten thousand barrels of flour to Spain, which would cost fifty thousand dollars, and you sell it for ninety thousand; with this ninety thousand you buy other products and bring them back to Canada. The balance of trade would be against you in this case to the extent of forty thousand dollars, which would also be the exact amount of profit on the transaction. In this way you account for the difference of import and export. But do you mean to say you are poorer?” (applause) This is the way advocates of restriction argue. We say the more trade there is, and the more the balance of trade seems against us, the more likely are we to obtain large profits, and the profits again are invested in loans to other countries, and in forwarding enterprises for the general benefit of the country. Everybody now admires the genius of Richard Cobden — and his associates; everyone — Conservative or Liberal — understands that it would never do to go back to the old days of trading, when vessels were charged with tonnage dues, and when it was necessary to construct them in a most unshapely fashion for exemption purposes, so that one of these oldtime protectionist ships could only be moved in a harbour by having a tug on both sides to keep her upright. Now every one builds after his own fashion, and the rapidity in ocean transport which now prevails would never have taken place had this restriction remained. I am sure that in Canada the people appreciate this principle, and the general intelligence which prevails over that country is such that I am sure there is no danger of a reactionary policy ever finding a response in the hearts of any considerable number of our people. (applause) I feel obliged to you and the other gentlemen of Dundee for their kindness in welcoming me, as they have done, back to my native country. (applause) It is quite true that I am a native of Perthshire, and pretty far north, and it is equally true that I shall always feel a sincere affection for Scotland, and Perthshire in particular; but I am quite sure of this, that in our great colonies, and I trust also in England, there is every opportunity for those who desire to rise in political and social life, and who trust to their own unaided exertions. There is no royal road in Canada or in any other colony to any position of eminence, either in University, political, or commercial success. Everything must be got by hard labour, and I would be sorry to make an impression upon any one here or elsewhere that we have not as many difficulties to contend with there as you have to contend with here; but it is satisfactory to know that in the colonies, And I hope in England as well, there is a fair field and no favour, and every manly and independent mind will rejoice that there is, that fair field and will ask nothing more. The days of monopolies are ended; the days of class legislation, when one class was set over another, are ended; and I am glad to see that exemplified here tonight in the presence of two members of the most aristocratic and most powerful House of Parliament that has ever existed anywhere — the House of Peers of England. (loud applause) I apprehend your member will agree with me when I say that while the House of Commons does represent, in consequence of its electoral character, the power and influence of the kingdom in a sense somewhat different from the House of Lords, that yet the House of Lords has maintained its character for ability and power and eloquence in dealing with all public questions. Whatever may be said of some of the people of Canada and the other colonies as being more democratic than it is possible for this country to be, yet we are not so democratic as to refuse to listen to the voice of reason. We are not so democratic as to ignore the best means of governing a country, both as British subjects interested in the welfare of her people and as colonists specially interested in the government of our own country. I believe that the colonies are essential to British supremacy in the world. I don’t say so because we are desirous of the slightest favour financially from Great Britain. We are able and willing, God knows, to bear our full share of all Imperial responsibility whenever required for the common interest. And we are doing so at the present moment. I believe that the power of ancient Rome departed when they began to desert the extremities and when the blood receded to the centre and produced a gorging that ended in paralysis. And if Great Britain cuts off her extremities, treats her colonies with contumely, or treats them in such a way that they don’t care to remain, then I believe that a great portion of Great Britain’s glory will have departed. (applause) I am as anxious as it is possible for any British subject to be that that glory should be unsullied, that that power should never be abridged, and that English supremacy shall last till the end of time, because it means universal freedom, universal liberty, emancipation from everything degrading. If that power is broken, and other Powers come in and take a share of the historical supremacy which peculiarly belongs to us, then I believe it will be worse for the world, and I am sure worse for England. If there is one thing I would desire to press more than another upon a British audience, it is that we are extremely anxious upon this point, and that we are extremely willing to do our full share in everything that may be necessary to maintain the status quo. (applause) I have little more to say, but I thank our, sir, most sincerely, and the other gentlemen present, for the kind words they have spoken. I receive them not so much for myself as for my friends in the Government in Canada and for my countrymen in Canada, and I can assure you that the kind words you have spoken will leave a lasting impression upon my mind. (loud and prolonged applause). Source: Mackenzie, Alexander. Speeches of the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie during his recent visit to Scotland with his principal speeches in Canada since the session of 1875: accompanied by portrait and sketch of his life and public services. Toronto: J. Campbell, 1876.