Wilfrid Laurier, M.P. (Drummond-Arthabaska,
Quebec) Apr. 1874Credit: William James Topley
/ Library and Archives Canada / PA-026430
|Bourbeau, 1879. Topley Studio;LAC;PA-028311|
The election itself exposes the unseemly side of 1870s Canadian democracy. The priests opinions were still well known and there would be no separation of the Quebec clergy from politics. Schull writes that, "brawls and broken heads were a feature of every meeting and at one of the loudest of them a Rouge supporter was kicked to death." (p.124) One supporter was noted as being "seemingly equipped with seven-league boots, certainly with a thunderous voice, and possessed of a portable grandmother who had been born within a mile of every stump he spoke from." In one municipality a Bleu secretary failed to post the electoral lists for registration, and thus nullified many Rouge voters. Bribery was used in three large parishes, as Laurier himself described it "railway contractors of the provincial government came there on the night of Friday to Saturday and went on buying votes as in the good old times."
|Last of the Open Ballots, 1872. Canadian Illustrated News. Elections Canada.|
Laurier would lose the close battle for Arthabaska, but the new minister needed a seat. In East Quebec, where he would earn his place in parliament, the authorities were called out to protect the peace. Schull notes, "Early in the morning a battery of artillery and several squads of police were drawn up in Jacques Cartier Square. Gangs of election 'whackers' moved restlessly about, but under the mouths of the guns and the eyes of the constabulary not a club was lifted. Polls opened at nine with the strong-arm men of the parties standing by at the ready and again there were only glares." (Schull, p. 128)