Monday, July 29, 2013

Joseph Martin

Our thirteenth premier was born on September 24, 1852 in Milton, Upper Canada. Joseph Martin went to school in Milton until 1865 when his family moved to Michigan where he worked as a telegrapher. Martin was briefly involved with the Patrons of Husbandry, a farmers' protest movement before entering the Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti in 1872. The following year he was transferred to the Normal School in Toronto. In 1874, Martin was expelled from that school for his unruly behaviour.

Martin had a quarrelsome nature and tended to settle his disputes with his fists, earning him the nickname 'Fighting Joe'. He was naturally suspicious and had a capacity for pettiness. His combative, feisty spirit was well known throughout his career, as was his considerable eagerness to advance his own interests.

After being expelled, Martin taught school in Ottawa on a second-class certificate. It was there that the future politician first embraced liberalism and developed strong anti-French sentiments. In 1877, he entered the University of Toronto but he left two years later without a degree.

He returned to Ottawa and began his articles for law. In 1881, he married the widow Eliza Eaton and became stepfather to her young daughter, Irma Livingstone Eaton. These new responsibilities enticed Joseph Martin to seek new opportunities in Manitoba. In late 1881, he and his family arrived in Manitoba but thinking that Portage la Prairie had more immediate opportunities, the Martins moved there in early 1882. Martin was admitted to the Manitoba Bar late that summer and he established a successful law practice. He took on an articling student, Smith Curtis, who would later come to be his partner. Joseph Martin became a prominent figure and he was soon drawn into local politics.

In January of 1883, Martin contested Portage la Prairie as a supporter of Thomas Greenway's Provincial rights party, which would form the nucleus of the provincial Liberal party after the election. Martin won but a narrow margin but the results were overturned. In May of 1883, there was a by-election and Martin was successful in that and would hold the seat until 1891. His feisty nature made him effective in the opposition and he was a skilful debater with a sharp wit.

Joseph took a leading role in the assembly. He criticized Premier Norquay and the Canadian Pacific Railway's monopoly in the west. His attacks became harsher when Prime Minister John A. Macdonald began to disallow railway charters that had been passed by the provincial legislature. On January 19, 1888, Greenway formed the first frankly party government in the province. Martin became attorney general and commissioner of railways.
The CPR abandoned its monopoly a few months later and Greenway took the credit. He used this occasion to call a general election in July in which he won a smashing victory. Now the pressure was on for the new ministry to provide an alternative to the CPR and there weren't many choices.

Martin and Greenway opted to sell the unfinished Red River Valley Railway to American Railway builder, Henry Villard. Villard would complete the line to Winnipeg and connect it to his Northern Pacific Railroad.

This deal irritated the Winnipeg Liberals who were promoting another railway as well as the farmers who had expected more substantial rate reductions. This discontent could have created considerable difficulties for Martin, Greenway and their colleagues if it weren't for a controversial school legislation that distracted voters from the issue of the railway.

Wednesday, I will tell you about the controversial school issue in Manitoba and more on Joseph Martin. This all has to do with Vancouver and British Columbia because these events made the man that would one day govern this province. And, as usual, I am getting my information from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , , , ,


  1. Maybe after you finish with your Premier's you can tell us a little history on the differences in your political parties.

    1. That's a good idea. At this point in time, the politicians didn't really have a party - that comes a few premiers along.