The 1853 Grand Council elections took place in February 1853, for the purpose of choosing the Third Grand Council of the Confederation of North America. The elections were the first to return a majority of seats to the Conservative Party, which had been in opposition since the Second Britannic Design had gone into effect ten years earlier.
The elections were dominated by growing popular opposition to the ongoing Rocky Mountain War. The incumbent Governor-General, Henry Gilpin, chose not to run for another term, and the Liberal Party caucus in the Grand Council nominated Northern Confederation Councilman Bruce Harrison as their candidate for Governor-General. The Conservative Party caucus declined to nominate longtime party leader Willie Lloyd of the Southern Confederation due to his inconsistent stand on the war, and instead nominated Manitoba Councilman William Johnson, who had opposed the war from the start.
Harrison proposed a gradual withdrawal of C.N.A. forces from the Rocky Mountain area and a "peace with dignity," to be negotiated with the United States of Mexico. Johnson called for an immediate halt to the fighting and a unilateral withdrawal of C.N.A. forces from Arizona, followed by a peace conference to determine the disposition of the disputed areas of Mexico del Norte occupied by the C.N.A.
Public disapproval of the war made the outcome of the election a foregone conclusion. The Third Grand Council consisted of 91 Conservatives and 59 Liberals, and Johnson was chosen as the third Governor-General, at the head of a peace cabinet. One of the Liberals was General Kenneth Parkes, the Military Governor of Mexico del Norte and future governor-general, who won election to the Grand Council in the Northern Confederation.
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Two months after his investiture as governor-general, Johnson informed Mexican President Hector Niles that he would accept the offer of negotiations made by Niles two years earlier, and suggested The Hague in the Netherlands as the best place for preliminary discussions. The two men also agreed to an armistice to take place on 1 August 1853, with each army withdrawing ten miles to create a neutral zone between the two countries pending the outcome of the peace negotiations.
Sobel's source for the 1853 Grand Council elections is Winsor Watkins' The Late Bloomer: William Johnson and the Election of 1853 (New York, 1969). Election results are from the New York Herald, 16 February 1858.
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