Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
Log Fence

Continuing Research on the Dickinsons
and Sir John A. Macdonald

Presenter Christian Joyce
Article by Jane Anderson
Photos by Liam Norris and Owen Cooke  

Owen Cooke introduced our speaker for the evening. Christian Joyce is a resident of Manotick, having graduated from St. Mark High School. He then went on to attend Ottawa U, and has degrees in Music, Law & Philosophy. In 2014, he was hired as a researcher to look into Sir John A. Macdonald’s relationship with Carleton County and the Dickinsons. Bill & Georgie Tupper needed more information about the subject to flesh out “The Dickinson Men of Manotick”, published in the autumn of 2015.

Christian Joyce presenting

Christian Joyce presenting

On February 17, we were privileged to have Christian share his research findings with us. They were mainly gleaned from the National Archives in Ottawa.

June 24, 1866, Sir John A Macdonald laid the cornerstone of a new Methodist Church in Nepean in the neighbourhood of Fallowfield . After the ceremony, he was driven around the neighbourhood, and was pleased at the development he saw. He was convinced that the development and prosperity was the fruition of his National Policy.

Trowel used by Sir John in laying the cornerstone

Sir John A. Macdonald’s personal involvement in the riding of Carleton began in 1882, when he ran and won the seat. Despite his onerous responsibilities as Prime Minister during the Riel Rebellion, and shaky health no doubt aggravated by constant arduous travel, he still took an interest in and looked after the needs of the Riding.  

In October of 1884 he gave his first recorded speech in Carleton County. He addressed an agricultural meeting in Bells Corners. After apologizing for the lack of time to visit the riding, he extolled the merits of the National Policy for agriculture. The policy meant that the farmers had a monopoly on the cattle trade with Britain. He also stressed the favourable advantages to be incurred by the CPR and the canal system for the distribution of goods.

1887 saw the end of Sir John A. Macdonald’s involvement as a representative of Carleton. Throughout his political life he was devoted to his constituents and the Tory Party.

When Sir John A. vacated his seat in Carleton in 1887, George Dickinson ran and won the by-election for the riding. In 1891, he ran again. A loyal Tory, on February 16, 1891 he wrote to Sir John A to request a campaign letter of support. February 26, he received a reply from the PM, encouraging him to rally his friends and assuring him he was a valuable party member. Although George campaigned well against a Mr. William T. Hodgins, also a Conservative, on election night , the vote was close, and upon a recount George lost by fifty votes. This marked the end of George’s political activity federally.  

In the 1882 federal election, Moss Kent Dickinson gave way to Sir John A. in Carleton, and ran successfully in the neighbouring riding of Russell. He did not run in 1887, but did run again in Russell in 1891. He was nominated with ease to represent the Conservative Party, and ran a strong campaign. However, on election night, despite a good showing, he was defeated by WC Edwards, a Liberal.

Christian entertained a number of questions from the floor after his presentation. He explained that the riding of Carleton included the townships of Torbolton, March, Nepean, Goulbourn, North Gower & Marlborough at the time.

He mentioned that Sir John A Macdonald had health issues during the years between 1882 and his death in 1891. These issues were never fully explained, although he probably was exhausted from the rigours of travel, coping with the Riel Rebellion and getting the CPR up and running.

The National Policy involved protectionism through trade tariffs, primarily with the USA.

When asked why so few letters remain of correspondence between the Dickinson’s and Sir John A Macdonald, Christian explained that Sir John A wrote his own letters , by hand. Understandably, being a busy man, he got behind in his correspondence. A short letter of endorsement by Sir John A was considered a great honour. The letters to Macdonald have been saved in the Archives; the letters to the Dickinsons may have been lost.

Christian was thanked by Ruth Wright for giving us more insight into the relationship between Sir John A. and the Dickinsons of Manotick  

Letter George Dickinson to Sir John A