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Two: Frederick Haultain

Forgotten Statesman

"If the Prairies ever come to the time for monuments to their statesmen, the first choice should be easy to name," said H.A. Robson, a Chief Justice of Manitoba and one-time leader of the Manitoba Liberal party, writing in 1944 of Frederick Haul-tam. Such a challenge directed at Western Canadians today would certainly fail to evoke his name because he seems mainly forgotten even in Saskatchewan. The first edition of The Canadian Encyclopedia, published in Western Canada in 1985, does not devote a single line to the individual who more than anyone achieved provincial status for Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905.

Grant MacEwan laments this ignorance in his biography of Haultain, which was published in 1986, noting that he was stunned to see in a publication celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of Alberta that Haultain was not even mentioned among twenty-five early pioneers. To overcome such slights of a man who was one of the region’s "best candidates for statesmanship" was partly why MacEwan wrote a study of Haultain’s life.

Haultain, "the unsullied hero of the West standing up to the insensitivity of Ottawa," according to historian David Hall, was, at various periods, premier of the North-West Territories, leader of the opposition in the Saskatchewan legislative assembly, chief justice for Saskatchewan, and chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan.

The western period of his life began in 1884 when he stepped off a four-horse stagecoach in Fort Macleod, a small ten-year-old centre in the District of Alberta in the North-West Territories. He had been born twenty-seven years earlier in England into a family which had as Protestants fled France in 1572, becoming over two centuries chiefly officers in the British navy and army. His parents moved to Peterborough from Britain when he was three. There his father, only a year after coming to Canada, was elected as a Clear Grit member for Peterborough in the legislature of the Province of Canada. Later the family would move to Montreal for a number of years where the father was secretary of a Presbyterian missionary society before they all returned to Peterborough.

Frederick initially wanted to follow the family tradition of military service, but apparently financial difficulties caused him to abandon such a career. He graduated in classics at the University of Toronto and was called to the Ontario bar. His father’s death shortly after his admission to practice touched him deeply. The shock appears to have been a major reason why he opted for an adventuresome life on the western frontier. He chose Fort Macleod because a university classmate who had settled there invited him to come out to discuss a partnership. None was forthcoming when he arrived, so Haultain’s lawyer’s shingle soon went out in the tiny community. In considering his prospects, he doubtless thought of the $40 in worldly possessions left in his pocket after the long train trip from Kingston.

Life in Fort Macleod, the district headquarters of the recently-established Mounted Police, was anything but dull. A flood of people was arriving in Western Canada from all over the world, some of them bringing with them contraband goods and illegal habits. Haultain was appointed Crown Prosecutor for the area soon after his arrival.

He became fast friends with James and Mary Macleod. Col. Macleod, another giant of the West and the renowned former Mounted Police commissioner after whom the town was named, had become the territorial judge for the district. His deep respect for Indians, personal courage and wisdom as both policeman and judge did much to avert violence over many years. When he died in 1894, leaving Mary to support five children without any pension whatsoever, Haultain would help gather money for them and for one period even took one of the sons, Norman, to live with him in Regina. He raised money from local ranchers to send him to the same Toronto boarding school attended by his father.

Vast cattle ranches were being established in the foothills south and west of Macleod as a result of the virtually simultaneous completion of the western railway and arrival of refrigerated ships capable of moving large quantities of beef to Great Britain. Haultain wrote to his mother the spring following his arrival for a week-long vacation at the Cochrane ranch near what arc now the Waterton Lakes: "Ranch hours are, breakfast at 4.30!!! dinner at twelve and supper at six.... I have been living a very pleasant life here with nothing to do but wander about and do as I please. There is a very large supply of novels in the home so that I have plenty of reading. My allowance is two and a half novels a day, which I get through religiously, besides riding about, shooting, walking and smoking...."

In his second year in the West, the North-West Rebellion erupted briefly near Prince Albert. Members of the Blackfoot, Blood and Piegan tribes near Macleod were clearly irritated and restless. The women and children of local pioneers were moved to much larger Calgary. Haultain, like every other able-bodied man, found himself participating in drill exercises by day and patrolling the town streets at night. Fortunately, no violence broke out in the Macleod area and life quickly returned to normal.

Clients began to appear at the door of his one-room office. His sense of fairness was such that even when he acted for the plaintiff in a libel action against, among others, The Macleod Gazette, the editor of the paper wrote afterwards that he had "conducted the prosecution in an impartial and able manner and we echo the feelings of all when we say: ‘Well done, sir; you did your duty well." Clients with all kinds of problems came more and more frequently thereafter.

So, it appears, did mothers with daughters of marriageable age, but unsuccessfully. In fact he would not many, and then only secretly, until he was forty-nine years of age and living in Regina. The entire sorry subject speaks volumes about his character.

Briefly put, Haultain clearly became infatuated with Marion Mackintosh, almost twenty years his junior and daughter of a territorial Lieutenant Governor. She, however, married a Regina wine and tobacco wholesaler and eventually returned with him to his native England where he abandoned both her and their daughter, Minnie, to abject poverty. Discovering this a few years later, Haultain supported the two of them until she married again, this time an American who also abandoned them. Marion and her child were soon again depending on money from Haultain.

The prairies’ historian Lewis Thomas wrote of the situation:

"Haultain was now a forty-nine year old bachelor, and it appears that a single-minded devotion to politics and a degree of emotional immaturity handicapped his relations with women. His infatuation with Marion Mackintosh appears to have blinded him to the weakness of her character and her subsequent erratic behaviour."

Evidently, Marion’s conscience finally got the better of her and she agreed to marry Frederick and settle in Regina after her health recovered in England. They did many in 1906 but she never came West, much to her husband’s inner sadness. He maintained his affection for her until her death in 1938. Throughout 32 years of marriage, he continued to send much of his income to support her at various locations.

As Grant MacEwan notes, the idea of keeping the marriage secret for so long was clearly distasteful to him, but he worried about gossip-mongers, especially while he was in politics. "Nobody," asserts his biographer, "could accuse him of legal or moral wrongdoing in the matter, and nobody could criticize him for his years of sacrifice to ensure the best medical attention and care for his ailing wife."

Nor would his code of honour permit him to many again until Marion’s death in Guelph, Ontario, in 1938. His marriage to a Montreal widow, Mrs. W.B. Gilmour, occurred only after Marion’s death when he was 80 years of age.

Haultain’s political career began in 1887, three years after his arrival, when he was elected to the council of the North-West Territories for the Macleod district. He defeated a Lethbridge "favourite son" candidate, C.P. Coneybeare by 301 votes to 156; thereafter until 1905 he was never again opposed by anyone. He soon became a positive and effective force on the Regina-based council. The governmental situation he and the other democratically elected members then faced was described colourfully by Frank Oliver in his Edmonton Bulletin: "While Canada as a whole, and the different provinces of which it is composed are united under a system of responsible government, the North-West is under a despotism as absolute, or more so, than that which curses Russia. Without representation in either parliament or cabinet, without responsible local government, the people of the North-West are allowed but a degree more control of their affairs than the serfs of Siberia."

The new member for Macleod was soon leading the crusade for responsible government against both the Ottawa government and its local lieutenant governors, who presided over the council and continued to take instruction from the federal minister of the interior on all matters, including the spending of funds. The population of the territory, which the 1885 census placed at 48,362, was rising steadily, and the move to responsible government was beginning to gather real momentum.

The Macleod Gazette reported in 1888: "The first question that Mr. Haultain referred to was that of self-government, and he literally wiped the floor with the Ottawa authorities over their new North-West Bill. He said that we had been dealt with like a parcel of political children. For three years the old council had sent memorials to the government demanding self-government, and each time the memorial had been acknowledged in the usual way of politicians or statesmen. It was now necessary to unite, and express a strong opinion in that direction not only through representatives, but by meetings all over the country.... We had asked for bread, and they had given us a stone; we had asked for a legislative assembly, and they had given us the shadow of self-government."

In 1888, an Ottawa measure by Sir John’s government permitted the council to become a legislative assembly presided over by an elected speaker in place of the lieutenant governor. An advisory council of four was to be elected henceforth from its members to advise the lieutenant governor on spending matters. The new lieutenant governor, Joseph Royal, chose Haultain as a member of the council and he became its first chairman. He and other council members, quickly recognizing that the final spending decisions still rested with Royal, sent a resolution to Ottawa deploring the denial of financial responsibility to the territorial West’s elected representatives. When Ottawa in effect ignored the resolution, the entire executive council resigned protesting that they were no longer willing "to accept responsibility without the corresponding right of control."

Royal then named more compliant individuals to replace them, hut when it later became clear that the council’s financial control applied to locally-raised revenues only and not to federal grants, Haultain and thirteen other full democrats in the assembly defeated the new council in a confidence vote. Another message was then sent by the assembly to Ottawa demanding full responsibility for all territorial spending. The constitutional crisis, wrote MacEwan, "became the favourite topic of conversation in towns and villages and over farm fences across the country.... It was bitter political fighting but remarkable in that it could be conducted without sacrificing friendships, without loss of honour, without accusation of dishonesty, ‘kickbacks’ and graft. The leading figures -- Joseph Royal, Frederick Haultain and Dr. Brett could participate to the full without being in any way less the gentlemen."

Shortly thereafter, the assembly voted by a majority of fifteen to six to deny advisory council members the right to serve on assembly committees. Prime Minister Macdonald soon got the message and amended the North-West Territories Act to remove both the lieutenant governor and all non-elected persons from the daily business of the assembly. The issue of a four-man council was resolved in 1891 when the assembly passed a measure creating a four-person executive committee in its place. Haultain as the acknowledged assembly leader became its first chairman in late 1891. He would remain in substance, if not in name, the premier and spokesman of the North-West Territories until 1905 except for a short period in 1892-93.

Haultain dominated elected public life in the region by force of his character and intellect and his vision for a proud and democratic West. When Hugh Cayley of Calgary resigned as deputy chairman of Haultain’s executive in 1892 to lead the perhaps inevitable group of assembly dissenters, Haultain and his cabinet resigned immediately after they narrowly lost a confidence motion. The respected speaker of the assembly, James Ross, quickly resigned his position in order to vote with Haultain; Cayley’s group could no longer obtain a majority in favour of their choice for speaker. The assembly was soon prorogued rather than dissolved for an election by Royal acting on Cayley’s advice. The affair expired when a member of the Cayley faction died and a supporter of Haultain was elected in a fiercely contested by-election. The lieutenant governor then invited Haultain to resume his position as leader of the assembly and government.

In 1898, a year after the Laurier government in Ottawa granted the final vestige of full responsible government to the territories, R.B. Bennett, the future prime minister, was elected to the assembly. The new Calgary member, although only 28 years old and a resident of Western Canada for only about a year, quickly appeared to be gunning for Haultain’s job as premier. The issue he chose to attempt to topple the "punctiliously honest" premier was an alleged discrepancy of $20,000 in the public accounts for 1896. The territorial auditor, J.C. Pope, explained to an assembly committee that $45,000 had been promised by Ottawa in 1895 so that sum was entered as a credit but only $25,000 was actually received by the year’s end.

That would have been the end of the matter, but the headline of Regina’s newest newspaper, The Standard, soon roared: "Cooked accounts -- how the territorial treasurer made $20,000." A select committee of the assembly, which was immediately struck to investigate the matter, reported that Bennett was the source of the statements published by the paper and that his allegations were without foundation. Thirteen assembly members voted to support the committee’s conclusions and three, including Bennett, voted against. The Calgary member’s quest for the premiership thus ended quickly.

Haultain showed his mettle later when a brisk movement developed in Manitoba to annex part or all of the territory which now comprises much of eastern Saskatchewan. Events climaxed in 1901 when he met at Indian Head east of Regina to debate the issue with Rodmond Roblin, premier of Manitoba. Roblin made an effective case for annexation, but Haultain appealed strongly to the shared experiences of the local residents to join his western vision of a new province stretching to the Rockies. "If you form part of what I would like to see -- one big province in the West you will have unlimited resources; you will be able to do things no province in Canada has even been able to do and you will have no need to ask your brother Manitoba to help you." The appeal to local pride appears to have carried most of the audience of 1,000 and the annexation movement soon died out.

Haultain’s most important accomplishment in politics was winning provincial status for the territories. His five-year campaign began formally on May 2, 1900 when he spoke in the assembly for four hours on the unsatisfactory constitutional situation of the territories. Along with his speech, the assembly sent a draft bill to Ottawa, intended to grant provincial status. The federal Interior Minister, Clifford Sifton of Brandon, whose brother Arthur served as Haultain’s minister of public works between 1899 and 1903, sent the limp reply that the entire subject would have to be considered fully. This caused Haultain, who admired both Siftons, to query how "such a man [could] become a mere tool of the Ottawa government."

Everyone but the Laurier cabinet appeared to understand that Regina’s surging population faced a critical need for new services. When Laurier and Sifton again refused to move, Haultain decided to attend the founding Conservative Convention in Moose Jaw in early 1903 to present his case. Though a steadfast opponent of party politics, he let himself be made the honorary president of the organization by Senator James Lougheed, R.B. Bennett and others. He objected to the nomination of Conservative candidates for the upcoming territorial elections, but applauded the call by the party’s national leader, Robert Borden, for immediate provincial status for the region.

The full consequences of his first entry into partisan politics were difficult to detect at first. Clearly, Haultain was convinced that the good of the territories and entire country now required the defeat of the Laurier government; on the other hand, some Liberals both in Ottawa and in the territories now wanted the most popular public figure in the West defeated because he had publicly identified himself with a competing political party. The first partisan attack came in late 1903 when the federal government offered Haultain an appointment as a judge, with the hope of removing him from a political arena in which he was the dominant player. His political opponents also wished to discredit him by creating the false impression that he had sought such an appointment. The ugly affair ended when Haultain refused the offer, saying that he had no intention of "deserting the ship." The entire incident only solidified in the premier’s mind the view that political parties corrupt public life and reinforced his opposition to the introduction of federal party names and divisions to the provincial sphere.

In mid-1904, Haultain, aware that a general election was coming, wrote again to the prime minister, noting that the assembly’s submission and a draft bill of 1901 to him were still unanswered. Laurier responded only after the Commons had been dissolved for the election to say that, if re-elected, his government would grant provincial autonomy. Haultain campaigned hard for Borden’s Conservatives regardless, believing they were more sincere on the issue. In fact, the election proved an easy victory for Laurier, who had become, in popular opinion, the embodiment of both national development and national unity. Laurier won 139 of 214 seats in the House of Commons, including 7 of the territories’ 10 seats, 7 of Manitoba’s 10 and all of British Columbia’s 7 seats. Although Haultain was disappointed by the election results, Laurier did honour his provincehood pledge with the creation of two provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, which officially came into being on September 1, 1905.

It seemed to be a virtual certainty that Haultain would be offered the premiership of one of the new provinces. In the end, however, in the words of Saturday Night magazine, "this strong, straight, able man who has locally directed nearly every good thing that has been done for the Territories [was] to be ousted from any share of the government of either of the two new provinces." Walter Scott, the provincial Liberal leader, was called on by Lieutenant Governor Forget to form the first government of Saskatchewan, the province Haultain chose for his future political activity. Certainly, Haultain’s support of the Conservatives was detrimental to his candidacy for the premiership, but it may also be assumed that his unqualified opposition to the treatment of natural resources and separate schools in the autonomy bills worked against him.

Why, if Haultain was such a popular premier of the greater territories, did he subsequently lose the 1905, 1908 and 1912 elections in Saskatchewan as leader of a provincial rights party? It has been suggested that the patronage and power of the Walter Scott provisional government and the influence of the Laurier government and its Interior Department played significant parts. Or, as J.W. Brennan suggests, it may have been the tendency of new immigrant settlers to vote for the party that had brought them to Canada. Haultain’s opposition to separate schools also provoked a letter by Archbishop Langevin to Catholic voters in favour of the Liberal party. Balloting irregularities and corrupt returning officers were reported as well.

When he lost in the 1908 provincial election, Haultain was quite content to return part-time to the practice of law in Regina. His ninth election campaign in 1912 he considered to be the most vicious of all, largely because of the doings of the two old political parties. By that year, there were half a million residents in the province, many of them newcomers, who found themselves looking at headlines in the Liberal papers such as: "Endorsement of the Haultain Conservatives Would Mean Surrender to the Eastern Trusts," and "Haultain would demean the province." This time he and his non-partisan followers could win only seven seats against the 40 Liberal MLA’s elected.

Late that year, Prime Minister Borden appointed Haultain Chief Justice for Saskatchewan, which post he filled with distinction for the following 25 years. John Diefenbaker remembered him as "an amazing person, a cultured man who never lost the common touch and an eminently just judge...." Four years later, he was knighted by the King. In 1917, he was elected as the second chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, a post he retained until 1939. That year, at the age of 80, he retired from both positions and moved to Montreal, the home of his new bride. He received also an honorary chieftainship from Saskatchewan Cree Indians and the name Winter Star. When he died in 1942, the provincial Chief Justice and former Premier, W.M. Martin said: "No judge in Western Canada was held in higher esteem by his brothers of the bench and the members of the bar."

Haultain’s biographer, Grant MacEwan, a one-time Liberal leader in Alberta and a federal Liberal candidate in Manitoba, quotes fellow Liberal John W. Dafoe, editor of The Winnipeg Free Press, writing in 1937: "The most interesting ‘if’ in the history of the West is, what would have happened ‘if’ Haultain had won and not lost his controversy with the Laurier government thirty-two years ago?" MacEwan goes on: "It takes very little imagination to see Haultain, if premier of Saskatchewan in 1911 and willing to adjust to such degree as the federal arena seemed to demand, being summoned to Ottawa to become Prime Minister Borden’s minister of the interior. Then, if his judgement and skills were still adequately recognized, he would, in due course, have been a candidate for the party leadership in the 20’s and probably prime minister."

Instead, Haultain has become a forgotten giant of Western Canada.


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