Sir John Alexander Macdonald

Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1815. His father, Hugh Macdonald, set up a small manufacturing business in Glasgow. The business failed, and the Macdonald family immigrated to Canada when John was five years old. It was only through the perseverance of his mother that Macdonald received a good education. At the age of ten Macdonald was sent away from home to attend the Midland Grammar School in Kingston, Ontario. When he was 15, he was apprenticed to George Mackenzie, a Kingston lawyer. By the time he was 18, he had inspired such confidence that Mackenzie sent him to open a branch office at Nappanee in southeast Ontario. When Mackenzie died in 1835, Macdonald returned to Kingston to start his own legal practice. In 1844 he decided to run for a Kingston seat in the legislative assembly of Canada, which then consisted of the two colonies of Canada West and Canada East. Macdonald won by a large majority, although his opponent had the advantage of being in office. From the beginning, Macdonald voted with the Conservative, or Tory, Party. During the next few years he helped to build the power of a more moderate group, the Liberal-Conservative Party, which then assumed the name of Conservative Party. In 1847 the 32-year-old Macdonald was made receiver general, an office he held for less than a year. Mac Nab had few supporters, and Macdonald helped him organize a Liberal-Conservative coalition. Macdonald formed his first cabinet in 1856. In an attempt to secure the support of primarily French-speaking Canada East, he nominated the French-Canadian Sir Etienne Tache for the post of premier of Canada East. Macdonald became the premier of Canada West. When Tache resigned in 1857 and the British governor-general asked Macdonald to form a new cabinet, he recommended another French-Canadian, Sir George Etienne Cartier, to take Tache's place. Lord Moncks, the first governor-general of Canada, swore in Macdonald as the first prime minister on July 1, 1867. He formed a coalition government drawn from the Conservatives and Reformers who had supported confederation, giving each party approximately equal weight in the new Cabinet. One of Macdonald's greatest achievements was persuading British Columbia to join the federation. Macdonald came up with the idea to build a railway across Canada. He wanted the railway built by a Canadian company, and in 1873 he created one for that purpose. Sir Hugh Allan, a shipping magnate, was the chief promoter. However, it soon became clear that the money behind Allan was mainly from the United States and that this money was being used by the Conservatives. In July 1873, letters stolen from Allan's lawyer showed that Allan had provided $350,000 in campaign funds for the previous election. Macdonald maintained his innocence, but a personal telegram made it clear that he was deeply involved. Although a Parliamentary commission later cleared him of blame, Macdonald resigned. It seemed that his political career had come to an end. He continues to campaigned until he died in 1891, at 76. His legacy to his country was the structure of a transcontinental dominion. John A. Macdonald was a honorable man who played a large part in Canadian history and was known for his talent of managing men.

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