Nathaniel Clarke Wallace (1844-1901)
The Sash Our Forefathers Wore
Nathaniel 'Clarke' Wallace was born in Burwick (Woodbridge), Upper Canada on May 21st, 1844. He was the son of Nathaniel and Ann Wallace who had immigrated from Sligo, Ireland in the 1830's.
Clarke received common-school education in Woodbridge and in 1863 attended Weston Grammar School. The following year he began teaching at School Section 13 in Vaughan Township, not far from Woodbridge.
In 1867 he started up a general store in Woodbridge in partnership with his brother Thomas.
Two years later he left teaching to attend to business. The brothers diversified their interests, of which their most notable venture was the Woodbridge Roller Flour Mills, and by 1875 their firm, Wallace Brothers, had annual revenues of over $60,000. Its prosperity brough Clarke finanicial independence and with Thomas managing the firm's day-to-day operations, he devoted himself to the Orange Order and to politics.
The Toronto Globe observed that Clarke "was born to the purple" rank of the Orange Order. His father had founded the Woodbridge Orange Lodge, which met in his cooperage when Clarke was a youth. Having joined the lodge in 1866 at age 21, Wallace swiftly rose through the ranks. He served as the Lodge Recording Secretary and Worshipful Master, as had his father. After a stint as District Master he was elected County Master in 1871, an office he would hold for 15 years.
On June 7th, 1877, Clarke married Belinda Gilmour in Ottawa, Ontario and they would go on to have four sons and three daughters.
From 1877 to 1883 Clarke was the Treasurer for Ontario West and in 1884 he was appointed as the Deputy Grand Master of British America. Three years later he became Grand Master, a position he was to retain until his death.
Beginning in 1888 he served as vice-president of the Triennial Council. In 1891 he became its president and he received further distinction of serving in that office for two terms.
Clarke's political fortunes were to be closely tied to his rise in the Orange Order.
From 1874 to 1879 he served on York County Council as a deputy reeve of Vaughan. Only weeks after council had chosen him as warden in February 1878, he secured the dederal Conservative nomination for York West. In the general election of September, he appealed to his constituents' patriotic sentiment on a single issue, Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, and handily defeated his Liberal opponent. Wallace sat in the House of Commons for almost a decade before he emerged from obscurity of the back benches by hitching his political fortunes to a rising populist of the day, corporate combines. During the winter of 1887-88 he came to the aid of Toronto mayoralty candidate Edward Frederick Clarke, an Orange journalist who was also a Conservative MLA, by exposing a coal cartel involving Clarke's adversary, Elias Rogers. In response to his attacks on such combines, the government struck a select committee in February 1888 with Wallace as chairman to examine the nature, extent and impact of combinations in Canadian manufacturing and wholesale distribution. His firm chairmanship and aggressive questioning during two months of hearings resulted in a hard-hitting report that uncovered price-fixing by producers and distributors in a wide range of products. Taking up the banner of consumbers, he then pressed for anti-combine legislation. However, because of a well-organized and intensive business lobby, led by members of the Dominion Wholesale Grocers' Guild and the Toronto Board of Trade, the amended act that passed a year later was as obscure as it was ineffective. Even though no convictions were obtained under the anti-combines act, Wallace none the less emerged with his reputation as the people's champion intact, and he would continue to attack combinations for robbing the public from the cradle to the grave.
The passage by the Quebec government in 1888 of the Jesuits' Estates Act, which authorized Pope Leo XIII to adjudicate compensation for the Jesuit lands held in escheat by the crown, unleashed a broad-based demand in Protestant Ontario that the federal Conservative government disallow the act. In Ontario local Orange lodges condemned the government for its failure to invalidate an act that many Orangemen believed allowed Quebec to confer special privileges upon its Catholic population, thereby undermining the emergence of a uniform Canadian nationality. When William Edward O'Brien, backed by D'Alton McCarthy, presented a motion in the commons in March 1889 to disallow the act, Wallace ignored party discipline and joined the "Noble Thirteen," as the supporters of the motion became known.
The motion and Wallace's stand, however soon caused a serious rift within the order. Many Orangemen across the country demanded that the Grand Lodge of Canada, which was to meet at the end of May, censure those Orange MP's who had voted against the motion and by implication the Conservative Party. At the Grand Lodge, Wallace sought to appease both supporters and critics of the Conservative government by asking the order as a whole to back a petition to the imperial government and to fund a judicial appeal on the legislation. The pro-government faction, however, led by Mackenzie Bowell, Minister of Customs and a former Grand Master, and Robert Birmingham, Grand Treasurer and Conservative Party organizer, mounted a battle on the floor that lasted until dawn to defeat the motion of censure. Such blatant partisanship aliented many Orangemen from the Conservatives, and the founding in June of the Equal Rights Association, devoted to securing disallowance and to curtailing state-supported Catholic schools, did much to fuel disaffection in the Orange ranks. The Jesuits' Estates Act further rankled the Orangemen because it gave legislative recognition to the Roman Catholic Church at a time when their own organization had been unable to obtain federal incorporation. In an attempt to heal the divisions in the Order, Wallace secured a federal act of incorporation in March 1890.
Orange passions were soon rekindled by the demands of Manitoba’s Catholic minority for federal remedial legislation to restore the state support to their schools that had been abolished under the province’s Public Schools Act of 1890 [see Thomas Greenway]. Emotions were further aroused when Sir John Sparrow David Thompson*, a convert to Catholicism, became prime minister in November 1892. Thompson needed to reassure Protestant public opinion, especially in Ontario, by including a recognized Protestant advocate in his government. His options were limited, for of the two most recognized champions of militant Protestantism William Ralph Meredith*, the Ontario Conservative leader, had alienated prominent Catholic supporters of the government and D’Alton McCarthy was openly antagonistic to Thompson. Wallace, however, was eager to serve and he had already expressed his opposition to remedial legislation. Thompson therefore turned to him to fill the newly created position of controller of customs. Appointed on 5 December, Wallace became a member of the government but not of the cabinet. His experience as a country merchant, quick mind for numbers, and mastery of detail subsequently earned him praise from the business community for his efficient administration of the department. Of far greater value to the Conservatives, Wallace’s presence in government reassured many Orangemen. His close identification with the party and with its policy to refer the issue of remedial legislation in the Manitoba school question to the courts made it possible, however, for the Protestant Protective Association and the Equal Rights League, which McCarthy had founded when he broke from the party in 1893, to act as lightning-rods for Orange discontent.
In March 1895, in response to the Privy Council decision in the Brophy case, the government of Sir Mackenzie Bowell, who had become prime minister after Thompson’s death, issued an order in council threatening Manitoba with remedial legislation. Pressure consequently mounted in the Orange order for Wallace, who had continued as controller of customs, to resign from office in protest. Wallace, however, assured his supporters that a strong Protestant presence was necessary to alter the government’s course. Over the summer he repeatedly attacked it; Bowell responded characteristically with inaction. In two federal by-elections in Ontario the following December, Wallace campaigned on behalf of the anti-remediation Conservative candidates. After returning from the campaign trail, he lost hope that remedial legislation could be avoided, and on 11 December, just one day before the Ontario North by-election, he resigned from office and quit the Conservative party. When the remedial bill was introduced in March 1896, Wallace joined other disaffected Orangemen as well as D’Alton McCarthy and his followers in a filibuster that forced the government to withdraw the bill and call an election for June.
By this time the Conservatives had lost the support of the Orange order. At a raucous meeting of the Grand Lodge held during the campaign, on 27 May, Wallace outmanoeuvred the government’s supporters, and in a resounding vote of confidence in his leadership, the order committed itself to oppose all candidates who supported remedial legislation. In his own riding of York West, Wallace ran as an independent, and he campaigned throughout southern Ontario on behalf of Conservative candidates opposed to remediation as well as a few candidates for the PPA. He won a landslide victory in York West, but his impact in the other ridings is far from clear – none of the candidates he endorsed was elected. Wallace’s stance did, however, win the approval of many Orangemen, despite the efforts of Samuel Hughes*, Robert Birmingham, and E. F. Clarke to persuade the order to take a position more friendly to the Conservatives.
In the fall of 1898 Wallace returned to the Conservative party. Ever the loyal subject of Britain and an ardent imperialist, he supported the war against the Boers in South Africa, and the enlistment in 1899 of his eldest son, Thomas George, in the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry was a source of great pride to him.
During the summer of 1900 Wallace’s health began to decline with the onset of anaemia. After a sudden collapse that left him bedridden, he died on 8 Oct. 1901, at the age of 57. On the 12th he was buried, according to Orange rituals and with as many as 6,000 mourners in attendance, in the cemetery of Christ Church (Anglican), of which he had been a long-time member. Wallace’s zealous defence of Orange principles had made him a popular leader among the order’s rank and file and had persuaded many disaffected Orangemen to return to the Conservative fold. He had laid the foundations for the revival of the traditional Orange-Conservative alliance, and under new leaders such as Thomas Simpson Sproule*, this alliance would reach new heights.
d. 8 Oct. 1901 in Woodbridge.