Theodore Lindsay (1844 - ?) was the publisher of the Confederation of North America's leading Conservative Party newspaper, the New York Herald, and a major power broker within the party in the late nineteenth century.
In the wake of Governor-General John McDowell's Age of Renewal speech of 11 October 1882, Lindsay published an editorial denouncing the speech: "Such talk is not only dangerous, it is cruel. Our country is in grave danger. We have more than one million men out of work, our factories are operating sporadically, our trade is declining, and there are revolutionaries at work in all the states. And the Governor-General talks of progress, of his accomplishments, and of his plans for the future! Any more such plans, and we shall have no future, but go the way of France and Austria into national oblivion!" Lindsay urged the North American people to reject McDowell's leadership and instead support "a man who will recognize the old values of our nation, those cherished by Burgoyne and Dickinson, and not be moved to accept every nostrum that comes along."
It was clear that Lindsay considered himself that man, and when the Conservatives met in New York City to choose a party leader and nominee for governor-general for the 1883 Grand Council elections, Lindsay was one of the leading candidates. Although he lacked political experience and had a reputation for supporting crank causes, Lindsay was the youngest and most dynamic candidate, and the most influential. The convention chose him to lead the party, and in his acceptance speech, he vowed "to carry the message of the New Conservatism to every part of the Confederation, and before I am done, the people will know of our dangers and how McDowell has deceived them, of their own hidden resources, and of the government's attempts to steal them from their rightful owners." Sobel notes that it was a strange and often contradictory speech, but that Lindsay spoke well, and the convention delegates applauded with as much enthusiasm as they could muster.
Lindsay's efforts were in vain. On election day the Conservatives lost 26 of their 49 seats in the Grand Council, holding on to just 23 seats. The rising People's Coalition, now with 45 seats, became the official opposition. With the front benches of the opposition now occupied by the Coalitionists, most of the Conservative Councilmen chose to sit behind the Liberals, although five members from the N.C. and Quebec seated themselves among the opposition.
As McDowell's Liberal majority passed a flood of legislation, Lindsay warned, "The Governor-General will destroy our moral fibre with his nostrums, and our exchequer with his taxes." However, the Conservative losses in 1883 reduced Lindsay's influence, and his warnings went unheeded. Although the Age of Renewal programs fell far short of McDowell's promises, it was the People's Coalition that took advantage of the growing disenchantment. By the 1888 Grand Council elections, the Coalition was poised to overtake the Liberals. Lindsay's influence within the Conservative Party faded, and the Conservatives chose an able moderate, Abraham Reese, as their leader. However, the Conservative Party's fortunes had fallen too low to be reversed. Gamblers in Norfolk offered odds of 20-to-1 against a Conservative victory, and on election day the party lost an additional 14 seats, holding on to just nine.
Sobel's sources for the life of Theodore Lindsay are Reuben Fenton's And Close the Door: The Decline of C.N.A. Conservatism (New York, 1955); and Frederick Powell's Theodore Lindsay: The Black and the Blue (New York, 1956).
This was the Featured Article for the month of September 2021.