Today in Canada's Political History - April 22, 1895: Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell praises his predecessors in his maiden address to the Red Chamber as PM

  • National Newswatch

Sir Mackenzie Bowell took to his feet in the Senate as Prime Minister for the first time on this date in 1895. He had been appointed to Canada’s highest political office in the aftermath of the death of Sir John Thompson in December 1894.

“When I consider for a moment the illustrious gentlemen who have been Prime Ministers of this country since Confederation, I must say I feel my utter inability to occupy the position and perform the duties attaching thereto in the manner in which they have been discharged by my predecessors,” he said humbly.

Bowell then described the legacies of the four men who preceded him as Prime Minister of Canada.

“As long as history shall exist, Sir John Macdonald's name will not be forgotten,” Bowell said. “Following him came a very practical, sound, level-headed man in the personal of the late Hon. Alexander Mackenzie. I can truthfully say of him, as the hon. the leader of the Opposition has been pleased to say of myself, that although I differed from him in almost every act of his political life, although I regarded him as an extreme free trader- -I had almost said a Scotch Radical --he was ever actuated by the best and purest motives, and in all his actions in the high position which he held, he did what he believed would be for the best welfare of the country.”

“At the end of his (Mackenzie’s term of office) was succeeded by Sir John Macdonald,” Bowell continued. “After his demise came a man eminent in his profession, who had scarcely a peer at the bar, one whom we all knew and revered and whose talents were appreciated and respected everywhere, the late Sir John Abbott. Following him came one with whom it was my good fortune to be intimately associated during the whole of the period lie was a member of the Conservative Administration. I am therefore in a position to say, that the opinion which has sometimes been expressed, that Sir John Thompson was somewhat bigoted in his views, could only have emanated from those who knew little or nothing of him.”

“A man of broader views, a man of keener intellect, a man who desired to treat all classes of the community more equally, never, I believe, lived in Canada. Nova Scotia has cause to be proud of such a son. I shall lot indulge in any further eulogy of the departed statesman. No one grieved more than I did when I heard of his untimely death, and I can truthfully say that ever since, I have not ceased to regret his untimely end particularly on account of the great loss which Canada has sustained, and f rom the fact that his onerous and responsible duties have devolved upon my shoulders; but I can. say to hon. gentlemen that whatever my defects may be in the important position which I now hold, that I shall continue in the future as I have endeavoured in the past, to do my duty to my country as far as in me lies, firmly convinced when I adopt a course of action that it is right, and that it is conducive to the advancement of the best interests of the Dominion.”

“Of Sir John Thompson I can say very little more than to utter the deep regret which pervaded all classes of the community when the news of his sudden death was flashed across the ocean,” Bowell said, concluding. “It was a tragic ending. He was a man who rose, as the hon. leader of the Opposition has said, to the highest position in the House by his industry, energy and integrity, and the country will long have cause to regret that he was removed so suddenly from the sphere of action in the administration of the affairs of this country.”

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.





Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.