It was Sir John A. Macdonald's last campaign. His Conservatives had dominated Canadian politics since Confederation. Their National Policy, which protected Canadian manufacturers from foreign competition, was well established and affection for the "Old Man" was deep and widespread. The Liberal leader, Wilfrid Laurier, was new in the job and uncertain that a Roman Catholic from Quebec had any chance of winning votes outside his home province. But Macdonald's decision to hang Louis Riel had split the country, the economy was in the doldrums, and a movement in support of free trade with the United States gave the Liberals hope.
In this richly textured narrative, Christopher Pennington spins a colourful tale of a country poised to make a momentous choice and of nineteenth century politics both at its most principled and at its most corrupt.