M2001X. | Big Laurier - Little Everybody Else

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Drawing, cartoon
Big Laurier - Little Everybody Else
1897, 20th century
Ink on paper
31 x 18.5 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , Drawing (18637) , drawing (18379) , politics (10928)
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Keys to History

In 1897 Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919), prime minister of Canada, travelled to Great Britain for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, in celebration of her 60 years on the throne. Laurier also planned to take part in the Colonial Conference along with the prime ministers of Britain's 10 colonies.

Laurier was to be knighted during his stay in London. At first, out of respect for the tradition set by other Liberal prime ministers, Laurier did not wish to be knighted. Then, because everything had already been organized and so as not to seem arrogant, he accepted the knighthood. But it came with strings attached! Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), British colonial secretary, dreamed of a united and strong empire. He tried to convince Canada to increase its support for Britain, especially related to its defence of the British Empire. Laurier was opposed, despite his great respect for Britain and its institutions; he hoped instead that Canada, Britain's first Dominion, would be granted greater autonomy.

This cartoon, published in August 1897, shows Sir Wilfrid Laurier before his return to Canada, saluting Joseph Chamberlain, British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (1830-1903), the Prince of Wales and "John Bull," a fictional character representing Great Britain. Laurier's large size is no doubt meant to convey his daring and determination in the face of the representatives of British power.

  • What

    This cartoon depicts Wilfrid Laurier as he is about to return to Canada, saluting the Prince of Wales, Lord Salisbury and Joseph Chamberlain. John Bull, a character that represents Great Britain, stands behind them, holding Laurier's suitcase.

  • Where

    Laurier is shown standing on a dock in Great Britain. This was his first trip abroad.

  • When

    In 1897 there were numerous events in celebration of Queen Victoria's 60 years on the thrown, not only in Great Britain but also in the colonies, including the Dominion of Canada.

  • Who

    At this time Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) was Canada's prime minister. He was the first Francophone to occupy the position after Confederation (1867).