Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 19

On February 19, 1888, the newly-elected Grand Council of the Confederation of North America ended a two-day-old deadlock by elevating Ezra Gallivan of the People's Coalition to the office of Governor-General. The Coalition had gained a 73-seat plurality in the elections, but this was three short of the 76 needed for a majority in the 150-seat body.

The deadlock was broken when incumbent Governor-General John McDowell of the Liberal Party asked the twelve-member delegation from Indiana to cast their votes for Gallivan. "This is unprecedented," he told them, "but new forms may be better than indecision and uncertainty at this time." Only eight of the members went along with McDowell, but this was enough to give Gallivan a majority.

McDowell's motives for helping his rival are uncertain. As Sobel notes, there are those who believe that the eight Liberal delegate were prepared to support Gallivan in any case, and that McDowell was merely bowing to the inevitable. Others believe that McDowell was hoping to avoid the difficulties that had occurred ten years earlier when his own party had failed to win an outright majority and it took seven ballots for him to gain a majority, or that he feared that Gallivan would cut a deal with three independent pro-secession members from Quebec. A third group believes that McDowell sought to enhance his reputation for integrity. Whatever the truth, Sobel indicates that most North Americans continue to believe that McDowell was acting out of unselfish patriotism.

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