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Off for Home
Henri Julien
December 13,1879, 19th century
Ink on paper - Photolithography
40 x 28.5 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , politics (general) (2228) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

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.

  • What

    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.

  • Where

    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.

  • When

    Sir Alexander Galt did not leave for his posting until a few months after this cartoon was published, that is, in April 1880.

  • Who

    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.