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Posts Tagged ‘John A. Macdonald’

Macdonald

Sir John A. Macdonald was Canada’s 1st Prime Minister (1867-1873, 1878-1891)

1) Successfully defended Abraham Brandt of the Mohawk nation who was accused of murder in 1839, convincing the jury to reduce the conviction to manslaughter.

2) Met, and later married, his cousin Isabella Clark while on a six-month vacation to Scotland and England using $3,500 he won gambling in 1842.

3) Challenged another member of the United Canadas Legislative Assembly to a duel. He accused Reform member William Hume Blake of quoting passages from the Rebellion Losses Bill out of the context during an 1849 debate. The Speaker recalled both men to the legislature and demanded they keep the peace. The duel was averted.

4) In his third month as Canada’s first Prime Minister, one of his major investments evaporated when Kingston’s Commercial Bank folded. He ended up owing 10 times more than he was earning annually as the country’s leader.

5) Ran for re-election in three ridings during the 1878 campaign that returned him to power. Although he was defeated in his hometown, Kingston, he was elected by two ridings in the West he had never visited: Marquette, Manitoba, and Victoria, British Columbia. He chose to represent Victoria, but didn’t visit the area until four years after serving as its Member of Parliament.

from Unknown and Unforgettable: A Guide to Canada’s Prime Ministers

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jan11It’s the one day of the year that boasts birthdays of two Canadian Prime Ministers. The better known birthday observation belongs to Sir John A. Macdonald, but Jean Chrétien also celebrates his birthday on January 11. Chrétien is 84 today; Macdonald would have been 203.

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MacdonaldThe majority of Canadian Prime Ministers have had schools named after them, but as some Canadians revise their assessment of our leaders through the prism of today’s mores, expect the clamour to expunge the names to continue. That’s because all of our leaders have a dark side. They did things in their day that they believed (and were seen by most of society at the time) to be the ‘right thing’.

Macdonald has lots of schools named after him; Laurier has a university; Abbott has a college. A few have had schools named after them that have since closed (Bowell and Bennett). Clark is the only living former PM with a school bearing his name, although Mulroney has a university institute named after him in the Maritimes.

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July61885: The government of Sir John A. Macdonald passes the Dominion Franchise Act, moving the criteria for voting eligibility from the provinces to Ottawa. As a result, some groups who have had the vote in parts of the country – widows, spinsters and some indigenous groups – lose it.

Concern about letting indigenous peoples vote was heightened by the recent Northwest Rebellion in western Canada. The influence of British Columbia also ensured that ‘Asiatics’ and ‘Chinamen’ would be excluded. Many, but not enough, MPs were in favour of expanding voter eligibility. Macdonald was for the idea, but  unwilling to push for it. Opposition Leader Wilfrid Laurier objected to opening it up. In 1898, responsibility for eligibility will return to the provinces.

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July41873: Several Canadian newspapers publish a telegram sent by Sir John A. Macdonald during last year’s election campaign to CPR solicitor (and future Prime Minister) John Abbott begging for more campaign funds. “I must have another ten thousand,” urged Macdonald. “Will be the last time of calling. Do not fail me.”

It isn’t a plea that can be misconstrued and turns out to be the smoking gun the Liberals have been looking for since the Pacific Scandal broke three months ago. The pressure will build and by year’s end Macdonald will avoid a non-confidence vote by resigning — the only Prime Minister ever to do so.

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MacdonaldIn 2004, three of Canada’s Prime Ministers made the 50 Most Important Leaders in History listed in the annual National Geographic Almanac of World History. Quite an achievement in a list that starts with the mythological first Chinese Emperor Fuxi (anywhere from 29,000 BCE to 12,000 BCE) and ends with South Africa’s Nelson Mandella.

The three Canadian leaders: Sir John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King and — are you ready? — Kim Campbell. See the whole list here.

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mar271865: John A. Macdonald mails a letter to the President of the Grand Trunk Railway, Edward Watkin, letting him know that the land west of Lake Superior “is of no present value to Canada”.

It’s a view that changes dramatically for him in the next few years. His vision of a Canada stretching to the Pacific Ocean pushes him to purchase the vast land holdings of the Hudson’s Bay Company from which he creates Manitoba. It also guides his determination to build a transcontinental railway, which closes the deal on British Columbia’s entry into Confederation.

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