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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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Banner: First Among EqualsAlexander Mackenzie

Reform government in the Dominion, 1877

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Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE was next called upon, and on rising to address the meeting, again met with a hearty reception. He said: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel somewhat as Paul felt when he was permitted to speak for himself, because I believe (as he believed) that I am at least before an upright judge ; and I am quite sure that the words I address to you, and which are addressed generally to the people of Canada, will find a hearty response among a vast majority of the people of this country. I know full well how difficult a task the Premier of this country has to perform.

Canada a Country Difficult to Govern.

We have a country vast in extent, vast in its territorial magnitude, vast in respect to its sectional views, and in its diversity of creed and race; and it is a task which any statesman

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may feel great difficulty in accomplishing, to harmonize all those interests, and bring a genuine feeling of union to bear upon the prosperity of the country which he has to govern. Under the most favourable circumstances any one would feel necessitated to ask occasionally not merely the indulgence but the forbearance of friend and foe alike in a country like this.

The Government Assailed by Constant Abuse.

But since the day that my colleagues and I assumed the reins of office we have been met with one continuous strain of coarse and systematic abuse, which appears to have reached its culminating point at the meetings held by the Conservative Leaders throughout the country at the present moment. (hear, hear) But, sir, I am not very much surprised at that, for I recollect very well the events which were developed in the earlier days of the history of this country.

Sir John as the Champion of Civil and Religious Liberty.

I was astonished, however, to find that Dr. Tupper, a few evenings ago, in pronouncing the highest eulogiums upon his leader, Sir John Macdonald, called that hon. gentleman the well-known champion of civil and religious liberty. (hear, hear) Why, sir, in the presence of many grey-haired men, the hon. gentleman must have appeared as the personification of the tyrant  --  as the sum and aggregate of civil and ecclesiastical bigotry and sectional domination. (hear, hear) Who does not remember when the hon. gentleman was one of those who battled, not for the religious equality that was spoken of, but for religious inequality? Who does not remember our early struggles forty years ago, when we strove to wrest the public domain from the hands of one denomination? Who does not recollect when Presbyterian and Methodist clergymen were sent to gaol because they dared to perform the ceremony of marriage? (hear, hear) The hon. gentleman, who is now introduced to the public of Canada for the first time as the champion of civil and religious liberty, was one of the defenders of that system; one of those who strove to perpetuate in our country the dominancy of a creed if not of a race. (hear, hear) I spent my earliest days in the political agitation incident to these struggles; my first political meetings were held in behalf of that cause which has been ridiculed by one of its principal opponents being characterized as its champion. (hear, hear)

Early Struggle of Reformers for Equal Rights.

Well do I remember the struggle we had in those days for our rights, and how at last, in December, 1847, we succeeded in electing that noble man, Robert Baldwin, with a band of Reformers strong enough to place him in a position to become First Minister of the day, and settle once for all the question of religious equality, in spite of the opposition of Sir John and his party. (loud cheers) I know that in a young country like this, passing affairs rapidly shape themselves into history, public events fast recede from view, and the vast majority of those whom I now address had no part in the struggle to which I have referred. 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 (hear, hear, and cheers) It has been asked what is the difference between the parties at the present moment.

Party Organization and Warfare.

We are told by a certain class  --  certainly not a very numerous or a very influential one  --  that there is no necessity for party organization in Canada, because all that separated parties in bygone times has been settled; that the questions that then divided us, now divide us no more. That no doubt is true to a certain extent; and it is also true that the men who first settled all these questions are the men who are most likely to administer the Government in accordance with the principles of those great measures which were disposed of by the Reform party under Mr. Baldwin and his successors. And it becomes highly necessary that the party lines which separated the Conservatives and the Liberals in the olden times should continue to exist, although I am far from saying that any political party can be justified in carrying party conflicts so far as to injure the prosperity or prospects of the country. Political warfare ought always to be respectable, and I can honestly say on behalf of those whom I lead, and I think I can also claim it for myself, that we have made every effort to make those party conflicts in which we have been engaged as respectable and as moderate as it was possible to do. It is true we may have occasionally to speak pretty strongly of the conduct of our political opponents, but I have yet to learn that it is necessary in party battles to impugn the motives of political opponents, or to question their veracity, or to pour forth a stream of coarse abuse such as has been indulged in by that well-known gentleman, Dr. Tupper, and his associates, Mr. Wm. Macdougall and some others.

Mr. Wm. Macdougall.

Of William Macdougall I shall say very little. I may refer to some things he has said, not because they are worthy of attention on that account, but because Sir John Macdonald now vouches for him as one of his honest friends  --  one who enjoys with his chief the affections of the Conservative party, and who must, therefore, be accepted as an authority by that party. For Mr. Macdougall's opinions I care very little, because I am not aware that I ever did anything to incur his good opinion. (hear, hear, and laughter) I propose to-day to devote the short time which I have at my disposal  --  not to meeting all the charges indulged in by my opponents at late meetings in this city, nor the charges levelled by the same gentlemen at other meetings, but I shall devote myself to a few particular points, and as I have to hold other five or six meetings within the next ten days, I shall devote a portion of my time at each meeting to

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developing statements which I could not possibly attend to in extenso at any one meeting. In the first place, I shall say regarding Dr. Tupper what I heard of a good old Methodist saying about a sermon which he had the good fortune to hear preached many times by a certain preacher "Bless the Lord, this is the sixteenth time I've heard it, and it just seems to me the same old sermon, neither better nor worse." (laughter) I don't, however, object to a thing because it is repeated, and, indeed, it is a matter of perfect indifference to us whether Dr. Tupper repeats his speeches sixteen or twenty times.

Dr. Tupper's "Facts."

I have simply to deal with his statement of facts  --  yes, facts, we will call them, for Sir John Macdonald carefully avowed his opinion on the platform here in Kingston that everything that Dr. Tupper stated was a fact. (laughter) I believe he is the only man in the Dominion who could have ventured on so extensive a statement. (loud laughter) However, we must take what we get and be thankful. (laughter) It is one source of gratification to us to know that after we have been in office for nearly four years these gentlemen are unable at this moment to bring a single statement to the proof of all that they insinuated rather than alleged against us. (cheers)

Sir John Challenged to make good Outside Statements in Parliament.

Last year, in addressing an audience in my own county, I told them that I should challenge Sir John Macdonald on the floor of Parliament to make good his statements regarding me. I lost no time in fulfilling the promise I made, for I repeated the offer the very first day that the House met. (cheers) I gave the challenge three several times, but to this hour he has never taken it up. (hear, hear, and cheers) He allowed the whole session to pass, and never made a single attempt to prove his statements. I offered him a Committee and every facility for the examination of witnesses on oath, but the offer was not accepted, and now the same stale slanders are being repeated from county to county as if they had been established by sworn evidence. Dr. Tupper states them as facts, and Sir John vouches for their correctness. I suppose I can only reiterate my challenge to these gentlemen to bring them up on the floor of Parliament. (hear, hear) [A voice: "He won't do it."] I don't believe he will, but perhaps I may overcome his conscientious scruples by bringing the matter up myself.

How the Tories left the Country on their Retirement in 1873.

Let me refer for a moment to the position in which these gentlemen left the country. Sir John says that we succeeded to office on his resignation in 1873, and he resigned, he says, because he doubted if he had a sufficient majority to carry on the Government successfully. Sir John simply resigned at the last moment, because he found that if he had gone to a vote he would have been defeated in a House of his own choosing, for may of the men elected under his own auspices withdrew their confidence, and would have voted him out of office on finding of what he had been guilty. He had not the moral courage to face a vote, and now he proclaims to the country that he was an ill-used man because he was obliged to resign.

Crisis of 1873 and Sir Hugh Allan's Money.

I have been very much amused at the way in which the hon. gentleman and his colleagues refer to the events of 1873, and to the circumstances which were proved on oath by their own statements as to the bribing of the electors in the elections of 1872, and the receipt of $360,000 of Sir Hugh Allan's money for the direct purpose of corrupting the electorate of this country. Why, sir, Dr. Tupper coolly talks of this as a misrepresentation, a mere misunderstanding, and Sir John says he was defeated because of the circulation of foul slanders against his fair fame. So that it would seem that we are to be obliged to have another Royal Commission issued in order to show whether the evidence taken on oath by Sir John's own Government was incorrect or not. It seems it was all a mistake to suppose that Sir Hugh Allan contributed money for the purpose of corrupting the electors.

Sir Hugh's "Handsome Subscription."

True, Dr. Tupper says in one speech that Sir Hugh Allan gave a handsome subscription to the election fund, and Sir John received it in the same spirit. That is the way in which the affair is spoken of. I do not wish to say a single word disrespectful to Sir Hugh Allan; but I believe if there is a business man in Canada who more than any other understands his own business, that man is Sir Hugh Allan. He is a prosperous merchant, and has done a great deal of good to Canada in organizing his fine steamship line, and I wish him abundant success in that and his other enterprises. But I sincerely venture to hope that he will not mingle in politics  --  at least I hope that he and Sir John will not mingle in politics together. (hear, hear, and laughter) He is a Scotchman, a shrewd business man, possessing many of the characteristics attributed to his typical fellow-countrymen. You have all heard the old slander which Dr. Johnson first uttered against Scotchmen  --  that farthings were coined for the purpose of enabling them to contribute to charitable objects. (laughter) I don't believe that myself, (laughter), but I do believe that if there is a Scotchman in Canada who knows the value of the farthing better than another it is Sir Hugh Allan; and I don't think he was likely under the circumstances to give to Sir John and his colleagues a sum nearing $200,000, and to expend on his own hook  --  to use a somewhat vulgar phrase  --  $160,000 more, merely to secure the success of the Conservative party, as Dr. Tupper says. (hear) That gentleman calls it a handsome subscription, and asks: "Did not Mr. Cameron, Mr. Cook, and other Reformers spend large amounts on their own elections?" Perhaps they did; but they did not spend Sir Hugh Allan's money; they did not receive money from any public contractor who was to get a contract in

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consequence of having contributed that money. We have Sir Hugh Allan's own sworn evidence, in which he states that he cared nothing for either of the political factions struggling for the mastery in this country, but he thought that Sir John Macdonald and Sir George Cartier were the men he should deal with, so he courted them assiduously and made a handsome subscription to their election fund. And now we are told that it was all a mistake, and that Sir John Macdonald was ejected from office because of foul slanders. I hear some one in the audience say that that story is worn out. I don't think it is. (hear, hear) It will never be worn out while Canada has a history; and it will be a black day for this country if it is ever worn out.

The "Pacific Scandal" Referred to because the Tories justify it Now.

Not that I attach any importance to it as an electioneering element; not that I meant to refer to it at all of my own accord, had not these men, after committing a great public crime, attempted to justify it in the light of day at the present moment. If they will not let it rest, if that shocking political crime is to be resurrected by the same men who had perpetrated it, we shall certainly examine the skeleton and trace its history. (hear, hear) The hon. gentleman seems to think that because the present Administration have difficulties to contend with which would task the energies of any Government  --  difficulties which were left to us as legacies by our predecessors, and which it has been impossible fully to overcome  --  that it is fair and honest in him to use all the offensive weapons which have been used in order to cast discredit on the Administration of the country.

Difficulties in the Way of the Liberal Government.

When we assumed office we did so when a black cloud was hanging over the country, one which obscured the fair fame of Canada in sight of every civilized nation, and was watched alike by the people of England and the United States as belonging peculiarly to the people of Canada. It rested with the new Administration to dispel that cloud, and induce the people of the United States and Europe to believe that all the public men of Canada were not tainted with the same sordid and corrupt motives which led to the commission of that great crime. (cheers)

Sir John's Prosperity!

We had to contend with other difficulties at the time. The hon. gentleman claims for himself, in one of his recent speeches, that while he reigned peace, prosperity, and loyalty prevailed all over the Dominion. Why, sir, when we came into office we found a rebellion at Red River barely quelled; we were in pursuit of the men whom the unanimous voice of Canada had branded as murderers, and to whom Sir John Macdonald gave $4,000 of the public money to enable them to escape. Then he attacked Mr. Blake and myself because we offered a reward for their apprehension in the Legislature of Ontario, and said that it was our fault that Riel escaped, and he "only wished to God he could catch him." (hear, hear, and laughter) I don't wonder a very great deal that the people up in the North-West rose up in insurrection at the treatment they received. What did this "champion of civil and religious liberty" do on this particular occasion?

Origin of North-West Troubles.

He sent out Mr. William Macdougall with a ready-made Cabinet to take possession, as if they had been the conquerors of the land, without asking the people what their opinions were as to the mode or nature of the authority under which they were to be placed. The people, not very unnaturally, objected to being presented with this ready-made Cabinet; and though Mr. Macdougall got within sight of the land, he was never able to put his foot on it. The measures of the Government at that time, as Mr. Macdougall says in his famous pamphlet, went to show what they could do to punish those who had objected to their course. We were told the other day that Sir John Macdonald had "bent his energies to draw the North-West Territories."

Mr. Macdougall's Opinion of his Colleagues.

Mr. Macdougall was a member of Sir John's Government, and he ought to know. He says in his pamphlet:

I am disclosing no secret of the Council-room when I affirm that in September, 1868, except Mr. Tilley and myself, every member of the government was either indifferent or hostile to the acquisition of the North-west Territory. When they discovered that a Ministerial crisis respecting the route of the Intercolonial Railway could only be avoided by an immediate agreement (and immediate action) to secure the transfer of these territories to the Dominion, they were ready to act. On the same day that Sir John A. Macdonald and Mr. Campbell surrendered the interests of Ontario to Quebec and Mr. Mitchell, and threw eight millions of dollars into the sea, I carried a proposition to send a deputation to England with full power to close negotiations for the purchase of one-third of the American continent as an offset.

We have Mr. Macdougall's evidence to show that these people were altogether opposed to this act; and we have also his own testimony to the fact that he was sent out there merely to enable the Government to get rid of him. He say: "As to the fact itself  --  in spite of your disloyal intrigues and the 'parish politics' of your allies in the East; in spite of Jesuitical plots in the North-west and Ministerial connivance and imbecility at the Capital;" and so on. I give you this evidence to show you that instead of the country being at rest, it was in a state of turmoil; that instead of these men being entitled to be classed as super-loyal, they imbrued the country not merely in financial difficulties, but in political difficulties of the gravest possible character; that instead of seeking to open up the North-west, they opposed it. When we came into office we found these great questions unsettled. We were obliged to maintain a regiment of soldiers in Manitoba to keep the people quiet. In the east there was a strong feeling of discontent. There were everywhere indications of a war of races and interests. And

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we had not merely to deal with all those difficult questions, but we had to punish the guilty, and at the same time to do it in such a manner as would show to those who had taken the part of these men in the North-west that we were not doing it for the purpose of indicating a hostility to either their race or their creed.

Riel and his Crimes.

You will remember that the ill-usage sustained by the half-breeds of the North-west at the organization of the territory created a deep, strong feeling of sympathy among the French Catholics of Lower Canada. They believed that Riel was a victim, and to some extent that was true. But Riel and his friends had to be taught that they had not merely violated the law of the land in taking possession of the government of any portion of the country, but had violated it in unlawfully and feloniously taking the life of one of Her Majesty's subjects.

The Stain on Canada's Honour to be Effaced by the New Administration.

All these matters had to be dealt with by the incoming Government; and when we consider that along with these difficulties we had to contend with the effects of these men's great political crime, in its bearing on our financial position, immigration, and otherwise, to speak to the rest of the world and maintain the fair fame of Canada, I think I can claim that we pursued as moderate a course as it was possible to do, and that our success has been beyond our expectations. (hear, hear) We have never given any provocation to our opponents to pursue their present course.

The Pacific Scandal Debate in 1873. -Evidence of Moderation of Liberals.

I ask any man at this day to read my speech in which I indicted Sir John Macdonald and his Government, and say if anything could have been done more temperately and moderately. And as that was true of my own speech, so was it of the speeches of every member on the Opposition side of the House. We felt that a grave crisis in the history of our country had come, and that while taking action strongly as party men, it was also our duty, in view of the great interests at stake, that this should be done in as dignified and as becoming a manner as might be witnessed in a court of justice. (hear, hear) After we assumed office ourselves, I ask any one to examine the record of our speeches and our motions in Parliament, and our course generally in regard to matters which our predecessors left in such frightful confusion, and say whether it was possible to adopt a more moderate course than we adopted.

The Alleged "Midnight Attack" i.e. the Elections of 1874.

I am accused among other things of having made a midnight attack, as they call it, when I advised the Governor General to dissolve Parliament in 1874. Does any man, be he friend or foe, imagine that I was such an idiot as to go on with the business of the country with a Parliament elected under the auspices of Sir Hugh Allan's money and its corrupting influence? It is true I had promises of support from a majority even of that Parliament; it is true we might have gone on for a short time; but I had a vivid recollection of the folly perpetrated by Sandfield Macdonald, in 1862, in accepting the very same counsel, which led to the defeat of his Government, when my honourable friend behind me fell with them. We appealed to the country in a proper and constitutional spirit. I addressed the electors, pointing out to them the course intended to be adopted by the Government.

The Election Law anticipated by having Elections all on One Day.

I told them that when the House met it was our intention to have an election law passed which would make it imperative on all Governments for the future to have all the elections held on one day. In order to be perfectly consistent  --  though we are bound by no law, and might have kept the elections of Sir John and others dangling for weeks, as they did mine in 1872  --  we ordered that all elections in the Dominion should be held on one day except in Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and Algoma, which could not be reached in time to allow it. Thus we took the earliest possible opportunity of putting our long-advocated opinions into practice, without resorting to the device that we would wait for a law. We made a law for ourselves, and bound ourselves by the principles we formerly advocated. The result of that policy, giving every man who was a candidate the utmost possible chance of attending to his constituency without having candidates from other constituencies to annoy him, was that we succeeded in obtaining a vast majority in the House.

The Liberal Majority in the House.

Talking of majorities  --  by the way, the hon. gentleman has stated in several meetings that our majority was 102, and that it was now reduced to 41. That is a pretty tall statement (laughter) but I suppose, like all the others, it is what some people at least would call a fact. The truth is that on no division did we ever have a majority exceeding 76, and in the last session our highest majority, in consequence of the sickness of a number of our friends, was only 52. It is also true that they gained altogether thirteen seats, while we gained four from them since the general election of 1874. Any one can form a judgment for himself of the accuracy of the hon. gentleman in that particular statement. But, sir, it is perhaps time that I should advert to some of the matters which affect public opinion more or less at the present time as to our policy.

Pacific Railway Policy.

And first with regard to the charges made concerning the Pacific Railway. I am accused by these gentlemen of having changed my policy in regard to that road since I assumed office in the Administration. They say that I formerly proposed to build it in a certain way. I am

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content if we can build it in any way. We were left with a legacy in our hands in the shape of a promise made to British Columbia that they should build the Pacific Railway within ten years  --  that it should be commenced within two years and finished within ten  --  and we have been obliged to deal with the discontent in that Province consequent upon the impossibility of fulfilling the rash promises made by our predecessors in office. We have acted on the principle of obtaining any mode of progression by which we can at once satisfy the determination of the people of the rest of the Dominion that we should only proceed in accordance with their means of building the road  --  in other words, without resorting to additional taxation for the purpose  --  and at the same time satisfy the people of British Columbia that we have been doing everything in our power to accomplish this object.

Dr. Tupper Repudiates his own Railway Bargain with Columbia.

On two or three occasions Dr. Tupper has referred to our Pacific Railway policy. You will perhaps be astonished to hear that he was perfectly in harmony with the Administration in relation to the policy which the Government adopted. But last year, after the speech was delivered in which he made this agreeable announcement, we had an election in the County of Renfrew, and I found to my amazement that Dr. Tupper, who was a member of the Administration which bound themselves hand and foot by a solemn obligation to the people of British Columbia to build the road within ten years, had the face to take the ground that they never intended to carry out their promise of building it within that time. They deliberately made a solemn promise, with the deliberate determination that they would not keep it. (hear, hear) I said that was a kind of morality which I was quite unable to appreciate, and that I could not understand how any portion of the people of this country could be satisfied with it. But such, however, was the Doctor's own statement. Here is what he said regarding our policy previous to that occasion :

Dr. Tupper's Opinions in 1875.

"But, sir, the fact of the engagement which the First Minister said was entered into with British Columbia during the past season has set at rest and for ever any question as to whether we are in a position that would allow us to doubt and hesitate a single instant what course to pursue. I feel that the Ministry of the day are entitled to the support of this House, and especially of those gentlemen on the Opposition benches, in any measure which is required to carry out the pledge  --  perhaps a somewhat imprudent pledge  --  that was given by their predecessors in relation to this work; and I feel that they may look to this side of the House for their most energetic support of the measures they have taken  --  I believe wisely taken  --  for the redemption of that pledge."

It is, perhaps, sufficient to quote Dr. Tupper against himself; but I may just repeat what I have said before, that in relation to our prosecution of that work we have always taken the ground that any thing we could do fairly and conscientiously with the taxation of the country we were bound to do to keep our word with British Columbia, whether it accorded exactly with previous views or not as to the mode of progression. On the other hand, I believe, as every sensible man who has studied the matter must believe, that the only mode in which that road can be built successfully is to throw a large population into our North-west Territories. We felt that it was incumbent on us to open up a highway to these vast prairie regions, which have so much to do not only with the prosperity of the heart of the continent, but of the whole Dominion.

Dr. Tupper on the Steel Rail Purchase.

It was to accomplish that end that the Government, believing that the price of steel rails in the fall of 1874 had reached the lowest point which they were likely to reach, purchased a sufficient quantity to enable them to secure that object. Now, sir, even Dr. Tupper did not disapprove of the transaction at that time. He says in another of his speeches delivered in 1875, and reported in Hansard:

"Nor do I intend to detain the Committee with any comments * * * * respecting the purchase of two and a half millions worth of rails. I think the Committee will agree with me that this purchase was rather premature; that considering the enormous price which iron went up to not long ago, and considering also the fact that before these rails are required the price of iron may be reduced, the Government has not made so good a bargain as they would lead us to suppose, although I shall be willing to allow them every latitude in a case of this kind. But that is an accomplished fact, and I shall say no more about it. I have no doubt that the Government were acting with the utmost desire for the public good, and I am always ready to give them credit for good intentions when I can."

So it seems that we had the best intentions at the time, and that good, generous, and disinterested politician, Dr. Tupper, was willing to consider that we had done the best we could.

Tories Impatient at the Prolonged Life of Liberals.

One session of Parliament passed away, and a second, and a third. Why, sir, the Conservatives supposed in 1873 that we were quite incapable of governing this country at all ; they said we would not be in office three months. It was only Conservatives who were entitled to govern this country  --  only they who were capable of governing it.

Something must be Done.

But when they found that we were passing through session after session with almost undiminished strength and activity, they began to think that something must be done, as the time for a general election was approaching, and charges must be make if they could not be found; and that was the origin of the infamous charge about the steel rails, which, like most of the others, was insinuated rather than made.

Direct Charges Scarce.

In fact there never was a direct charge made except in one case, and that was that I had given information in advance to a relative of my own regarding the tariff on tubing.

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The Way to Meet them.

I prosecuted on the instant the publisher of the newspaper who made that charge, and the result was the granting of a rule for the issue of a criminal information for libel. In the good and generous Dr. Tupper is anxious to make a direct and specific charge against me on that matter, or on others of the kind, let him just imitate the conduct of that publisher, and he shall promptly be afforded the very same opportunity of proving them.

Acting in the Public Interest only.

I then stated, as I do now, that the Government acted entirely in the public interest; that they had no purpose to serve either for themselves or for any one of their friends or neighbours. From the day we took office to the present hour there has been nothing of the kind upon which any one of our opponents can lay his finger; we challenge the fullest investigation, either before a Court of Justice or a Parliamentary Committee. (loud cheers) It was alleged that a brother of my own was a partner of one of the parties who tendered for a contract for some of these steel rails. Now, even if that had been true, there was no harm in that. (hear, hear) A brother or any other relative has just as good a right to tender for a public contract as any one else, provided the tender is fair, square and open. (hear, hear) In this case public notice was given, and a large number of tenders were received. The lowest was accepted in every instance; but I state as a matter of fact that it was a deliberate falsehood to assert that any brother, relation or connection of mine, had any interest or share in a contract, or an agency for a contract, or anything else of the kind. (cheers) I challenge them to take a Committee and have witnesses examined on oath to find whether or not I am speaking the truth. (cheers)

Tories Decline a Committee.

That, sir, is the cowardly manner in which they endeavour to stab the reputation of public men, while they dare not venture on an examination where witnesses could be placed on oath. And yet this story has been bruited abroad from door to door, and from one Conservative gathering to another  --  in fact, it seems that these people have come to the conclusion that if they are ever to reach office at all it is to be by pursuing throughout the country a course of systematic slander, by stabbing indiscriminately at the reputations of all who stand opposed to their progress. But this is by no means a new system of tactics with them.

Slander an Old Habit.

I recollect that in 1854 Sir John Macdonald one day said of Sir Francis Hincks that he was steeped to the lips in corruption, and the next day joined with him in a new political combination. They persistently abuse the character of men who have at least borne their share in the political struggles and the progress of the country equally with Sir John Macdonald and those who are engaged with him in this disgraceful work. I shall say no more on that head, although I have abundant testimony at hand at any time, if the matter should be brought up, to prove the absolute accuracy of my statements.

Progress in Getting Rails on the Line of Railway.

I merely say in relation to the prosecution of this great work, the Pacific Railway, that with all the industry we could exhibit, and every exertion that we could make to push that work, it has taken us all our time to have 15,000 tons of rails carried into the Province of Manitoba. We have fifty miles laid with rails, and we expect in the course of three months to have 130 miles more ready for the rails. We have used 11,000 or 12,000 tons of these rails in finishing the laying of steel rails on the Intercolonial, which was required in the public service. Dr. Tupper told us a few days ago that he was going to carry the war into Africa. Well, I shall anticipate him a little in that respect, and carry the war some little distance into his Africa.

The Tory and Liberal Rail-Buying Contrasted.

It may be interesting that we should give you a little information about the manner in which rails were bought by the late Administration. We have never bought a single ton except by public tender; we have never on any occasion allowed a single person connected with the Government to profit one dollar by any of these transactions. Now, in the last few months these gentlemen were in office they purchased without tender no less than 6,000 tons of steel rails through a brother-in-law of a Minister, who got two and one-half per cent. for his share. He presented false invoices, which revealed on examination that he had got not merely his percentage, but had charged nearly £1 a ton more than he had paid for them to the manufacturers. We commenced an action in order to recover the amount of difference between what he had paid and what he had charged the Government, and a judgment was recorded in our favour, and against this brother-in-law of the then Minister, for £4,000 sterling. Another suit is now pending, and there is no doubt that we shall recover a further sum of £5,000 on these transactions, which took place just before we went into office.

Comparing Prices of Rails.

They paid for rails when they were delivered on the Intercolonial an average of $85.53, the rails being of the very same quality as we bought a few months afterwards for $54.60 delivered in Montreal. In fact, we were receiving on the Intercolonial rails for which they had paid $85 at the very time that we were making a contract at $54 delivered in Montreal. And yet these are the men who presume to come forward in the light of day and accuse us of impropriety in connection with this matter. They say that rails are much cheaper now. No doubt they are somewhat cheaper, and no doubt, had we foreseen that they were to be cheaper, we would have bought 10,000 or 15,000 tons less  --  not any more than that, because it was absolutely necessary

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that we should have the rails at that time, and the quality I have named would fully represent the whole saving we could have effected. But if we were blameable at all, it was simply because we exercised a wise foresight in endeavouring to secure for the public the advantages of what we honestly believed to be the lowest prices we could obtain. If we had taken their plan, and employed a near connection of a member of the Government, and allowed him to pay what prices he pleased, and then, after allowing him two and a half per cent. commission, had given him a handsome advance on first cost, we should certainly have deserved the execration of the public. This was what was done by our accusers. (Hear, hear.) I don't believe there are five hundred Reformers in the country  --  I don't believe there is one  --  who would justify a transaction of that sort if perpetrated by those whom he had helped to place in power. (hear, hear, and cheers)

The Contract System Contrasted under Tory and Liberal Rule.

We have endeavoured to the utmost of our power to place the contract system on a sounder and better footing than ever it was before; and when I mention the simple fact that out of nineteen millions tendered for, some sixteen millions worth of contracts were awarded by us to the lowest tenderer, while the late Government awarded less than one-third to the lowest, you will be able to judge of the practical results of our efforts to reform the system of awarding contracts. (cheers) I don't say that the late Government gave out contracts corruptly, because I do not know they did so; I merely give these facts, which, if they had just been reversed, and tested by their suspicious minds, would have formed the groundwork for innumerable charges or insinuations of corruption. (hear, hear) I shall now refer for a few minutes to the taxation of the country.

Our Taxation.

I do not intend to trench on the province of my honourable friend the Finance Minister, who will take an opportunity of dealing with these subjects in extenso, and in such a way as to leave nothing to be desired in that direction. I have merely to present a few figures relating to one particular year of our term of office, and one year of theirs, in order to show who has been extravagant and who has not, and to meet by one simple statement from the Public Accounts the misrepresentations on this subject to which we are subjected. You have been told by Dr. Tupper and Sir John Macdonald that the present Government have increased the expenditure of the country to a much greater extent than they would have done, or than they did during their season of power.

Expenditure in 1867-8.

When I tell you that the entire annual expenditure when they took office was $13,687,928, and that in the last year in which they were in power, viz., 1873-4, it had reached $23,316,316.75  --  an increase of nearly ten millions in six years  --  you will see who suffer most by comparison. Now, in order to make a fair comparison, let us deduct from the total expenditure of 1873-4, viz., $23,316,316.75, the abnormal expenditures, or exceptional payments of that year. They are as follows: Mounted Police, $199,599.14; North-west organization, $12,262.41; boundary survey in the North-west, $79,293.60; boundary survey in Ontario, $2,430; military stores, $144,906; Customs refunds former years, $69,330.02; interest on debt over 1872-3. $515,230.34; charges on management (increase), $65,022.46: Total, $1,087,973.97. Deducting this aggregate from the total expenditures, we have $22,228,132.78 as the total normal expenditure for that year. Our expenditure for the last complete year of our term of office, 1875-76, was $24,488,372.11. Deducting the some exceptional items as before, viz., Mounted Police, $369,518.39; boundary survey, North-west, $134,105.18; settler's relief, Manitoba, $83,405.80; and interest on debt over 1872-3, $1,191,697; in all $1,778,726.37, and we have a total normal expenditure on the same items of $22,709,645.74. In order to get the actual normal expenditure for that year we must also deduct the following items of abnormal expenditure: Insurance inspection, $8,032.91; Indian grants over 1873-74, $130,166.69; sinking fund over 1873-74, $309,033; weights and measures (new), $99,785.05; inspection of staples (new), $537.72; adulteration of food (new), $2,601.83; in all $650,127.20 leaving the actual normal expenditure on the basis of 1873-4, $22,059,518.54, as against $22,228,132.78 for those years. (loud cheers) I mention these figures just to show how absurd and scandalous is their charge that we have increased the burdens of the public.

Tories increase Expenditure Ten Millions from 1867 to 1873.

It seems it would be perfectly legitimate for these gentlemen in their term of office to increase the expenditure by nearly ten millions, while we are expected, with many vast interests on our hands not then in existence, such as the government of the North-west Territories, the maintaining of a powerful police force there to keep the country in order, and the purchase of the whole territory from the Indians, not to add a single dollar to the expenditure of the country. If we had allowed our expenditure to run up in the same ratio that they did during their term of office, it would have been $4,915,000 more than it is. But we managed by prudence and carefulness not merely to keep the amount at what was considered necessary in 1873-74, the last of their financial years, but we have actually managed to reduce it very largely in 1875-76, and it will be reduced very much further, as Mr. Cartwright will show you, in the current year now about expired.

A Specimen of Accuracy  --  Customs Officers, P.E. Island.

I now propose to show you what dependence is to be placed on any of the so-called statements of fact which Dr. Tupper gives forth to the country. That hon. gentleman gravely assured you that his Government had only appointed twenty-two Custom-house officers in Prince Edward Island, while the present Administration had appointed sixty-five. Now, what would

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you say, what would any one say, when I tell you  --  and Dr. Tupper must have known it when he made the statement  --  that at the time we came into office there were seventy of these officers in Prince Edward Island, and I have the entire list here to show who they were. Yet this gentleman who states nothing but facts endeavoured to convey the impression that there were now over three times as many of these officers in existence as there were when we came into power. I may just say that the list of names which I hold in my hand is open to the inspection of any one who cares to verity what I have stated. We were told that the legislation of the late Government was most admirable in its character, and very complete and comprehensive in its scope.


We were told that when they took office they found the statute book a blank  --  no Acts on its pages except the Imperial Act  --  and that every Act of Parliament connected with the Dominion was introduced and carried by himself and his colleagues. Many of these Acts, he says, were factiously and strenuously opposed by the Opposition. He says further that we have been three years in office, and that we have repealed none of them, and that we are still running the machine on the Acts of the late Government; the legislation of the present Administration had either been copied from old legislation or consisted in the passage of Bills which the late Government had prepared. I venture to say that the late Government did not leave a single Act of any kind ready prepared, and that we have repealed  --  some in whole, others in part  --  not less than 50 or 60 measures which they placed on the statute book. I venture to say, too, that we have been the originators of many Acts now on the Statute book which have had a connection with the organization of the Federal Administration and its perpetuation as a new system. The hon. gentleman must have known when he addressed these wonderful words to you that he introduced an election law no less than five times, or rather he promised five times in the Speech from the Throne to introduce it and at last it was brought forth. And what was the effect of this wonderful law? Why, it provided for the appointment in every township of the Dominion of valuators or assessors, in addition to those appointed by the municipalities, and for a revising barrister in every county. These persons  --  the mere appointees of the Government of the day  --  had the authority to decide upon whether you and I had property upon which we would be allowed to vote. That Act was received on his own side of the house with such detestation on its first reading that he never dared to allow it to go to a second. It was swept out of sight. The first thing we did was to bring forward a full and complete election law, placing the elections of the country on a sound and satisfactory footing, both as regards effectiveness and cheapness in working. (hear, hear) If his election law had passed, the Government of the day, whether his or ours, would have absolutely had the franchise in the hands of their own creatures. We placed it where it should be  --  in the delegated authorities of the municipalities. The Councils are elected by the people; the Council elect the assessors; electors can appeal to the Council from the assessor's decision, and to the judge from the Council; so that they have, as they should have, the authority in their own hands. The appeal, which as it is now allowed to the county judge, would have had no existence under his Bill, but the paid emissaries of the Government of the day would have been traversing your townships, putting down the names of those who were to be allowed to vote and leaving off those who were not.

Sir John as a Legislator.

Yet he says he originated all the legislation in the Dominion! I venture the assertion  --  and I challenge contradiction by him or any one else  --  that Sir John Macdonald never did since the first day he was in Parliament introduce any measure for the organization, or even the completion, of some great reform. (hear, hear, and cheers) Among all the Bills he introduced into the Federal Parliament, you will look in vain to find anything else than re-enactments of the old Canadian Statutes regarding criminal law and other matters of that sort, with some amendments, chiefly from the English Statutes; while if you look over ours, you will find that we have given earnest and close attention to reforms that were required.

The Supreme Court Act.

He said at one meeting last year  --  he does not venture it this year, however  --  that this Government had merely taken his Supreme Court Act, made some few changes in it for the worse, and then passed it into law. It so happens that he never had a Supreme Court Bill of his own. It is true he took $500 without the authority of Parliament and paid it to Judge Strong to draw up a bill, which he did, and no doubt it was a very excellent one in its way. But it is not our Supreme Court Bill; and even if we had taken it, we surely had as good a right to copy Judge Strong's Bill as Sir John had, seeing that the public paid for it. (hear, hear, and laughter) It is true that a Supreme Court Bill was foreshadowed in the Constitutional Act, and it became at length a burning necessity to have such a tribunal.

Why Sir John never Passed his Supreme Court Bill.

Sir John found that there was a very strong opposition among his Lower Canadian friends against the principle of the measure, and he neither had the moral courage to compel them to accept it, nor the industry to frame another. When we came into power we promised it at once ; we passed it at once ; it is now before the public, and it has proved to be most successful. If there are two measures upon which we may especially congratulate ourselves, they are the Election Act and the Supreme Court Act. (hear, hear) The latter has served its purpose so well that appeals to the English Privy Council have practically ceased, and our own judges are found dispensing the laws of the country in every class of cases.

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The Size of the Statute Book.

Sir John told us last year in his own happy way that the statute  --  book of the present Administration was about the size of Scobie's Almanac  --  a book which all the old residents of the country remember very well. I have looked over the extent of his legislation, and I find that we far exceed him in volume, as we certainly do in material, in every year of his office; it is a remarkable fact, but a fact nevertheless.

The Method of Legislating.

As I stated before, Sir John has been successful chiefly because, after opposing for half a lifetime a particular measure or a particular principle, whenever he finds that that principle is to be adopted, and will be adopted by the public whether he favours it or not, he turns in and works with the majority, and then cries, "Didn't we do that splendidly?" (hear, hear, and laughter) I hear my friend Mr. Ross say that that's an old trick of Sir John's. Yes, it is; but it is getting rather stale. We all know to whom the country is indebted for the wise and beneficial legislation which happily prevails in all the Provinces of the Dominion at the present day.

No Remedial Measure owns a Tory Origin.

As I said before, I cannot recall a single measure of large scope which a Conservative Government originated during their twenty years' lease of power. Such measures were generally taken up by that party after they had been developed, and advocated, and struggled for, frequently in the face of bitter opposition, by the Liberal party of this country. (cheers) There is another point to which I desire briefly to refer, and then I shall make way for other speakers. It is especially necessary that I should advert to this question, as I think particular attention should be given to matters where anything approaching a personal charge may be even insinuated. It has been insinuated that I have used the public patronage of the Crown in one or two instances either to benefit strong political supporters or friends of those who are my supporters. I shall deal with only one of these here, and I will show you how much, or rather how little, truth there is in some of the statements made and the speeches delivered throughout the country.

Mr. A. B. Foster and the Georgian Bay Railway.

You are aware that amongst those cognizant of the great Pacific Scandal iniquity, Mr. A. B. Foster, a Senator, was supposed to know a great deal about it. It was known that he condemned the transaction, and that he was a railway contractor, engaged extensively in this branch of business, and it is now alleged that the Government gave him the contract for the Georgian Bay branch as a particular favour, to enable him to recover his shattered fortunes. It is also alleged that we afterwards took the contract off his hands, and paid him back improperly the money he had deposited as security, and that in doing so we did an unprecedented act. It is also alleged that we agreed to lend him a certain quantity of rails, and that these have not been paid for or returned. Now, with regard to the first allegation, I may say that the contract for the Georgian Bay branch of the Pacific Railway was duly advertised in the public press.

Lowest Tenderer Received Contract.

Mr. Munson was the lowest tenderer; but he assigned his contract to Mr. Foster, whom we accepted as the assignee of the lowest tenderer.

Canada Central Subsidy.

At the same time we granted a subsidy of $12,000 per mile for 120 miles of the Canada Central Railway, extending from the vicinity of Douglas towards Georgian Bay, the eastern terminus of the section for which Mr. Munson had tendered. It was evident that the surveys of the Canada Central Company could be made more cheaply and better if the same party had the contract for both roads, as a connection had to be made. The Canada Central Company gave their contract to Mr. Foster, who, as I have stated, had the contract from us for the 85 miles which we were to build. The country proved to be much more difficult in way of railway construction than Mr. Foster had anticipated at the time he took the contract; and he asked for a revision of the terms of the contract, which the Government were unwilling to grant.

Georgian Bay Contract Annulled.

But when he found that he was not likely to proceed with the work as expeditiously as we could desire, we determined to cancel the contract and pay back the money deposited, paying him such an amount for the work he had performed as might be certified by the engineer as earned in the prosecution of the surveys as far as they could be made available by the Government in finishing the surveys. This is what is characterized as a gross wrong. What is there wrong about it? The contract was fairly awarded. It was fairly annulled, and we undoubtedly had the power to annul it ; and for that matter, our predecessors annulled many a contract. We just as certainly had the power to pay back the money and release the security, and we did so believing that it was in the public interest to do it.

Sir Hugh Allan's Pacific Contract Annulled and the Million Deposit Paid Back.

The previous Government did the very same thing, not in paying back $85,000 as we did, but over one million dollars to Sir Hugh Allan when they annulled his contract. If it was wrong for us to annul one contract and pay back the security, how much greater a wrong were they guilty of when they repaid back about twelve times as much as we did! We believed we were doing it in the public interest; it has been frequently done in the past, and no doubt will have to be done by every Government. There is nothing in the matter bearing the faintest shade of corruption.

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Amount Paid for Surveys.

They say that we paid him $40,000 or $50,000 for surveys. We paid exactly what Mr. Sandford Fleming certified in his formal statement that they were worth.

Mr. Shanly's Opinion.

And Mr. Shanly, a well-known engineer and strong Conservative, says they were worth $8,000 or $10,000 more. This is all before the public, and yet it has been made the foundation of gross and repeated misrepresentation.

Lending Rails.

Then we come to the lending of 100 tons of steel rails, and the taking by the Canada Central Company of 127 tons additional. These rails were owned by the Company, Government having a lien on them for advances. The entire value of the rails was $8,172, and they were covered by a security of $30,000 in railway bonds. These rails were wanted to finish the road to Pembroke last fall, when it was of the utmost importance to the trade of the country that the road should be completed to that point. The Government did simply what any individual member of the community might do  --  that is, lend anything for a time to a neighbour in order to complete a work of that kind which he had in hand. I will, however, in this particular, again cite Dr. Tupper against himself.

Lending the Gas Company of Ottawa $10,000.

In 1872 that gentleman and his associates lent, not $8,000 worth of rails which involved no outlay, but they lent to the Ottawa Gas Company $10,000 in cash, without the authority of Parliament, without any authority, good, bad, or indifferent, and that cash has not all been paid back yet. It was very wicked in us to lend 100 tons of iron rails which were not being used, though we had only a lien upon them, but it was perfectly right and proper for him to dip his hands in the public purse and to take out $10,000 without any authority whatever. (hear, hear)

Policy of Building the Georgian Bay Branch.

As to the general policy of building the Georgian Bay branch, I shall endeavour to deal with that exhaustively at another meeting, as I shall with our policy in regard to the whole Pacific Railway.

Cost of Pacific Railway under Contract.

I shall be able to show that notwithstanding the difficulties we had to contend with west of Lake Superior, which were not met with in the construction of the Intercolonial, this Government, by its wise policy, by its proper system of letting contracts, and by its judicious system of preparing beforehand by elaborate surveys and examination of the country, has succeeded in building and letting contracts for the road west of Lake Superior for 220 miles, for less than one-half per mile of what the Intercolonial cost. (cheers) I think I shall be able to establish that, so far as the administration of the great public works of the country are concerned, we have succeeded beyond our own expectations in realizing that economy which every Government professes to observe and desires to secure, but which very few can reach unless by devoting their whole energies to the task, and introducing essential reforms in the management of the public works. I feel, however, that it would not be right to take up more of your time at present, especially as I purpose before long dealing very fully with everything relating to the charges brought forward by the leaders of the Opposition at recent meetings. If I am not able to address the people of Kingston fully on all these topics face to face, I shall at least have the pleasure of addressing you through the public newspapers of the country. In closing, allow me again to return my earnest and sincere thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who have come out to-day to welcome my colleague and myself, and the distinguished statesman from Toronto and his colleague in the Government of Ontario. For myself and my colleagues let me assure you that nothing will give us more sincere gratification than to know that we can still command the sympathies, the support, and the moral countenance of all those men who assisted in 1874 on placing us so successfully where we now stand. (prolonged cheers) There is no object of a personal kind in any man occupying the position I do, if he performs as he ought the duties of that position. (cheers) To be sure it is an object of a personal kind in this respect, that it is a matter of great pride to be able as a Minister, and particularly as a First Minister, to administer the affairs of a great country like this successfully, and to the satisfaction of those who called him to his high position. (cheers) It is a matter in which in which any one may take a laudable pride, and I can assure you that no one could feel that pride more than I do at the present moment. I should regret to the last days of my life if I permitted my hand to be engaged in anything that would cast a shadow or passing cloud  --  to use Dr. Tupper's words  --  over my political or personal character while I have anything to do with public life. (loud cheers)

Opposition Tactics.

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.

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The Origination of Confederation.

He takes credit for being the originator of Confederation. Why, on the 14th of April, 1864, he recorded his vote to the effect that there were no constitutional changes needed. Dr. Tupper now tells us that at that time the people of Canada were standing gazing in each other's faces, ready to leap at each other's throats. A terrible state of affairs truly! I was in public life at the time, and I never knew of this horrible condition of things until I heard of it from him. I do know that on the 14th of April, 1864, Sir John Macdonald voted that there were no constitutional changes needed, and that on the very next day his Government was defeated, and then he saw changes were needed. (cheers and laughter) Why did he so suddenly discover the necessity of constitutional changes ?

Hon George Brown and the Liberals in 1864.

It was because Mr. George Brown, the leader of the Liberal party, said, "Gentlemen, you may keep your places in the Government if you like. We have a majority in Parliament; we have defeated you; but we are willing to let you remain in your places if you only give us the constitutional changes that you said yesterday were not needed." Sir John and his friends saw the necessity for constitutional changes with astonishing rapidity (laughter) in fact, they would have given an unlimited number of changes if they were only allowed to remain in power. (hear, hear, and laughter) I have known him and his followers to do worse things than that.

Old Tricks of the Present Opposition.

I have been long enough in public life in Canada to know that when Lord Elgin, one of the noblest and best of our Governors (cheers) took a manly course in sustaining his constitutional advisers, these gentlemen hoisted the black flag at Brockville, their mob in London pelted him with rotten eggs, and in Montreal they burned the Parliament Buildings. We might have known in 1864, when we defeated them, that something of the same sort would be done again, and Mr. George Brown told them, "Don't be afraid; you will get your places. We want our principles carried out in the Government, and if you are willing to be our tools in that, as you have been in everything else in the legislation of the country, we would vote to sustain you in place and power." They did it; and Sir John Macdonald, in violation of his declaration the day before that no constitutional changes were needed, determined to carry out those changes known as Confederation. Now he says he did it all. (hear, hear, and laughter) He must surely suppose that people are losing their memories; that the whole history of the past was blotted out on the 1st of July, 1867; that on that day not only was Confederation inaugurated, but everything else swept away which could bring to the memories of any one the events that transpired a few years before. Such are the men who constitute Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition; such are they who will constitute Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition after the next general election in this country. (loud and prolonged cheers)

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Source: The Pic-Nic speeches delivered in the Province of Ontario during the summer of 1877. Published, in response to numerous inquiries and suggestions from all parts of the Dominion, by the Reform Association of the Province of Ontario, and prepared for the Press by the Secretary, Mr. G. R. Pattullo, of the Woodstock "Sentinel." Toronto: Globe Printing and Publishing, 1878. Pages 2-13.


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