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John A. Macdonald

John Alexander Macdonald
Rank:1st (1867-1873 and 1878-1891)
Date of Birth:January 11, 1815
Place of Birth:Glasgow, Scotland
Spouses:Isabella Clark[?]
Susan Agnes Bernard
Political Party:Conservative Party of Canada

John Alexander Macdonald (January 11, 1815 - June 6, 1891) was the first Prime Minister of Canada from July 1, 1867 - November 5, 1873 - and - October 17, 1878 - June 6, 1891. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

While there is some debate over his actual birthdate, January 11 is the official date recorded and January 10 is the day Macdonald celebrated it. His family immigrated to Canada in 1820 along with thousands of others seeking affordable land and promises of new prosperity.

Macdonald did prosper, becoming a lawyer in 1836 and earning the esteem of many in his defence of American raiders in the Rebellion of 1837[?]. In 1843, at the age of 28, he married his cousin, Isabella Clark (1811 - 1857). They had two children: a son John who died at the age of one, and a second son Hugh John who went on to become premier of the Province of Manitoba. Ten years after the passing of his wife, in 1867, the year of Canada’s independence from Britain, he married Susan Agnes Bernard (1836 - 1920). They had one daughter, Mary.

In 1843 Macdonald exhibited his first interest in politics. He was elected as alderman of the City of Kingston, Ontario. The next year he accepted the Conservative party’s nomination for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of what was then called the Province of Canada but today is the province’s of Ontario and Quebec.Winning the seat easily, Macdonald was now a player in the political scene.

John A. MacDonald was initiated into St. John's masonic Lodge #5 in Kingston, Ontario, in 1844.

He gained the recognition of his peers and in 1847 was appointed Receiver General by William Henry Draper[?]'s administration. However, Macdonald lost this distinction when Draper's government lost the next election. He spent the next few years attemping to rebuild the Conservative party and succeeded in gaining re-election only when a Conservative-Liberal coalition was formed in 1854 under the leadership of Sir Allen McNab[?]. Under the new administration he was appointed Attorney-General. In the next election Macdonald continued his rise in politics by becoming joint Premier of the Province of Canada with Étienne-Paschal Taché of Québec for the years 1856 and 1857.

In the election of 1858, the Macdonald-Cartier government was defeated and they resigned as Premiers. (Taché had resigned the previous year, with George E. Cartier[?] taking his place). In an interesting piece of politics, the Governor General of Canada asked Cartier to become the senior Premier, only a week after his defeat. Cartier accepted and brought Macdonald into office along with him. This was legal as any member of the cabinet could re-enter the cabinet provided they did so within a month of resigning their previous position. The coalition government was again defeated in 1862. Macdonald then served as the leader of the opposition until the election of 1864, when Étienne-Paschal Taché came out of retirement and joined ranks with Macdonald to form the governing party yet again.

At this point in Macdonald's career, he began to look to the future of politics in his region. He was the leader of arguably the largest British colony in the surrounding area and had the power to help enact agreements to confederate the British colonies. This would be done in an attempt to provide stability to the colonies, which were experiencing frequent government changes, to provide the basis for expansion into the West, and to create a unified country in order to guard against attacks from the Americans to the south.

Macdonald spent 1864 to 1867 organizing the legislation needed to confederate the colonies into the country of Canada. In September 1864, he held the Charlottetown conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to present his idea to the Maritime colonies. In October 1864 delegates for confederation met in Quebec City, Quebec for the Quebec conference? where the Quebec Resolutions were created -- the plan for confederation. By 1866, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada had agreed to confederation. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island were opposed. In the final conference of confederation held in 1866 in London, England the agreement to confederate was completed.

In 1867 the agreement was brought to the British Parliament who passed the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada. Upon the creation of the Dominion of Canada the Province of Canada was then divided into the individual province’s of Quebec and Ontario.

Britain’s Queen Victoria knighted John A. Macdonald for playing the integral role in bringing about Confederation. His knighthood was announced on the birth of the Dominion, July 1, 1867. An election was held in August which put Macdonald and his Conservative party into power.

Looking back on his career as Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald's vision was to enlarge the country and unify it. Accordingly, under his rule Canada bought the Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company for 300,000 pounds (about $11,500,000).

In 1870 Parliament passed the Manitoba Act, creating the province of Manitoba in response to the Red River Rebellion led by Louis Riel.

In 1871 Parliament added British Columbia, making it the sixth province to join the Confederation.

In 1873 Prince Edward Island joined the union.

As part of the Pacific scandal, Macdonald's party was ousted in the 1874 federal election by the Liberal Party of Canada led by Alexander Mackenzie. Macdonald was re-elected in 1878 on the strength of the National Policy, a plan to promote trade within the country by protecting it from the industries of other nations. He stayed in office until his death in 1891. His career spanned 19 years, making Sir John A. Macdonald the second longest serving Prime Minister of Canada.

He died while still Prime Minister, winning praise for having helped forge a nation of sprawling geographic size, with two diverse European colonial origins, and a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds and political views. Grieving Canadians turned out in the thousands to pay their respects while he lay in state in the Parliament Buildings[?] in Ottawa and they lined the tracks to watch the train that returned his body to Kingston, Ontario where he was buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery.

Macdonald was well known for his wit and also for his alcoholism. He is known do have been drunk for many of his deabtes in parliament. One famous story is that during an election debate Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting violently on stage while his opponent was speaking. Picking himself up Macdonald told the crowd, "see how my opponent's ideas disgust me."

Sir John A. Macdonald is depicted on the Canadian ten-dollar bill. He also has bridges, aiports, and higways named after him, as well as a plethora of schools across the country.

Prime Minister of Canada
Preceded by:
First leadership (1867-1873) Followed by:
Alexander Mackenzie
Preceded by:
Alexander Mackenzie
Second leadership (1878-1891) Followed by:
John Abbott

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