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Notes and Comments W.H. DRAPER AND THE FORMATION OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY In anarticle published in •96•, George MetcalPrestored WilliamHenryDraper, theclever, moderate-Conservative lawyer,to justified prominence in thepolitics of the •84os. Part ofDraper'$importance layin hiscontribution totheformation of the Conservative party: he createda 'respectable' Conservative philosophy aroundwhich,althoughhe himselfwasunableto do so,JohnA. Macdonald subsequently built a nationalparty.This viewraises some problems. What was Draper'spoliticalphilosophy? Precisely what kind of party did he envisage? Why did his attemptto createsucha party fail? Metcalfs excellentarticle provides answers to thesequestions but theimpression is left on the onehand that Drapermadeno attemptto form a party beforeDecember•843 and on the otherthat the 'somewhat imprecise '•'philosophy he possessed in 1843had largelybeenforcedonhim byevents. It ismy contention that thesetwo impressions are misleading. In evidence, I advance thefollowingletterwrittenby Draperto JohnSolomon Cartwright, aKingston lawyer, anotlongafterDraper's stand onprovincial union,hisattitude totheclergy reserves, andhiselevation totheAttorney Generalship underCharles PoulettThomson hadcaused greathostilityamongFamilyCompacttories.Of thelatterCartwrightwasoneof themostmoderate, respected, andfriendlyto Draper.Theletterdemonstrates firstofallDraper'sactiveconcern toreformulate toryphilosophy. It istruethatevenonthisoccasion Draperwasreacting to the GeorgeMetcalf, 'Draper Conservatism and Responsible Government in The Canadas, •836--•847 ,' Canadian Historical Review,XLII,{, Dec. I96I, 3oo-•-{ Ibid., p. 308 Queen's University Archives, J.S.CartwrightPapers. This isa valuablecollection whichthrows lightontheattitudes ofmanytories ofthisperiod. OtherJ.S.Cartwright papers existin the OntarioArchives NOTES AND COMMENTS 229 changed circumstances of Canadianpoliticsbut the perhaps unintentional impression conveyed byMetcalfthatheonlychanged hisviews whenforcedto do sobysuch events asPoulettThornson's decisions onprovincial union(•839) and responsible government (•84•) is shownto be lessthan the wholetruth. Such crises didplaya majorpartin changing Draper'sopinions but hewasalsoeager, whenunderless pressure, todevelop ideas whichmightforman agreed,realistic guidetoactionforConservatives. On theevidence ofthisletter,hehadnotmade muchprogress in thatdirection. Hisdesire toaddmeaning to theoutwornhightoryslogans isapparentbut he seems to havehadonlyrelativelyvaguenotions of howto do so.However,it should be remembered that Draper'simprecision and hesitancy may havebeenin part intentional,sincehe wasbroachingthe subjectto Cartwrightfor the firsttime. Doubtless, the exampleof responsible government waschosen notonlyasbeingthecentralissue between Conservatives and Reformersat the time but alsoasthe matter on which the two men, CartwrightandDraper ,mightmostreadilyagree. Secondly, theletterreveals anearlyattempton Draper'spart to form a Conserrarive party.Assuch, it addstoMetcalf'sargument andhelpsdetailDraper's development. In •843-4 the constituent elements of the 'broad and national Conservative partyof whichhehaddreamed'wereUpper Canadianmoderates of all politicalcomplexions and the FrenchCanadiansthen in alliancewith RobertBaldwln. 4 However,asthislettershows, in •840Draperdid notcontemplatewinningoverthe FrenchCanadians. The moderate reformers werealso neglected. He lookedinsteadto Upper CanadianConstitutionalists and the Lower Canadian'British'members. The changein hisviewsbetween•840 and •843wasnodoubtduein part tothefailureof thisattemptthroughCartwright to lead the ultrasto a more moderateposition.Moreover,the letter suggests changes in theexplanation of Draper'slackof success in hisattempts to create a newparty.The principalexplanation givenby Metcalf isDraper'shatredof politics:if Drapergainedparliamentary adherents, it was'largelybecause they were attractedto him, not because he soughtthem,' and he lackedpopular influencebecause of his patriciandislikeof 'the rough give and take of the hustings' and 'the publicpress. '5 The letter below showsthat late in •84o Draperwasveryconscious of theneedforpartyorganisation, activein promoting it, andwillingto usethe press to promoteConservative principles. His hatred of politics mayhaveexisted thenbut it does notseem to havedeterredhim from activity.Thus this letter suggests that Draper'sunwillingness to play politics waslesspronounced than Metcalf believedand that in hisfailure to form a Conservative party,otherfactors mayhavebeenmoresignificant thanalleged. Furthermore,any explanationof Draper'sfailure to createa Conservative partymustnowtakeintoaccount hislackof success in winningovertheultratoriesin I84o-I. It shouldalsorecognize how closeDraper came to at least a partialsuccess in thissphere. He andCartwrightappearto havereached some 4 Metcalf,'DraperConservatism,' p. 3•• 5 Ibid., pp. 3•o-• 230 THE .CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW sortofunderstanding aboutthebasis fora newparty. eThe latterpromised his support to thegovernment nominee for thespeakershlp of thenewHouseof Assembly. Draper,it seemed, had madean importantcatch: Cartwrightwas significant in his own right and,.moreover, hisbacking opened .theway to furthersuccess in unitingultra-tories with menof Draper'smoderate temperament .However, in April.I841 SirAllanMacNab,thespirited Hamiltonultra, discovering .Cartwright's promise on the speakership, setaboutchanging his friend'sviews.His.few, forcefulletterscarriedweight.At about the sametime otherCompact stalwarts, ChiefJustice J.B.Robinson, hisbrother W.B.Robinson, andCaptain J.M. Strachan, also urged Cartwright tomaintain theunityof the high-tory group andtoremain loyaltoitsleader, MacNab. ?These appeals were sufficientto negateDraper'swork. Cartwrightproposed MacNab for the speakership andin themainvotedwith theultrasduringthesession of I84I. Someof thereasons for Draper's failureon thisoccasion, and for hisfailure consistently to win ultra-torysupport duringthe session of •84I, maybe suggested . Within limitsthe cohesion of the high...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 228-232
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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