Page:Men of the Time, eleventh edition.djvu/1105

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1088

WATKIN.

President of the Grand Trunk Rail- way of Canada; Chairman of the South Eastern Railway, and Direc- tor of the Great Western and Great Eastern Companies. In 1839-40 he became one of the directors of the Manchester Athenieum, and was one of the secretaries of the committee which was organized to extricate the institution from its pecuniary embarrassments. He suggested and carried out the great literary soir^ of that institution, which were held in the Free Trade Hall, and pre- sided over by Mr. Charles Dickens, Mr. B. Disraeli, and Serjeant Tal- fourd, in the years 1843, 1844, and 1 846 respectively. In 1843 he wrote a pamphlet entitled "A Plea for Public Parks," and became one of the honorary secretaries of the com- mittee which followed, and through whose efforts the three existing parks (viz., the " Queen V' " Peel,^' and " Philip's "), were obtained for Manchester and Salford, and pre- sented to the inhabitants, at a cost of je46,000, all of which (except jgdOOO voted out of the parliamen- tary grant), was raised by sub- scription. In 1843, he and a few other members of the Manchester Athen»imi commenced the " Satur- day half -holiday " in Manchester, which resulted in the general closing of the warehouses for busi- ness at two p.m. every Saturday. In 1845, Mr. Watkin was one of the origfinators of the Manchester Exam- iner newspA^^r. His colleagues in this enterprise were Mr. John Bright, M.P., and the Bev. Dr. McKerrow. In 1851 he visited the American Continent, and on his return wrote a book, entitied a "Trip to the United States and Canada." In 1861 he undertook a private mission to Canada, at the desire of the Duke of Newcastle, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, with the object of bring- ing the five British Provinces into union, and the establishment of a connection between Canada and the Atlantic, by an independent railway

system (on the Canadian gauge of 5 ft. G in.), passing through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. At the same time he undertook, on the advice of the duke, the charge <^ the Grand Trunk EaUway (1,000 miles), which was then on the eve of stoppage, and which he succeeded in keeping open in the winter of 1861-2 for the passage of troops, when war was threatened (on the Trent affair), with the United States. The Confederation, and its adjunct, the Intercolonial Railway, were mainly in Mr. Watkin's charge for some years, and in 1867 Acts of Parliament were passed securing both their projects, as weU ajs the attainment of another object of his labours, viz., the opening up of the Hudson's Bay territory, which is now becoming part of the Canadian " Dominion." In the passing of the Confederation Act of 1867, he was offered the honour of knighthood by the Disraeli go- vernment. He declined it on the rund that his friend the Hon. Q. Cartier, ex-Premier of Lower Canada, had been overlooked in the distribution of honours, and because he did not desire to receive such a recognition through the medium of a party to which he was politically opposed. In 1868^ Mr. Cartier was made a baronet, and the knighthood was again offered to Mr. Watkin, who was ad- vised that he could not again refuse it, as the reason which constituted his former objection had been satisfied. Sir Edward's late father was one of the earliest friends of the late Richard Cobden; and Sir Edward (then Mr.) Watkin himself became intimate with Cobden, and attached himself to the Free Trade agitation as a member of the Anti- Corn Law League from ite com- mencement till tiie final triumph of Free Trade in 1846. Mr. Watkin was first elected to Parliament in 1857, but was afterwards unseated. He was returned to Parliament un- opposed for Stockport^ in 1864^ and