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Local preachers ran him and his Eye Opener newspapers out of Wetaskiwin and, in turn, Strathcona and High River for "expressing contrary opinions, drinking and hootin' and yellin'and generally disturbing' the Gospel". He arrived in Calgary and the paper became The Calgary Eye Opener in 1904 Monday, May 31, 2010 ---
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Local preachers ran him and his Eye Opener newspapers out of Wetaskiwin and, in turn, Strathcona and High River for "expressing contrary opinions, drinking and hootin' and yellin'and generally disturbing' the Gospel". He arrived in Calgary and the paper became The Calgary Eye Opener in 1904 Wednesday, May 12, 2010 ---
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Lord Strathcona

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has done up a sketch about me. Sometimes it doesn't stretch enough but, mainly, it's true. And there's been a book written about me --- though I've only read part of it ---- by Donna McDonald ---- Lord Strathcona : A Biography of Donald Alexander Smith. I finally quit reading the book because Donna McDonald looked like she was going to make me into a plaster saint - a cross between Jesus Christ and Confucius. A fellow I fired from being in charge of immigration in London, W.T.R. Preston wrote a book about me, The life and times of Lord Strathcona it has it's vicious lies and insinuations and exaggerations --- he was trying to get even ... trouble is though, it's mainly true

I'm known mainly as the long-bearded gentleman who drove the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigellachie, British Columbia (I named Craigellachie after a haunted rock near my home in Scotland), in November 1885. I've never been one to mask my accomplishments so I'll say that they amount to a lot more than that. And it's better that I list them, rather than someone like Bob Edwards, who I suspect laughs at me behind my back because I'm too serious --- well, look here, life's a serious business. But I got the last laugh on him when he did up a farcical story about me sending my regards to a common horse thief by the name of McGonigle. I made him retract and apologize and to agree that there'd be no more stories about me in The Calgary Eye Opener unless I wrote them.

I'm going to confess that, in fact, according to your ordinary morality I'm a bad apple. But I'm tired of us bad apples being discriminated against. And on top of that I'm proud of being a bad apple. And I'm a genius and an artist in the trade. Here are my confessions.

I was born in 1820 in Forres on the northeast coast of Scotland, the son of a maker of horse saddles, the town drunk and a bit of a local politician. My mother, Margaret, made up for my father - she taught me how to behave like a gentlema --- "speak softly and carry a big stick," she said. I loved my mother dearly. I am what is now called dyslectic and suffered from Attention Deficit Syndrome but all that was just taken for stupidity at the time. I wasn't a good student at Forres Academy and I was very bored until I learned to cheat on examinations. I quickly went from bottom of the class to the top of the class. I copied the work of the most talented student in the class. I got better marks than him because he was dry and long-winded --- I altered his work --- I made his work shorter and sweeter. When asked a question I learned to answer no more than I was asked -- a good way of hiding ignorance if there ever was one. The Scotch, you see, are great admirers of brevity. But, one day, my academic career came crashing down upon my head. The headmaster of the academy, a brute of a man, asked a question to someone in the class --- I couldn't tell to whom the question was being asked --- the boy on my left or the boy on my right --- you see, the headmaster was cross-eyed --- no one answered --- the headmaster asked or shouted again --- again, no answer --- suddenly the headmaster lunged not at the boy on my right nor the one on my left --- but right at me --- too late I realized --- that he was asking neither of them ---- he was asking me. We had to wear stiff starched collars in those days --- he jammed his thumb between the back of my collar and my neck and latched his forefinger on to the back of my collar and sought to lift me out of my seat --- I was choking and it hurt like hell and I lost my temper and punched the old tyrant in the mug --- and downed him --- when he got up on his feet, he beat me black and blue with a bamboo cane and kicked me out of the academy and my beloved mother was very disappointed in me but I never lost my temper ever again and I was always able to present a humble face to the world about me.

My father got me a job working as a solicitor's apprentice in the town office. My boss was the town clerk --- another real brute and a drunkard. The bruises on my backside had not yet healed before he opened them again - he beat me every time he got drunk with an iron poker . "I got here," said he. "By sheer talent and you, Little Lord Fauntleroy, got here by influence. I'll show you." Nothing I did was good enough. But if an unexpected problem arose, I solved it quickly ---- and he took credit for it.

The clerk collected the town taxes during the month of January of each year. Each year, on January 31, the two of us counted the taxes received. Contractors and employees were only paid once per year at the end of December. The funds remained meantime in the form of coin, from the end of January until the end of December, in the town vault. Only the clerk had a key to the vault. One Sunday, in July, the first year I worked for the town, I took a long walk out on the moors. I spotted what looked like a shepherd driving a superb flock of sheep. It turned out it was not a shepherd, it was the clerk. The clerk often drank himself into a stupor in the town counting house. The next time he was so disposed I stole the key from him, opened the vault and counted the monies within. Three quarters of them were missing. Obviously, the clerk's scheme was to use town funds to buy sheep, raise them, sell them --- replace the missing funds and pocket the profit. He awoke from his stupor --- and I was standing before him with the key in hand. The beatings stopped. He agreed to pay me half his profits. For an eighteen-year-old in the Scotland of the day I was, secretly, affluent. I hid away my ill-gotten gains and, after two years, I had a healthy sum.

But I was terribly bored with my life, made eventful only by the nefarious profit-taking I had glummed on to. About this time, we heard from Canada, from my uncle, John Stuart, who managed a trading post in North America for the Hudson's Bay Company and shared in its profits --- of his adventures among the aboriginals --- of the money he made. I wrote him and inquired of the prospects in North America for me. "The chief drawback is that you are dependent upon the goodwill and caprice of one man, who is a little too much addicted to prejudices, for speedy advancement; but this is probably true in many other spheres of commercial endeavor ... There is, I may say, no man who is more appreciative of downright hard work coupled with intelligence, or one more intolerant of puppyism, by which I mean carelessness and presumption. It is foible to exact not only strict obedience, but deference to the point of humnility. As long as you pay him in that coin you will quickly get on his sunny side and find yourself in a few years a trader at a congenial post, with promotion in sight." He was referring to Sir George Simpson, the "Little Emperor of the North", the chief of the Hudson's Bay Company in North America (have a look at James Raffan's excellent book about Sir George Emperor of the North: Sir George Simpson and the Remarkable Story of the Hudson's Bay Company). Well thought I, if I can deal with this rascal of a clerk, I, a hard-working fellow, can deal with Sir George.

The next morning I visited the mayor of the town, told him I had become suspicious of my superior because I had discovered, just yesterday, that he had money enough to buy a large herd of sheep. I thought we should go to the vault and count the monies there. The clerk was arrested, tried and convicted and transported to Australia aboard a prison ship. I was paid a reward of ten pounds and I told the mayor I was going to use it to sail to the new world. In fact, I was able to secure a position as a Hudson's Bay Company clerk at their head office in North America, at Lachine just up the St. Lawrence from Montreal. I took my reward and, surreptitiously, my ill-gotten gains and paid them into a bank in London and boarded a Hudson's Bay Company ship and sailed to Montreal where Sir James resided.

When he was not travelling, I worked in close proximity to Sir George -- he was as bad a bully as the Forres town clerk. He treated me terribly. I decided I must get even with him. He was known as the Emperor of the North --- he constantly traveled across the continent by great trading canoes. To as far a Fort Vancouver, across the Columbia from present day Portland, Oregon. Once he journeyed across the Bering Strait and across Siberia to Europe. And he set many a record for speed --- he drove his voyageurs like slaves. He possessed three native wives located at various outposts. So he was seldom in Montreal. He was a small, stocky man. Bald. His wife was a tall handsome woman, his cousin but twenty years his junior. I was a tall man of her age. I was able to seduce her --- more to get even with the bully than anything else --- but she taught me much about matters sexual. One of her trusted servants squealed to Sir George that she suspected improprieties. Though I had covered my tracks very well, Sir George paid little heed to any difference there might be between a suspicion and a fact. I was banished to Mingan, on the barren North shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the post which was the very worst of any in the company's domain. I am a man who needs excitement and I suffer somewhat from the black dog of depression. To be stranded on a rockbound, fog enshrouded rock, the company of a few scraggly tamarack trees was more than my constitution could stand. After six months, I walked out of my prison over six hundred miles to Montreal. Sir George sent me right back. I lasted another six months and then I burned down the post.

Just before I fled Mingan, on foot, I espied a ship on the horizon. The ship was transporting Richard Hardisty, the chief trader at Esquimaux Bay, Labrador, and his daughter Isabella. Isabella, it so happened, was married to my cousin Jamie Grant who worked under Hardisty at Esquimaux Bay. I accompanied Hardisty to Esquimaux Bay and awaited passage to Montreal. I helped Hardisty with a number of tasks about the post and I obviously impressed him. I became almost a son to him and he reported to Sir George that the fire was accidental and no fault of mine. Isabella, who I always called "Bella" and I fell in love. I had little trouble disposing of Jamie -- a rumour here -- missing money there --- the fact Jamie was a hopeless drunk. The only people in my lifetime I ever loved and never betrayed were Richard Hardisty and Bella and my mother, Margaret. Soon Isabella and I were living together in what was called a marriage à la façon du pays (by the custom of the country - Dr. Sylvia Van Kirk, has written all about these marriages in Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870), there being no clergy in Labrador. We were not married in the "civilized" sense until Queen Victoria had appointed me Lord Strathcona and the two of us snuck down to New York and were formally married by my lawyer so that she could properly become Lady Strathcona. Over the years certain persons commented negatively on Lady Strathcona because she was one quarter native and because of our matrimonial status. All came to regret doing so. Ever after I was always faithful to Bella. When I was away from her, I wrote her every day.

Hardisty shielded me from Sir George Simpson and I stayed under his command and, when he retired, I replaced him as Chief Trader of the Esquimaux Bay area. I did a good job of it and I arranged for the company to acquire ships, cattle herds and salmon canneries --- all profitable. After Simpson died the company promoted me to Chief Factor. I had to travel to Montreal often. All my juniors, got into Montreal, at best, once a year. Their pay accumulated in the company's coffers until they picked it up in Montreal --- sometimes it sat for longer than a year. The company paid them no interest. I told them I would invest their monies for them in profitable ventures. They trusted me --- on the face of it --- I was a quiet, almost harmless soul. I did invest their monies --- often in Hudson's Bay Company shares, in railway construction companies and in my cousin, George Stephen's, bank, the Bank of Montreal. The investments often produced dividends of 50% or more. I faithfully paid my men back their paychecks plus faithfully, on the average, 3%. I, of course, kept the difference. I made so much money that I was able to buy up a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company. Those shares not owned by me were owned by widows and orphans in England.

In 1670 King Charles II had granted the company exclusive possession of all lands draining into Hudson's Bay so that it controlled and administered all lands between Labrador and the Rocky Mountains -- what was called in those days, "Rupertsland". For 200 years, the business of the company had been the fur trade and only the fur trade. It was a profitable business. It was supplied with furs by the native populations of what is now Canada. The natives and the vast areas where they trapped were essential to the company's success. Should the natives ever cease to be able to trap animals --- should the lands they harvested ever be occupied by others --- by farmers for instance --- the company's business would be destroyed. So, from the beginning, the company's propaganda department spread the word that the company's lands --- plagued by frost and heat and insects --- were useless for anything except the trap line --- were incapable of settlement. But, in the 1850s, political leaders in what is now Ontario realized the lands had immense value --- a breadbasket for the world --- and they persuaded the British government to force the Hudson's Bay Company to sell the lands to the government of what had just become the government of a more-or-less united Canada. All the old time company hands objected religiously --- but, quietly, I saw the writing on the wall and acted accordingly. Canada could bring infrastructure to our lands and make them infinitely more valuable than they were for the mere gathering of furs. I saw the possibilities for agriculture and other ventures in our lands and negotiated a first class agreement with Canada and it was approved by the British Privy Council. The English newspapers of the day had it that the Canadian government had forced the company to sell all of the territory under its control for a pittance £300,000, about $1,500,000. What the press missed --- so ignorant were they of the potential of western Canada --- was the fact that the Hudson's Bay Company also received 5% of all lands from Lake Winnipeg to the Rockies. The widows and orphans who owned the shares not owned by me only believed what they read in the newspapers --- they believed their shares in the company were worthless. Was it my job, as the Hudson Bay Company's man on the spot in Canada, to tell them otherwise? What would Conrad Black have told them? Or Bernie Madoff? Or Kenny Lay of Enron? Or your run of the mill developer of leaky condos in B.C.? Or the chairmen of every chartered bank in Canada except Ed Clark of the Toronto Dominion Bank? No, I encouraged the British press in their pessimistic view and I arranged for secret agents of mine to buy up all of the stock of the widows and orphans at bargain basement prices.

For generations, the Hudson's Bay Company and the Roman Catholic Church had warned the Metis that Canada, dominated by Catholic-hating Ontario Orangemen, sought to steal their lands and abolish their religion. When the company turned over its lands to Canada, Louis Riel II, the only educated layman in the Red River Colony, led the Metis to seize the company holdings at Fort Garry and set up their own Metis government. I believed that Riel and the Metis were incapable of providing a proper infrastructure for the development of our holdings. I made myself Chief Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada and headed out with my Metis wife to Winnipeg to see Riel. As I've said I have a quiet trustworthy manner about me. I am a consummate flatterer. And I always look for the Mammon in a man's soul. Riel liked me immediately. The other Metis trusted and obeyed the educated Riel. Riel told them I was their friend and father. $5,000 was a huge sum in Red River in 1870 and I determined that Riel could be bought for that price. If it had required $10,000, I would have paid him $10,000. $5,000 was enough. Riel surrendered the Metis government to me and fled to the United States.

The Canadian Orangemen wanted to treat all of Rupertsland as a colonial territory and to milk it for all it was worth but I did persuade the Canadian government to treat the eastern part of Rupertsland as a province --- it was Riel who named it "Manitoba"; to protect the Roman Catholic Church there and to award each Metis a substantial grant of land. For the time being the majority of people in Manitoba were Metis. They were impressed and trusted me and I became their leader, in fact. I defeated the Orange candidate for the the Manitoba Legislature for Winnipeg by 70 votes to 63 (no one seemed concerned that only 73 people were entitled to vote) and in the Manitoba constituency of Selkirk I licked another Orangeman and was elected to the Canadian House of Commons.

The lands granted to individual Metis could not be transferred until they were surveyed. Meantime the Canadian Government would issue each Metis a promissory note for their land, which was called "script". I made sure that the Metis could easily sell the script to third parties. Most of the 95% illiterate Metis had no idea what we meant by the word "script" --- they thought it had only ceremonial value. I was not about to enlighten them. My secret agents bought up the script from the Metis.

By this time (1870) I had, you will understand, acquired a substantial fortune but only substantial not immense. I wanted more. I had invested with my cousin, George Stephen and James J. Hill of St. Paul, Minnesota in railways. Particularly, we had hornswaggled from its original Dutch owners a railway from St. Paul, Minnesota to Pembina, Minnesota right near Minnesota's border with Manitoba. We built an extension to Fort Garry or, as it was now called, Winnipeg. In 1867, the Americans had built a railway right across the United States to the Pacific.This was the age of the great railway titans --- Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan and J.J. Hill. Railways were a way to make a big buck if there ever was one.

I wanted to build a transcontinental railway across Canada --- to the Pacific. But I was late at the table. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald had already agreed to give the exclusive right to build the "Pacific Railway" to Sir Hugh Allan, the head of the Allan Steamship Line and the richest man in Canada.

My cousin George Steven had got me elected to the board of directors of the Allan Steamship Line. I was in the know and I knew that Sir Hugh had bribed Sir John A. But, because Macdonald's Conservative Party supported the Hudson's Bay Company and had been generous to us in the Rupertsland settlement, I was a strong Conservative supporter of Macdonald and sat in the House of Commons as a member of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives trusted no one more than they trusted me. As a director of the Allan Steamship Line, I could only oppose Sir John A.'s deal with Sir Hugh secretly --- otherwise I would be revealed as a double-crosser par excellence. Nevertheless, if the bribe could be proven publicly, Sir John A.'s Pacific Railway contract with Sir Hugh would, I thought, be likely taken away from Sir Hugh. Where could I find clear public proof of the dastardly act and, once found, how could I present the proof without ruining my reputation of being trustworthy. Even in those days before typewriters, important business and political leaders used secretaries who wrote and saved important correspondence. I turned, as I often did, to that most expeditious of tools --- the bribe. Sir John's secretary was too honest to be bribed --- not so Sir Hugh's. I obtained copies of all of the letters and cables between Sir Hugh and Sir John A. --- they proved absolutely that Sir Hugh had paid Sir John $350,000 to gain the railway contract. Sir John used the money in an election campaign. My agents turned the letters over to the opposition Liberal Party. I pretended to know nothing about them. The Liberals released them immediately to the public and introduced a motion of confidence in the government. Still, Sir John A. Macdonald was so popular, that only one vote separated the Liberals and the Conservatives -- my vote. I pretended to think long and hard on the matter --- but --- of course --- I had created the crisis and knew exactly how I would vote. I delivered a speech in the House of Commons --- long it was on biblical quotations and appeals to conscience and, above all, patriotism. The Conservatives thought they had my vote secured --- after all I was one of them --- but, suddenly, I announced that I was voting in favor of bringing down the government. Sir John A., who was into the drink that night, ran up in front of me --- I thought he was going to strike me and spat "Judas - you are the greatest liar I ever met" into my face. Beside him was Sir Charles Tupper, his scarlet face screamed that I was a "blood-sucking coward and an unspeakable traitorous fraud". I pride myself that I showed not one glimmer of emotion in all this --- for to succeed in my trade requires the hide of a rhinoceros. I would wait patiently to even the score with my abusers.

The Allan contract was, of course, voided once the public discovered the bribe. The government fell into the hands of the Liberals under Prime Minister Sir Alexander Mackenzie and I became a Liberal. The railway had to be built because it was a condition of British Columbia's joining Canada in 1871. With Sir Hugh Allan out of the way, I was confidant I would be able to bribe and flatter myself into being given the railway. I anticipated that Mackenzie would be grateful for my vote which brought down Sir John. However I discovered, to my dismay, that Alexander Mackenzie was set on having the government itself build the railway. Sir Alexander was a stubborn and honest Scottish stone mason. I soon realized he was incapable of changing his mind and I was incapable of changing it for him. For my purposes then, his government, in turn, had to be disposed of. I secretly organized a syndicate of financiers led by my cousin George Stephen and J. J. Hill which paid huge sums to the bankrupt Conservative Party --- enough money to defeat the Liberals. The money was paid only after the Conservatives had agreed that the syndicate could build the railway. My involvement was hidden -- I, of course, was still a Liberal. The Conservatives won the next election and the syndicate became the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The governments contract with us provided that the government was to provide us with a subsidy of $25,000,000. We were granted 25,000,000 acres of land. We were completely exempt from taxation for twenty years. As my detractor W.T.R. Preston described it:

"Even to the railway promoters in the United States, accustomed to the most liberal terms as the result of corruption and lobbying in the legislative chambers of that country, the lavish terms of this agreement came as a surprise."

We contracted out the building of the railway to various contracting companies --- all owned by us. The railway itself was always on the brink of bankruptcy --- the contracting companies always made enormous profits. As did our purchasing companies and land companies.

We thought that we could use the land granted to us as security to raise funds for the railway in London, England, the financial center of the world at that time. But some of our shenanigans in the Minnesota railway manipulations had gained us a reputation of sharp dealing. It looked like funds would not be available. Construction of the railway had already started. Unpaid creditors were howling at our door. I had become President of the Bank of Montreal which was controlled by my cousin George Stephen (the Chairman of the bank). We looted the bank's deposits to pay the most pressing of the creditors. It was time to go to the government for more grants and subsidies. As I told cousin George: "It is to the Government or the Penitentiary." So we had Jim Hill recruit a crew of expert U.S. lobbyists to show us how to bribe our way into the Parliament of Canada. We were successful --- we bribed Conservatives and Liberals alike. We bribed Sir John Macdonald's vain second wife with a necklace worth $200,000 and we bribed Charles Tupper who was facing bankruptcy on account of foolish investments and now I had both in my grasp. Funds from the government replaced the deposits in the Bank of Montreal and we went back to the trough many times dispensing bribe after bribe along the way. Preston claims that:

"A saturnalia of corruption .... took possession of Parliamentary life. It began at the head and gradually made its way to the rank and file. The fundamental article of faith under the new conditions was that public men should use their representative positions for purposes of public gain."

I suppose he is right. Meantime we built the railway (all of this is described in David Cruise's and Alison Griffiths's "Lords of the Line"). I came out of the woodwork and drove the last spike. All of us in the syndicate became immensely wealthy. Queen Victoria made me a Lord. The Conservatives appointed me High Commissioner to the Court of St. James in London. I gave much to charity as my dear mother had taught me to do. I became the chairman of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which discovered oil in Iran and eventually became the huge British Petroleums.

How did I deal with my outstanding grievances against Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Charles Tupper for the insults slung at me in the House of Commons. Macdonald belonged, as his name indicates, to the Clan McDonald. One night in 1692, 38 McDonald men and 40 McDonald women were treacherously murdered by warriors of the Clan Campbell at Glencoe Glen in the Scottish Highlands Glencoe became the McDonalds' most sacred ground. I built a mansion overlooking the glen --- allowing me, each morning, to gloat over Sir John A.'s murdered ancestors. As for Tupper, in my will, I forgave the monies I'd given him. On my death my will and the fact that I had bribed Tupper (I'd bribed many other politicians but mentioned none of them in my will) would be fully publicized and Tupper's reputation would be forever destroyed.

The great New York capitalist J.P. Morgan said that the secret of his success was: "... to take a conflict of interest and exploit it." I did Morgan one better. The secret of my success was always: "Create a conflict of interest and exploit it."

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written by Dr. Sylvia Van Kirk's (formerly of Queens) history of native and metis women in the fur-trade. She wrote the book in the 70s and it is not burdened with political correctness but still honors these people who were absolutely essential. On the cover is a 1855 photo Margaret Harriott, wife, a la facon du pays, of the Chief Factor of Fort Edmonton. Margaret may or may not be one of my ancestors. Very well written I think. Sylvia Van Kirk is retired in Victoria and is the volunteer archivist of the clapboard country gothic old Church of Our Lord, where Victorians threw a funeral for Sir James Douglas in 1877

Candid - well written - by a man who loves the North and canoes - Quote of letter to Lord Strathcona from his uncle John Stuart --- "The chief drawback is tht you are dependent upon the goodwill and caprice of one man, who is a little too much addicted to prejudices, for speedy advancement; but this is probably true in many other spheres of commercial endeavour ... There is, I may say, no man who is more appreciative of downright hard work coupled with intelligence, or one more intolerant of puppyism, by which I mean carelessness and presumption. It is foible to exact not only strict obedience, but deference to the point of humnility. As long as you pay him in that coin you will quicly get on his sunny side and find yourself in a few years a trader at a congenial post, with promotion in sight." See what I have written in the Amazon reviews.

The best and frankest coverage of the history of the CPR yet

"His book overflows with venom and he did stretch a fact or two but mainly it's true." Lord Strathcona

Ms. McDonald makes me out to be a plaster saint --- a cross between Jesus Christ and Confucius

$20 oil? You bet, says one expert - The Globe and Mail
© 2004 Thomas O. ("Tim") Davis All rights reserved