In 1879 the Conservative government led by John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) adopted the National Policy, a series of protectionist measures like those in place in the United States. By this act, Canada defied Britain and its free-trade ideology, adopted in 1846 when Britain abolished its preferential tariffs. Also in 1879, Canada created the post of high commissioner in London. Alexander Galt (1817-1893), one of the Father’s of Confederation, was appointed to fill it.
This cartoon, published on the front page of the weekly The Canadian Illustrated News of December 13, 1879, shows Sir Alexander Galt about to leave Canada for Great Britain. He is standing beside Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.
The caption for the cartoon refers to the responsibilities of the new high commissioner, namely, to encourage the export of Canadian products to Great Britain as well as British immigration to Canada. He also had to try to find British financing for the construction of the transcontinental railway.
The wooden cases inscribed with the words butter, cheese, grains, cattle and sheep, agricultural machines and boots and shoes reflect the types of products that Canada was exporting to Great Britain at the time.
Alexander Galt had already travelled to France and Spain in early 1879 to negotiate trade agreements, as well as to Great Britain, in August, alongside Macdonald.
Sir Alexander Galt did not leave for his posting until a few months after this cartoon was published, that is, in April 1880.
Macdonald had just been re-elected in 1878, mostly on the basis of his promise to adopt protectionist measures. Five years earlier, he had been forced to step down in the wake of the Pacific Scandal.
Kesteman, Jean-Pierre. “Alexander Galt,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography [on-line] [http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=40234&query=Galt] (page consulted April 20, 2007).
“Canada and the World,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada [on-line] [http://www.international.gc.ca/department/history/canada2-en.asp] (page consulted April 20, 2007).
“External Relations,” The Canadian Encyclopedia [on-line] [ http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002695] (page consulted April 20, 2007).
“National Policy,” The Canadian Encyclopedia [on-line] [http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0005632] (page consulted April 20, 2007).
“Our Past: The History of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada [on-line] [http://www.international.gc.ca/department/history/United_Kingdom-en.asp] (page consulted April 20, 2007).