Sir Charles Tupper, Minister of Railways and Canals, and member of Parliament for Cumberland, Nova Scotia, is descended from a family originally from Hesse Cassel, and which settled on the isle of Guernsey, going thence to Virginia, long prior to the outbreak of the American colonies. At the close of that war the family being loyalists, moved to Nova Scotia, where members of it continue to reside. It is connected with Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B., who fell, bravely fighting, at Queenston, in October 1812. Our subject was born at Amherst, county of Cumberland, N.S., on the 2nd of July 1821, his parents being Rev. Charles Tupper, D.D., and Miriam nee Lockhart. His father, who was born at Cornwallis, N.S. has been an ordained Baptist preacher more than sixty years; is eighty-five years of age; and the oldest minister of that denomination in the Dominion of Canada, his residence being at Kingston. N.S. The mother of Sir Charles Tupper died in 1854.
He was educated in the arts at Horton, and is an A.M., of Acadia College, and in medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M. D., and also received the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843. He commenced the practice of his profession in his native town; removed thence to Halifax in 1857, and has been in practice in Ottawa and Toronto. He has long stood high in the medical profession, and was president of the Canadian Medical Association from its formation in 1867 until 1870, when he declined re-election.
Sir Charles Tupper entered public life in 1855, when he was chosen to represent the county of Cumberland in the Nova Scotia Assembly, which he did until the Confederation; and since that important act has represented the same county in the House of Commons, having been re-elected ten times in his native county, and served that constituency steadily for a quarter of a century, making a brilliant record. He was a member of the Executive Council and Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, from 1857 to 1860, and from 1863 to June 30, 1867; and prime minister of that Province from 1864 until he retired from office with his Government on the Union Act coming into force July 1, 1867. He was a delegate to England on important public business from the Nova Scotia Government in 1858 and 1865, and again from the Dominion Government, respecting the Nova Scotia difficulties, in March 1868.
He took a very prominent part in the work preliminary to Confederation; was the leader of the delegation from his Province to the Union Conference at Charlottetown in 1864, to the one held at Quebec the same year, and to the final colonial conference held in London to complete the terms of Confederation, 1866-67. He is the author of “A Letter to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon,” on the union question, published in London in 1866.
Before speaking of his public services since the Confederation, and in connection with the Dominion Government, we will mention a few of the most important measures which the honorable member for Cumberland. introduced into and carried through the Legislature of Nova Scotia, they being enumerated in the Parliamentary Companion: The jury law, the educational Act, providing free schools and assessment; the equity judge Act; the Windsor and Annapolis Act; the bill providing for a quarantine station and hospital; the representation bill; the executive and legislative disabilities Act; the first Act passed by any of the Provinces prohibiting dual representation; an act reducing the number of members of the Assembly from fifty-five to thirty-eight on entering the union, and an act regarding certain public offices and their salaries, which act abolished the offices of financial secretary and solicitor-general, and likewise largely reduced the expenditure for salaries.
It was Sir Charles Tupper, who, in 1864, moved in that body, the resolution for the union of the Maritime Provinces, under which delegates were sent to the Charlottetown conference already mentioned, and also the resolution authorizing delegates to be sent to London to arrange the terms of the union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, in 1866.
Sir Charles Tupper holds a patent of rank and precedence from Her Majetsy, the Queen of England, as an executive councilor of Nova Scotia, and was created a civil C.B., by Her Majesty in 1867. In that year he was offered a seat in the Canadian Cabinet, but declined to accept; and the next year declined the chairmanship of the Intercolonial railway board.
He was sworn of the Privy Council of the Dominion Government in June, 1870, and was president of that body, from that date until July 1, 1872, when he was transferred to the Inland Revenue Department, where he remained until the 22nd of February, 1873, when he took the portfolio of Minister of Customs. The latter office he resigned with Sir John A. Macdonald and the ministry generally, on the 5th of November 1873, when the Conservative party went out of power. On its return again to power in the Autumn of 1878, Sir John once more became Premier, and Sir Charles Tupper was appointed Minister of Public Works, and under an Act introduced by him, and passed, dividing that department, became Minister of Railways, a position which he is filling with the highest credit to himself and the country.
Since Sir Charles Tupper has been a member of the Dominion Parliament, he has made a great number of speeches, all of them showing marked ability and thorough familiarity with the Canadian resources, and wants of Canada. Among the ablest speeches, perhaps, we might mention his great speech, made in defense of the Canadian Confederation, delivered in the House of Commons of Canada, on the first day of its opening in 1867; his two speeches on the Canada Pacific railway, made on the 21st of April, 1877, and the 10th and 12th of May, 1879, and his last speech on the finances of Canada, delivered on the 9th of March, 1880. Any one of these speeches will show his broad grasp of mind, and his powers as a debater, as well as his thorough knowledge of every matter on which he speaks. His second railway speech was concluded with the following splendid panegyric on the Dominion of Canada:
“Mr. Tupper said that 10,000 of the best men in Canada were at this moment pouring into the North West to create a great fertile and prosperous country, and a demand would shortly be felt here for every class of labor that could be brought into this country. He had stated that the Government had proposed no additional obligation, that in those resolutions were propounded the means by which those obligations now before us could be met. There was no Canadian with a spark of patriotism within his heart who could look without pride at this great Canada of ours, or who could dwell without enthusiasm, upon the fact that here in Canada, washed by the two great oceans, was a country below the arctic circle as great as Europe, if they took the small countries of Spain and Italy out of it. We not only had this magnificent country, but we had it endowed by nature with all those natural features which were necessary to make a country great and prosperous. We had within our country over 200,000,000 acres of the most fertile land in the world, inhabited by a people who, though only numbering 4,000,000 now, were as industrious, as intelligent and as enterprising a population as could be found on the face of the globe. Under these circumstances, what Canadian statesman was there, with the responsibility of developing this magnificent country thrown upon his hands, who would not be a traitor to the best interests of his country if he did not put forward every effort to construct a great national highway that was to be a bond of union from one end of this magnificent country to the other? They ought not to appeal in vain to the honorable gentlemen opposite. Instead of raising an old exploded cry, instead of exciting a single feeling that was calculated to damage their efforts, it was their duty, it was the duty of every patriotic Canadian, to unite on this grand question; and, differ as they might upon questions of personal or party politics, on this great question of a great national highway for Canada, to which all parties in this country had been committed in the most solemn manner, they should all unite in one steady patriotic effort to bring to consummation a scheme on which the undoubted prosperity and rapid progress of the country depended.”
The speech of Sir Charles Tupper on the finance question is a very able vindication of the protective policy of the Liberal Conservative party, now in power a speech second in ability to none which we heard while the debate on the Budget speech of Sir Samuel L. Tilley was in progress.
He is greatly interested in the cause of education, and since 1862 has been a governor of Dalhousie College, Halifax, an appointment made by Act of Parliament.
In 1846 he married Miss Frances Morse, of Amherst, and they have four children living, and have lost two. Emma, the only daughter, is the wife of Major Donald R. Cameron, C.M.G., of the Royal Artillery, now in command of a Field Battery in Ireland; James Stewart is a barrister in Toronto; Charles Hibbert is a barrister at Halifax, and William Johnston is a student in Upper Canada College, Toronto.