Laurier gained great achievement over his political years because herepresented Canada as a whole. His family first came to Canada dating backto the time of New France and the early Montreal years.
Laurier’s father, a government surveyor and a genial, settled down inCanada and got married to Marcelle Martineau. Wildfrid was their firstchild who was born on November 20, 1841. Seven years later a tragedy struckthe Laurier family when Wildfrid’s mother died.
Since his mother died when Wildfrid was only seven, his father wantedto give him the best education possible. His father knew if he were tosucceed in Canada he would have to learn the english language and ways.
When Wilfrid was ten years old he got sent to an Anglo-Protestant familywho were Scottish immigrants. Here he learned the english language and theProtestant faith. Later on in his life he recalled “how I fought with theScotch boys and made schoolboy love to the Scotch girls, with more successin the latter than in the former.” Remembering the past Laurier wouldcarefully develop the politics of reconciliation rather than conflict.
In the year 1854 the young lad went to college, De L’assomption. Inhis studies he took subjects such as Latin, Latin classics,pre-revolutionary French literature, Greek, English and some philosophy.
The education which Laurier got from this school was to prepare him forpriesthood but he decided to study law in Montreal at McGill University.
At the University Laurier was very hard working and serious to try toaccomplish his first major goal which was to become a lawyer. In 1864Laurier had graduated at the top of his class and was chosen to give thevaledictory address. Some of the things he said in his address were how alawyer bore heavy responsibilities. A lawyer had to maintain liberty andjustice; a lawyer had to defend the individual, especially the weak frombold to strong, and that sometimes included the state and church.
Differences of language, religion or history paled in comparison tolawyer’s obligation to seek justice and freedom.”Laurier started his law career in a small law firm in Montreal but dueto bad health he moved to a small town in Quebec called Victoriaville wherehe carried out practising law and became involved with the newspaper inthat town.
He was lured into politics quite slowly although he always wasinterested in politics. He was often ill and did not know weather he wouldgo into the political field because of it. As his heath got better and hisinterest in politics grew he became an M.P (member of parliament) in March1974.
One of the major events that took place in Laurier’s political careerwas the interest he took in the Northwest Rebellion and Louis Riel whichlater helped him become the Prime Minister of Canada. The situation withthe Metis people was not good. Land had been given to them but whitesettlers were moving in, which meant that the Metis would have to leave andmove more West to Saskatchewan. The Metis had demanded money but were notpayed any attention to by the government. The Metis called Louis Riel tohelp them out and try to settle the problems which faced them. After a fewmonths Riel had realized that the government were not going to do anythingabout the issue so then the problem ended up in a rebellion known as theNorthwest Rebellion. Laurier had decided to try to defend the causebecause he believed in minority rights although he had a French- Canadianbackground. Although Laurier was helping the Metis he did not reallyapprove of Riel’s ways. Some of the things Laurier said during that timewas,”I am not one of those who look upon Louis Riel as a hero. Nature hadendowed him with many brilliant qualities but nature had denied him thatsupreme quality without which all other qualities, however brilliant, areof no avail. Nature had denied him a well-balanced mind. But,” heannounced, “we cannot make a nation of this new country by shedding blood.”These fine words were noted in Parliament.
The rebellion ended as Riel surrendered on May 15. He was later triedfor treason. Riel pleaded guilty and was executed. This put great tensionbetween the Anglaphone and Francophone people. Because of Laurier’sparticipation in this major historical event he gained the favour over themajority of the francophone community.
On July 13, 1896 Laurier became the Prime Minister of Canada. He wasthe first Prime Minister to be French. During his early years as a PrimeMinister he resolved the Manitoba school question by the Laurier-Greenwayagreement. This agreement had everything the Catholics wanted and theissue was put to a close.
In October 1899 England had declared war against the Boers in SouthAfrica. Laurier did not want to send troops because this issue only dealtwith British interests. As it turned out Laurier had to send troops but hefaced a dilemma because the french people did not want to go because it wasnot in their best interest. As time went on the issue was discussed andresolved in heated cabinet meetings.
While Laurier was Prime Minister he had written a letter to a friendwhich stated, “My object, is to consolidate Confederation and bring ourpeople long estranged from each other, gradually to become a nation. Thisis the supreme issue. Everything else is subordinate to that idea.” Thesesuperb words will always be remembered.
In 1917 Laurier had lost the election. Laurier’s legacy was hisinsistence to the Canadian people upon respect for the basic principles ofBritish liberalism. Laurier believed that each Canadian should havefreedom and liberty which should be respected. On February 18, 1919Laurier died. He will always be remembered for the role he played inCanadian politics.
BIBLIOGRAPHYSpigelman, Martin. Wilfrid Laurier.
Don Mills, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, 1978.
Canada Today. Scarborough, Ontario: Pretice-Hall Canada Inc,1988.
Brown, George W. Building The Canadian Nation. Toronto: J.MDent & Sons limited, 1958Schull, Joseph. Laurier. Toronto: The Macmillan Company ofCanada Limited, 1965.
“Laurier.” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1987, Vol. 12.