M988.182.152 | The speech from the Throne

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The speech from the Throne
Henri Julien
February 24,1877, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photolithography
39.8 x 28.6 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , politics (10928) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

On February 8, 1877, Governor General Frederick Temple Blackwood, Count of Dufferin (1826-1902), gave the Speech from the Thrown, thus inaugurating the new session of Parliament. The speech addressed the concerns, intentions and goals of the Liberal government then in power, headed by Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892).

According to an article in The Canadian Illustrated News, the speech covered a variety of topics, including the success of the new policy on the North-West Territories, the treaty negotiations with the First Nations in the North-West and the immanent creation of the Supreme Court. It also touched on the survey that would lay out the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the rebellions in the North-West Territories and the negotiations with the government of British Columbia on the construction of the railway.

In this cartoon the Speech from the Throne is represented as a long recipe about to be cooked up by Prime Minister Mackenzie. Opposition Leader John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) is criticizing the "dish," comparing it to a worm, long, but lacking in "substance." Mackenzie tells him not to worry, that the "dish" he's preparing will go down as easily as a worm! The cartoonist is suggesting that Mackenzie is confident the House of Commons will vote in favour of the program outlined in the speech. The Speech from the Throne is always followed by a debate in the House that ends with a vote of confidence for or against the government.

  • What

    This cartoon mocks the exchange by Macdonald and Mackenzie after the Speech from the Throne. Macdonald had claimed, in an ironic way, that the speech lacked "substance."

  • Where

    The Speech from the Throne took place in the Senate chambers because the governor general and senators are not allowed in the House of Commons.

  • When

    This cartoon was published in the weekly magazine The Canadian Illustrated News on February 24, 1877. This was four years after Macdonald's government resigned over the Pacific Scandal and before he was re-elected in 1878.

  • Who

    Alexander Mackenzie (on the right) was Canada's second prime minister. He served from November 1873 to October 1878. In 1877, John A. Macdonald (on the left) was Leader of the Opposition for the Conservative Party.