Sir Wilfred Laurier, the Seventh Prime Minister of Canada, and best known today as the $5.00 bill guy… paid his last visit to Windsor September 9th, 1911. To the left of Laurier is the back end of the Armouries, and this photo was taken at “Ouellette Square” an area today now occupied by the block between University & Park, that is home to among others, the Canada Building and the Palace.
Upon Laurier’s death in 1919, a local publication called the “Border Cities Era” ran the photo above with the following caption:
Reproduced from photo taken of late Liberal leader on Sept. 9, 1911, when he was prime minister
of Canada and addressed a monster gathering on Ouellette Square. This was barely two weeks before
the memorable election on Sept. 21st. and the defeat of the Liberal government over the issue of re-
ciprocity with the United States. The photo shows Sir Wilfrid with hands upraised in earnest and
eloquent gesture, a characteristic “action” pose of the great Canadian statesman., Sitting on the plat-
form is Dr. James Samson, formerly of Windsor but now of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Later in the same issue this editorial was found:
C. L. BARKER, Editor and Publisher.
PASSING OF A CANADIAN STATESMAN
Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s name will live in Canadian history.
It may be too soon now to approximate his relative status
among the great men this country has produced, but as the
memory of Sir John A. Macdonald was kept green for the
past quarter of a century we may rest assured the political
genius of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Laurier traditions
shall survive and be recalled during the quarter of a cen-
tury that is to follow. Laurier is likely to grow in history
as Macdonald has done.
A man of distinguished appearance and bearing, kind and
courteous to a marked extent, wonderfully endowed with a
brilliant mind and a remarkable personality, it was not dif-
ficult to understand the affection and loyalty bestowed upon
“The Old Chief.” Indeed, in the latter years of his life the
esteem he enjoyed approached positive veneration. He was
loved and admired by even those who did not always agree
with him on political issues.
For fifteen continuous years – from 1896 to 1911 – Sir
Wilfrid Laurier was monarch of all he surveyed and not only
stood at the head of the government during the most pros-
perous and glorious fifteen years Canada enjoyed but added
lustre to the Dominion by the glowing impression the prime
minister created abroad. He was easily the outstanding col-
onial figure at Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and as-
sumed commanding rank at the colonial conferences. Sir
Wilfrid advertised Canada before the whole world and
blazed the pathway to new ideals of nationhood.
In the memorable election of 1911 he went down to de-
feat but was not dishonored, chancing the fate of the gov-
ernment on the issue of reciprocity, which was rejected at
the polls. The only cloud, if such it may be called, on Sir
Wilfrid’s political career was the unfortunate racial feeling
aroused on the advent of the, military service bill, but time
may do justice to Laurier’s stand when we get a true per-
spective of the disturbing and troublesome conditions that
prevailed when the battle of conscription was fought.
If Laurier had not taken the stand he did who can say
now what might have happened in Quebec, which needed
only a match to explode the powder barrel? Laurier held
Quebec in check as no other living man could have done.
If he had announced his acceptance of conscription and
joined with Borden the province of Quebec would have been
enveloped by Bourassa and Nationalism, probably resulting
in an uncontrollable movement for secession, with civil war
‘as the inevitable contingency.
Even intimates like Fred. Pardee and George Graham,
who pleaded with their chief to endorse conscription and
go down in a glorious sunset of Canadian history may not
have glimpsed the Laurier vision that it were better to lose
the election and save Quebc for Confderation than partake
of the sweets of office and dwell in the tents of his political
With union government victorious and the military ser-
vice act placed on the statutes, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, with a
true appreciation of constitutional authority, counselled
Quebec to abide by the vote of the majority, accept the re-
sult and obey the law.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier was the greatest Canadian of his day
and will sleep among the immortals.
Interesting to see that fears of Quebec separating were at the forefront a century ago… An interesting snapshot in time.