Galt, Sir Alexander Tilloch
GALT, SIR ALEXANDER TILLOCH (1817-1893), Canadian statesman, was the youngest son of John Galt the author. Born in London on the 6th of September 1817, he emigrated to Canada in 1835, and settled in Sherbrooke, in the province of Quebec, where he entered the service of the British American Land Company, of which he rose to be chief commissioner. Later he was one of the contractors for extending the Grand Trunk railway westward from Toronto. He entered public life in 1849 as Liberal member for the county of Sherbrooke, but opposed the chief measure of his party, the Rebellion Losses Bill, and in the same year signed a manifesto in favour of union with the United States, believing that in no other way could Protestant and Anglo-Saxon ascendancy over the Roman Catholic French majority in his native province be maintained. In the same year he retired from parliament but re-entered it in 1853, and was till 1872 the chief representative of the English-speaking Protestants of Quebec province. On the fall of the Brown-Dorion administration in 1858 he was called on to form a ministry, but declined the task, and became finance minister under Sir John Macdonald and Sir George Cartier on condition that the federation of the British North American provinces should become a part of their programme. From 1858 to 1862 and 1864 to 1867 he was finance minister, and did much to reduce the somewhat chaotic finances of Canada into order. To him are due the introduction of the decimal system of currency and the adoption of a system of protection to Canadian manufactures. To his diplomacy was due the coalition in 1864 between Macdonald, Brown and Cartier, which carried the federation of the British North American provinces, and throughout the three years of negotiation which followed his was one of the chief influences. He became finance minister in the first Dominion ministry, but suddenly and mysteriously resigned on the 4th of November 1867. After his retirement he gave to the administration of Sir John Macdonald a support which grew more and more fitful, and advocated independence as the final destiny of Canada. In 1871 he was again offered the ministry of finance on condition of abandoning these views, but declined. In 1877 he was the Canadian nominee on the Anglo-American fisheries commission at Halifax, and rendered brilliant service. In 1880 he was appointed Canadian high commissioner to Great Britain, but retired in 1883 in favour of Sir Charles Tupper. During this period he advocated imperial federation. He was Canadian delegate at the Paris Monetary Conference of 1881, and to the International Exhibition of Fisheries in 1883. From this date till his death on the 19th of September 1893 he lived in retirement. No Canadian statesman has had sounder or more abundant ideas, but a certain intellectual fickleness made him always a somewhat untrustworthy colleague in political life.
(W. L. G.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)