Sir Wilfrid Laurier of Canada Laurier gained great achievement over his political years because he represented Canada as a whole. His family first came to Canada dating back to the time of New France and the early Montreal years. Laurier’s father, a government surveyor and a genial, settled down in Canada and got married to Marcelle Martineau. Wildfrid was their first child who was born on November 20, 1841. Seven years later a tragedy struck the Laurier family when Wildfrid’s mother died.
Since his mother died when Wildfrid was only seven, his father wanted to give him the best education possible. His father knew if he were to succeed in Canada he would have to learn the english language and ways. When Wilfrid was ten years old he got sent to an Anglo-Protestant family who were Scottish immigrants. Here he learned the english language and the Protestant faith. Later on in his life he recalled “how I fought with the Scotch boys and made schoolboy love to the Scotch girls, with more success in the latter than in the former.” Remembering the past Laurier would carefully develop the politics of reconciliation rather than conflict.
In the year 1854 the young lad went to college, De L’assomption. In his studies he took subjects such as Latin, Latin classics, pre-revolutionary French literature, Greek, English and some philosophy. The education which Laurier got from this school was to prepare him for priesthood but he decided to study law in Montreal at McGill University. At the University Laurier was very hard working and serious to try to accomplish his first major goal which was to become a lawyer. In 1864 Laurier had graduated at the top of his class and was chosen to give the valedictory address. Some of the things he said in his address were how a lawyer bore heavy responsibilities.
A lawyer had to maintain liberty and justice; a lawyer had to defend the individual, especially the weak from bold to strong, and that sometimes included the state and church. Differences of language, religion or history paled in comparison to lawyer’s obligation to seek justice and freedom.” Laurier started his law career in a small law firm in Montreal but due to bad health he moved to a small town in Quebec called Victoriaville where he carried out practising law and became involved with the newspaper in that town. He was lured into politics quite slowly although he always was interested in politics. He was often ill and did not know weather he would go into the political field because of it. As his heath got better and his interest in politics grew he became an M.P (member of parliament) in March 1974.
One of the major events that took place in Laurier’s political career was the interest he took in the Northwest Rebellion and Louis Riel which later helped him become the Prime Minister of Canada. The situation with the Metis people was not good. Land had been given to them but white settlers were moving in, which meant that the Metis would have to leave and move more West to Saskatchewan. The Metis had demanded money but were not payed any attention to by the government. The Metis called Louis Riel to help them out and try to settle the problems which faced them. After a few months Riel had realized that the government were not going to do anything about the issue so then the problem ended up in a rebellion known as the Northwest Rebellion. Laurier had decided to try to defend the cause because he believed in minority rights although he had a French- Canadian background. Although Laurier was helping the Metis he did not really approve of Riel’s ways.
Some of the things Laurier said during that time was,”I am not one of those who look upon Louis Riel as a hero. Nature had endowed him with many brilliant qualities but nature had denied him that supreme quality without which all other qualities, however brilliant, are of no avail. Nature had denied him a well-balanced mind. But,” he announced, “we cannot make a nation of this new country by shedding blood.” These fine words were noted in Parliament. The rebellion ended as Riel surrendered on May 15.
He was later tried for treason. Riel pleaded guilty and was executed. This put great tension between the Anglaphone and Francophone people. Because of Laurier’s participation in this major historical event he gained the favour over the majority of the francophone community. On July 13, 1896 Laurier became the Prime Minister of Canada. He was the first Prime Minister to be French.
During his early years as a Prime Minister he resolved the Manitoba school question by the Laurier-Greenway agreement. This agreement had everything the Catholics wanted and the issue was put to a close. In October 1899 England had declared war against the Boers in South Africa. Laurier did not want to send troops because this issue only dealt with British interests. As it turned out Laurier had to send troops but he faced a dilemma because the french people did not want to go because it was not in their best interest. As time went on the issue was discussed and resolved in heated cabinet meetings.
While Laurier was Prime Minister he had written a letter to a friend which stated, “My object, is to consolidate Confederation and bring our people long estranged from each other, gradually to become a nation. This is the supreme issue. Everything else is subordinate to that idea.” These superb words will always be remembered. In 1917 Laurier had lost the election. Laurier’s legacy was his insistence to the Canadian people upon respect for the basic principles of British liberalism. Laurier believed that each Canadian should have freedom and liberty which should be respected.
On February 18, 1919 Laurier died. He will always be remembered for the role he played in Canadian politics. BIBLIOGRAPHY Spigelman, Martin. Wilfrid Laurier. Don Mills, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, 1978. Canada Today.
Scarborough, Ontario: Pretice-Hall Canada Inc, 1988. Brown, George W. Building The Canadian Nation. Toronto: J.M Dent & Sons limited, 1958 Schull, Joseph. Laurier.
Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1965. “Laurier.” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1987, Vol. 12.