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Frederick Haultain

Grant MacEwan's published biographies cover a wide scope of colourful characters: newspaper publishers, Aboriginal leaders, frontiersmen, philanthropists, and many more. MacEwan's writing was at its best when he was saving frontier personalities from undeserving obscurity. Frederick Haultain: Frontier Statesman of the Canadian Northwest is a detailed account of Haultain's life as a distinguished politician and a staunch supporter of self-determination in the West. Haultain was instrumental in achieving provincial status for the territories. MacEwan firmly believes that Haultain's efforts and subsequent successes have been largely neglected in Western Canadian history and thus deserve greater attention.

In 1884, Frederick W.A.G. Haultain moved to Fort Macleod where he began practising law.  He also served as Crown Prosecutor at that location for several years and did some editorial work for the Fort Macleod and Lethbridge newspapers.  He represented the electoral district of Macleod in the North-West Territories Council during the years 1887-88 and in the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories which replaced it from 1888 to 1905.  He was Chairman of the Advisory Council of the North-West Territories Council in 1888-89 and Chairman of the Executive Committee from 1891 to 1897.  Following the amendment of the North-West Territories Act, he was appointed President of the Executive Council, or Premier, by The Honourable Charles H. Mackintosh on October 7, 1897.  As well as serving as Premier, Frederick W.A.G. Haultain was also Attorney General and Commissioner of Education.

Frederick W.A.G. Haultain thought that the area which now constitutes Alberta and Saskatchewan should be one province named "Buffalo" and that this province should be governed by a non-partisan administration.  Because of his outstanding service to the North-West Territories, many people felt that Haultain should be the first Premier of the new Province of Alberta or Saskatchewan.  However, because of his conservative political leanings, this idea was not acceptable to the governing federal Liberal Party at that time.  Following the formation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan on September 1, 1905, he represented South Qu'Appelle in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan as a member of the Provincial Rights Party and served as the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Saskatchewan Legislature.

MacEwan struggled to find primary sources on the life of Frederick Haultain. One library he visited while compiling research in 1975 did not have one single file on the first Premier of the Northwest Territories. Although certainly disappointed, MacEwan was not particularly surprised. Haultain was yet another fine example of Canadians forgetting, or ignoring, their own history. MacEwan's biography on Frederick Haultain set out to change this glaring omission from our own historical records. Having known Haultain personally, he had even more incentive to write an important piece of western Canadian history.

Haultain was a defender of the West - a man who believed in more rights and responsibilities like education and natural resources. MacEwan acknowledges his accomplishments; after all, Haultain did introduce responsible government to the Northwest Territories and rightfully belongs to the frontier generation, a group of individuals so passionately researched by MacEwan. However, it is Haultain's personality that MacEwan truly admired. Haultain's colleagues described him as "absolutely incorruptible," a rare quality in any politician. MacEwan considers him as a man who was "too generous to become rich." Haultain, a supporter of nonpartisanship who encouraged frank and open discussion displayed more qualities of statesmanship than anyone else of his time.

Resources

MacEwan, Grant. Frederick Haultain: Frontier Statesman of the Canadian Northwest. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1985.


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