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I am branded in Quebec as a traitor of the French, and in Ontario as a traitor to the English. In Quebec I am branded as a Jingo, and in Ontario as a Separatist. In Quebec I am attacked as an Imperialist, and in Ontario as an anti-Imperialist. I am neither. I am a Canadian.

Canada's first French Canadian Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfred Laurier, had an intense belief in Canada's destiny as a great nation. he had toleration and statesmanship. He was a lawyer, a fine orator and a visionary.

Tall and dignified Laurier in his later years wore his white locks on a flowing mane. 'Follow my white plume,' he cried to youthful French-Canadians in Montreal in the 1911 election campaign, quoting Henry of Navarre. But his party lost to the Conservatives.

Born in 1841 at St Lin, Quebec, Laurier got his law degree at McGill University and started practice in Montreal. He was susceptible to pulmonary diseases. Unwell and unsuccessful in Montreal, he moved to Bois Francs country near the U.S. border in what is now Arthabaska.

 

In that higher and drier area he thrived. He practiced law and ran a newspaper 'Le Defricheur' - The Pioneer. He when to the provincial legislature in 1871 but resigned to contest his own riding in the Federal elections of 1874 which he won. He was a member of the House of Commons to the day of his death.

He was defeated in 1878 in Arthabaska but won a by-election in Quebec East that same year and represented that riding to the end. He became Liberal leader in Quebec and was minister of Inland Revenue.  In 1887 he became the leader of the Liberal party.

In 1896, the Conservative party ended it's long reign and Laurier formed a Liberal government. Laurier was a Catholic but was often unpopular with that church. He held moderate views and believed no church should interfere with the apparatus of government. He worked to bring unity between French and English, to define and establish Canada's place in the British family of nations and to bring what he believed to be the best kind or relations with the United States.

Laurier set up the External Affairs department in 1909, at first an adjunct of the Prime Minister's office. It was to grow into a vast establishment sending ambassadors and legations all over the world. He attempted to make an agreement with the United States on that countries request for a reciprocal trade agreement but partly for this and his government's stand on the naval issue. the Liberals went down to defeat in the 1911 general election and Laurier went into opposition. He suffered a series of stokes and died in office as opposition leader in 1919 and is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa.




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