Thursday, April 13, 2017

Andrew Coyne on George Brown

The Brown statue at Queen's Park

Andrew Coyne thinks Canada150 should include a little more attention to George Brown
In the spirit of the times, let me add my own grievance to the gathering national pile. If by some oversight Confederation should somehow be discussed in its 150th anniversary year, it is a safe bet one figure in particular will be mentioned only in passing, if at all: George Brown. Father of Confederation, leader and principal architect of what was to become the Liberal party, founder of The Globe (later the Globe and Mail) newspaper, Brown is the forgotten man of Canadian history.
 Coyne points out that it was Brown who promoted federalism, insisted on representation by population, and made the Great Coalition of 1864 possible.
It’s true that he said some unfortunate things about French-Canadians and Catholics, but more out of a fierce devotion to the separation of church and state — a live issue at the time, of which the public funding of Catholic schools in Ontario is a legacy — than any real animus toward either: he was allied with the anti-clerical Rouges in this regard. Indeed, as a Victorian Liberal he was, by the standards of his day, a paragon of progressivism: a fervent campaigner for the abolition of slavery, and a prison reformer, among other liberal causes....
Somewhat less fortuitously, but crucially, Brown was also the champion of the principle that the Senate should remain unelected, that it might therefore be less powerful than the elected Commons. His speech during the Confederation debates was decisive; his role in presenting and explaining the proposal to the British, essential....
Even the historians seem uninterested: There has been no major biography of Brown since J. M. S. Careless’s, Brown of the Globe, in 1963.
Anyone?  Anyone?

Image: George Brown family fonds. F 21-10-0-14. Archives of Ontario, I0073662

Update, same day:  In an earlier version of this post, my pleasure at seeing Andrew Coyne express views in keeping with my own led me to a comment that a reader might have interpreted as suggesting that he had borrowed my work uncredited. I meant no such criticism whatsoever..  Andrew Coyne has graciously noted my work occasionally, but his statements and views are entirely his own. Historical information about George Brown is  widely available from many sources besides me.
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