On civility - Macleans.ca

On civility


From a speech delivered by Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie in 1877.

I know it is the tactics of those by whom we are opposed  —  I know it was their tactics twenty years ago, and thirty-five years ago-to drive their opponents out of public life by the grossest slanders, in order that they may have the field left clear for themselves. I say to them, “Gentlemen, you can’t do it. (hear, hear, and cheers) Your slanders shall fall harmlessly against us, your tactics shall prove a failure, because you have not the people with you.” Sir John Macdonald never did have the people of Ontario with him; he never commanded a majority of the people of this Province, and he never will (cheers) He represented a retrograde policy from first to last.


On civility

  1. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

  2. Was Mackenzie talking about MacDonald or Harper? Especially the bit about Ontario.

  3. Exactly. Those Conservatives never change.

  4. That's funny, because as I read the part from Mackenzie's speech about the "grossest slanders" I was reminded of Paul Martin's attack ads, which we talked about earlier today when Wherry recalled the 2006 campaign.

    For example:

    [unflattering picture of Harper slowly coming into focus, accompanied by a militaristic drumbeat in the background.]

    "Who paid for Stephen Harper's rise to the head of the party? We don't know. He refuses to reveal his donors. What do you suppose he's hiding? We do know he's very popular with right wingers in the U.S. They have money, maybe they helped him. We just don't know. He just won't say"

  5. And he was bounced out of office wasn't he?

  6. Indeed. As Mackenzie said in the above speech: "Your slanders shall fall harmlessly against us, your tactics shall prove a failure, because you have not the people with you.”

  7. How dare you.

    Martin's attacks were never as witty or elegant (or as slanderous) as MacDonald's!!

  8. Heh. I'm sure they weren't!

    Many people assume that Canadian politics in the first few decades after Confederation were some sort of golden age of genteel civility, when in fact there was plenty of outrageous slander (however witty or elegantly delivered) that would make today's politicians blush.

  9. That's not even close to the worst of it.

    I think you would really enjoy John Ralston Saul's biography of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin for the Extraordinary Canadians series by Penguin. It's very short but very eye opening about how unique Canadian democracy is, how the idea of responsible government came to be, but also how violent politics in Canada was at the time with Orange militia set up to block French/Reform voting, with ongoing riots and rebellions opposing Responsible Government and even assassination attempts on Lafontaine, Canada's first Prime Minister.

  10. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll add the Lafontaine & Baldwin biography to my reading list.

  11. rather, the Liberal`s caricature of their opponents havent.

  12. That and the Boyden book on Dumont and Riel were the two best books I read last year.

    I LOVE that series – looking very much forward to the Laurier volume due out in March.


  13. Well I for one am glad our leaders solved this problem over a hundred years ago.

  14. You definitely should. Frankly, everyone should. It deals with the real foundational values of Canada and yet it's all pre-"Conservative Party" and pre-"Liberal Party" so there's joyfully no partisan positioning about it. In fact, even as a Canadian historian, Saul gave me a whole new prism in which to see our origins. Not as some great practical, political process and negotiated compromise by elites, but in effect a two step revolution of which that whole MacDonald confederation was only the second, lesser and final step that started with our ideological underpinings set on course by Lafontaine and Baldwin. Who knew we had foundational values? Who knew we had ideological underpinings?

    Plus it's pretty short and sweet and it's physically a small book so great as a subway read!! What more could you ask?!

    As Richard notes below, the whole series is fantastic. I've asked for them all for the next 20 odd birthdays!

  15. Absolutely. See above.

  16. That's even funnier, because when I read the part about the grossest slanders, I thought about comments about Paul Martin being a supporter of child pornography.

    (Don't even try to top it)

  17. I'm reading the same book (I'm about halfway through). I fancied myself a Canadian history scholar and that book is embarrassing me with tidbits and information I had NO clue about. Completely different perspective than anything I've read or learned before.

  18. Although I can't decide whether these supposed statesmen from yesteryear were actually a bunch of goofs, or if the goofs we've got today aren't quite as bad as we think they are (or, perhaps, some might be considered statesmen 125 years from now).

  19. Completely blew me away for that reason as well. My Canadian history readings – and the 4 foot long pile of unread books – tend to focus on post-Confed PMs or the Arctic. But I'm going back further in time for the next while.

  20. Let's retire them all now so they'll get to that stage that much quicker.

  21. Boydon's Riel book was great. Actually he's a very good writer all around. Three day road and through black spruce are wonderful – written from a native perspective.

    I'm enjoying the series too – read Nino Ricci's Trudeau – good but not that good.

  22. I have the little book – have yet to read it – but for indepth look at pre-confederation, The Constitutional Debates is my favorite so far. Very inspirational. Also, Protecting Canadian Democracy, a compilation of articles about the Senate and about understanding the reasons why we have the institutions we have and how they were meant to perform . Must-read before throwing baby with bathwater.

  23. Hey …the slanders being passed around are tame compared to what the conservatives had to put up with when they were called the Reform Party.

    Elinor caplin:
    "They're a bunch of bigots, and holocaust deniers"

    And, Ms. Caplin is Jewish. I wonder how she feels know, after realizing that ONLY the Conservativie Party has taken the principled stand with regards to Jews and Israel?
    The LIberals are worried…..because the Jewish folk in Canada are realizing it too.

  24. When the Liberals do it, it's called taking a principled stand. However when Conservatives somehow refuse to praise their opposition as brilliant geniuses, they are lacking civility.

  25. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….etc, etc, etc….