Here are quotes from two Conservative Prime Ministers – Arthur Meighen serving from 1920-21, 1926 and R.B. Bennett 1930-1935, through the years of the Great Depression in North America
We have one neighbor and one only, and that one an industrial colossus. It lies for four thousand miles along our border, producing what we produce, and doing constant but legitimate battIe to forestall us in the world’s markets and in our own. There is the dominating fact that meets Canadians every morning. – Arthur Meighen
The one unpardonable sin in politics is lack of courage. As a Government we are in an impregnable position, in point both of policy and of record, and I do not propose to make apology either by act [or] word. – Arthur Meighen
Loyalty to the ballot box is not necessarily loyalty to the nation. Political captains in Canada must have courage to lead rather than servility to follow. [criticism of McKenzie King] – Arthur Meighen
One great secret of successful debate: when you have a man under your hammer, never be tempted into doubtful ground and give him a chance to digress. How often I witnessed men in the House who had a case, and who really had their opponents cornered, doddle off into other ground and give the enemy a chance to change the subject and come out not too badly worsted. – Arthur Meighen
The slogan etched more deeply than ever on the heart of every Canadian should be: Unity, Stability and Progress. [Conservative campaign call of 1926] – Arthur Meighen
The powers of the Prime Minister are very great. The functions of and duties of a Prime Minister in Parliament are…supreme in their importance. – Arthur Meighen
We no longer live in a political Empire. [adoption that year of the Statute of Westminster] – RB Bennett
I propose that any government of which I am the head will at the first session of Parliament initiate whatever action is necessary to that end, or perish in the attempt. [1930 speech on the elimination of unemployment] – RB Bennett
In the last five years great changes have taken place in the world… The old order is gone. We are living in conditions that are new and strange to us. Canada on the dole is like a young and vigorous man in the poorhouse … If you believe that things should be left as they are, you and I hold contrary and irreconcilable views. I am for reform. And in my mind, reform means government intervention. It means government control and regulation. It means the end of laissez-faire. [on The Bennett New Deal of 1935] – RB Bennett
Your leadership of the party especially during the years when you were Prime Minister was marked by a distinction which has not been surpassed. . . . No one has ever been asked to carry the burdens of unprecedented depression such as you assumed and no one could have shouldered them with such ability. I am confident that we shall look to those years as landmarks in Canadian history because of your energy and direction. [on RB Bennett’s leadership] – Harold Adams Innis, professor of economics at the University of Toronto
Here are ten quotes from five of our country’s earliest Prime Ministers: Alexander Mackenzie (1873-1878), Sir John Abbott (1891-1892), Sir John Thompson (1892-1894), Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1894-1896), and Sir Charles Tupper (1896).
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
But I refer to it now merely to say this: that the Reformers of this country will remember — those who were not alive at that time by reading, and those who were alive by having been in the midst of these events — with gratitude that it was the great leaders of the Reform party who first gave perfect civil and religious rights to the people of Canada. – Alexander Mackenzie
We shall all respect the principles of each other and do nothing that would be regarded as an act of oppression to any portion of the people. – Alexander Mackenzie
I hate politics and what are considered their appropriate measures. I hate notoriety, public meetings, public speeches, caucuses and everything that I know of which is apparently the necessary incident of politics—except doing public work to the best of my ability. – Sir John Abbott
I cannot promise that my services shall be of great account, or that I shall render great service to my country. I can promise that my whole strength of mind and talent, whatever it is, shall be devoted to its interests. – Sir John Abbott
We look forward to it as one of the aims which are to be accomplished in the public life of Canada, because the Conservative party believes that the influence of women in the politics of the country is always for good. I think, therefore, that there is a probability of the franchise being extended to the women on the same property qualifications as men. – [on women’s suffrage] Sir John Thompson
I hope the time is fast approaching in Canada when we shall never hear the question raised of a man’s birth, or the creed that he professes. We live in a country and under a constitution in which every man has a right to act as his judgment dictates, or as his education leads him, upon matters of this very important character. – Sir Mackenzie Bowell
I have lived long enough to come to the conclusion, that if a man believes in one particular principle, or one particular creed and thinks it is the best, it is not for me to interfere with his conscience, nor do I think any one else should interfere with his conscience, or with the course which he may think proper to pursue, so long as he does not attempt to interfere with others. – Sir Mackenzie Bowell
The human mind naturally adapts itself to the position it occupies. The most gigantic intellect may be dwarfed by being cabin’d, cribbed and confined. It requires a great country and great circumstances to develop great men. – Sir Charles Tupper
Each little Province is a little nation by itself. – Sir Charles Tupper
Sir John A. Macdonald is Canada’s first Prime Minister
and a grand and colourful character whose accomplishments
helped forged a nation from sea to sea.
Over the course of the next two months, we will focus on providing quotes from our country’s Prime Ministers.
We begin with the quotes and quips of perhaps our greatest leader, Sir John A.:
- Politics is a game requiring great coolness.
- Anybody may support me when I am right. What I want is someone that will support me when I am wrong.
- An election is like a horse-race, in that you can tell more about it the next day. – Sir John A Macdonald
- There were, unfortunately, no great principles on which parties were divided – politics became a mere struggle for office. – Sir John A Macdonald
- If you would know the depth of meanness of human nature, you have got to be a Prime Minister running a general election. – Sir John A Macdonald
- Politics is a game requiring great coolness and an utter abnegation of prejudice and personal feeling. – Sir John A Macdonald
- Give me better wood and I will make you a better cabinet. – Sir John A Macdonald
- The time has come, I think, when we must choose men for their qualifications rather than for their locality. – Sir John A Macdonald
- We are all mere petty provincial politicians at present; perhaps by and by some of us will rise to the level of national statesmen. – Sir John A Macdonald
- The Government are merely trustees for the public. – Sir John A Macdonald
- I don’t care for office for the sake of money, but for the sake of power, and for the safe of carrying out my own views of what is best for the country. – Sir John A Macdonald
- Even if all the territory Mr. Mowat asks for were awarded to Ontario, there is not one stick of timber, one acre of land, or one lump of lead, iron or gold that does not belong to the Dominion, or to the people who purchased from the Dominion Government. – Sir John A Macdonald
- Had I but consented to take the popular side in Upper Canada, I could have ridden the Protestant horse much better than George Brown, and could have had an overwhelming majority. But I willingly sacrificed my own popularity for the good of the country, and did equal justice to all men. – Sir John A Macdonald
- He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour. [referring to Louis Riel] – Sir John A Macdonald
- I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or to render it inferior to the other – I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible. – Sir John A. Macdonald
- I would be quite willing, personally, to leave that whole country a wilderness for the next half-century but I fear if Englishmen do not go there, Yankees will. – Sir John A Macdonald
- But if it should happen that we should be absorbed in the United States, the name of Canada would be literally forgotten; we should have the State of Ontario, the State of Quebec, the State of Nova Scotia and State of New Brunswick. Every one of the provinces would be a state, but where is the grand, the glorious name of Canada? All I can say is that not with me, or not by the action of my friends, or not by the action of the people of Canada, will such a disaster come upon us. – Sir John A Macdonald
- If Canada is to remain a country separate from the United States it is of great importance to her that they (the United States) should not get behind us by right or by force, and intercept the route to the Pacific. But in any other point of view, it seems to me that the country is of no present value to Canada. We have unoccupied land enough to absorb immigration for many years, and the opening up of the Saskatchewan would do to Canada what the Prairie lands of Illinois are doing now – drain away our youth and our strength. – Sir John A Macdonald
- The word ‘protection’ itself must be taboo, but we can ring the changes on National Policy, paying the U.S. in their own coin. – Sir John A Macdonald
- There is no maxim which experience teaches more clearly than this, that you must yield to the times. Resistance may be protracted until it produces revolution. Resistance was protracted in this country until it produced rebellion. – Sir John A Macdonald
- When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head, smile and say, ‘We are going to have a summer shower.’ – Sir John A Macdonald
- I am afraid I shall have to give you the answer of the Irish servant who got into a place where the food was not as it should be – ‘there’s too much to swallow and too little to eat’. – Sir John A Macdonald
- A compliment is the statement of an agreeable truth; flattery is the statement of an agreeable untruth. – Sir John A Macdonald
- Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one. – Sir John A Macdonald
- A sweet smile from the teeth outwards. [referring to John Abbott] – Sir John A Macdonald
- When a man has done me an evil turn once, I don’t like to give him the opportunity to do so twice. – Sir John A Macdonald
- [Macdonald was well known for his wit and also for his alcoholism. He is known to have been drunk for many of his debates in parliament. Here is a story from an election debate in which Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting while on stage.] His opponent quickly pointed this out and said: “Is this the man you want running your country? A drunk!” Collecting himself, Macdonald replied “I get sick … not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent.” – Sir John A Macdonald
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Upon Sir John A. Macdonald’s death, (the soon-to-be Prime Minister) Wilfred Laurier paid tribute to him in the House of Commons (June 8, 1891):
“The place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the politics of this country – the fate of this country – will continue without him. His loss overwhelms us. For my part, I say, with all truth, his loss overwhelms me, and that it also overwhelms this Parliament, as if indeed one of the institutions of the land had given way. Sir John A. Macdonald now belongs to the ages, and it can be said with certainty that the career which has just been closed is one of the most remarkable careers of this century. . .
“As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of Canada. It may be said without any exaggeration whatever, that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the time he entered Parliament, is the history of Canada.”
And, so that you may discuss this great man at your next social, here are some interesting trivia most may not know about Sir John A.
- While there is some debate over his actual birthdate, January 10 is the official date recorded and January 11 is the day Macdonald celebrated it.
- Having personally written the largest part of the Canadian constitution ( BNA act ), and having been the main lobbyist for its adoption at London, Macdonald can truly be called “THE Father of his country.”
- According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, Macdonald’s nicknames included Old Chieftain and Old Tomorrow – the latter for his habit of putting off any large political problems until conditions were personally favourable to him.
- Sir John A.Macdonald is one of two Canadian prime-ministers to die in office (The other is John Thompson).
- Macdonald’s nephew Newton Ford was the father of iconic Canadian-American actor Glenn Ford.
“If I had influence over the minds of the people of Canada, any power over their intellect, I would leave them this legacy: ‘Whatever you do, adhere to the Union. We are a great country, and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken.”
Happy Birthday Sir John A.! We certainly miss your national vision and your leadership today. For more, click here to see the By George archived articles on this great man.