6 August

Sir Edmund Walker Head (1805-1868)

Macdonald dupes Brown

No, friends, the "double-shuffle" was not an old-fashioned dance like the "Montreal toddle"! It was a cute political trick pulled by John A. Macdonald on his old rival, George Brown. After a few days of fast footwork, it reached a climax on August 6, 1858.

John A. Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier formed a government dependent on the support of Cartier's French-Canadian followers. In December 1857, Queen Victoria announced her choice of Ottawa as the capital of Canada. This displeased a number of centres. On July 28, 1858, with Parliament meeting in Toronto, Clear Grit leader Brown saw an opportunity to defeat the Macdonald-Cartier government. He proposed a motion that the City of Ottawa should not be the permanent seat of government. As expected, enough French-Canadian members voted for the motion to defeat the Government.

Brown then proposed a motion to adjourn, which would have meant the resignation of the government, but the French-Canadian members voted against it. Macdonald and Cartier could have taken this as authorization to stay in power, but decided instead to trap Brown. They took the stand that their government had been defeated on a matter of policy and should resign. Governor Sir Edmund Head then called on George Brown to form a ministry. It was sworn in on August 2 at noon, and defeated that afternoon by a majority of forty. Brown then asked Governor Head to dissolve Parliament and call an election. Governor Head refused and asked A. T. Galt to form a ministry. When he failed, George Etienne Cartier was invited to try.

The new Government formed on August 6 was the old Macdonald-Cartier ministry with the positions reversed. In those days when a member of Parliament joined the cabinet, he had to resign his seat and run in a by-election. Macdonald used a law that had been passed the previous year, avoiding the necessity of a by-election if a cabinet minister resigned his post but took a new one within a month. He had been attorney-general. Now he became postmaster-general for one day and then he and Cartier reverted to their former posts!

George Brown yelled "trickery" and "collusion," but to no avail. After the "doubleshuffle," the Macdonald-Cartier government remained in power until May, 1862.


6 August

-1691    Henry Kelsey claimed the Red River area for Britain.

-1812    Governor Prevost of British North America and General Dearborn of the States signed an Armistice to end the war. It was revoked by Congress.

-1827    The convention of 1818, between Britain and the States on the question of the Oregon boundary, was renewed indefinitely.

-1866    An Imperial statute established union between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.

-1884    A public school system for the North west Territories, including separate schools, was established by ordinance.