John D Macdonald Lee Child Biography & Facts
Sir John Alexander Macdonald (10 or 11 January 1815 – 6 June 1891) was the first prime minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891). The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, he had a political career that spanned almost half a century. Macdonald was born in Scotland; when he was a boy his family immigrated to Kingston in the Province of Upper Canada (today in eastern Ontario). As a lawyer, he was involved in several high-profile cases and quickly became prominent in Kingston, which elected him in 1844 to the legislature of the Province of Canada. By 1857, he had become premier under the colony's unstable political system.
In 1864, when no party proved capable of governing for long, Macdonald agreed to a proposal from his political rival, George Brown, that the parties unite in a Great Coalition to seek federation and political reform. Macdonald was the leading figure in the subsequent discussions and conferences, which resulted in the British North America Act, 1867 and the birth of Canada as a nation on 1 July 1867. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of the new nation, and served 19 years; only William Lyon Mackenzie King served longer.
In 1873, he resigned from office over a scandal in which his party took bribes from businessmen seeking the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, he was re-elected in 1878. Macdonald's greatest achievements were building and guiding a successful national government for the new Dominion, using patronage to forge a strong Conservative Party, promoting the protective tariff of the National Policy, and completing the railway. He fought to block provincial efforts to take power back from the national government in Ottawa. He approved the execution of Métis leader Louis Riel for treason in 1885; it alienated many francophones from his Conservative Party. He continued as prime minister until his death in 1891.
In the 21st century, Macdonald has come under criticism for his role in the Chinese Head Tax and federal policies towards Indigenous peoples, including his actions during the North-West Rebellion that resulted in Riel's execution, and the development of the residential school system designed to assimilate Indigenous children. Macdonald, however, remains respected for his key role in the formation of Canada. Historical rankings in surveys of experts in Canadian political history have consistently placed Macdonald as one of the highest-rated Prime Ministers in Canadian history.
Early years, 1815–1830
John Alexander Macdonald was born in Ramshorn parish in Glasgow, Scotland, on 10 (official record) or 11 (father's journal) January 1815. His father Hugh, an unsuccessful merchant, had married John's mother, Helen Shaw, on 21 October 1811. John Alexander Macdonald was the third of five children. After Hugh's business ventures left him in debt, the family immigrated to Kingston, in Upper Canada (today the southern and eastern portions of Ontario), in 1820, where there were already a number of relatives and connections.The family initially lived with another, but then resided over a store which Hugh Macdonald ran. Soon after their arrival, John's younger brother James died from a blow to the head by a servant who was supposed to look after the boys. After Hugh's store failed, the family moved to Hay Bay (south of Napanee, Ontario), west of Kingston, where Hugh unsuccessfully ran another shop. His father, in 1829, was appointed a magistrate for the Midland District. John Macdonald's mother was a lifelong influence on her son, helping him in his difficult first marriage and remaining a force in his life until her 1862 death.John initially attended local schools. When he was aged 10, his family scraped together the money to send him to Midland District Grammar School in Kingston. Macdonald's formal schooling ended at 15, a common school-leaving age at a time when only children from the most prosperous families were able to attend university. Nevertheless, Macdonald later regretted leaving school when he did, remarking to his secretary Joseph Pope that if he had attended university, he might have embarked on a literary career.
Legal career, 1830–1843
Legal training and early career, 1830–1837
Macdonald's parents decided he should become a lawyer after leaving school. As Donald Creighton (who penned a two-volume biography of Macdonald in the 1950s) wrote, "law was a broad, well-trodden path to comfort, influence, even to power". It was also "the obvious choice for a boy who seemed as attracted to study as he was uninterested in trade." Besides, Macdonald needed to start earning money immediately to support his family because his father's businesses were again failing. "I had no boyhood," he complained many years later. "From the age of 15, I began to earn my own living."
Macdonald travelled by steamboat to Toronto (known until 1834 as York), where he passed an examination set by The Law Society of Upper Canada, including mathematics, Latin, and history. British North America had no law schools in 1830; students were examined when beginning and ending their tutelage. Between the two examinations, they were apprenticed, or articled to established lawyers. Macdonald began his apprenticeship with George Mackenzie, a prominent young lawyer who was a well-regarded member of Kingston's rising Scottish community. Mackenzie practised corporate law, a lucrative speciality that Macdonald himself would later pursue. Macdonald was a promising student, and in the summer of 1833, managed the Mackenzie office when his employer went on a business trip to Montreal and Quebec in Lower Canada (today the southern portion of the province of Quebec). Later that year, Macdonald was sent to manage the law office of a Mackenzie cousin who had fallen ill.In August 1834, George Mackenzie died of cholera. With his supervising lawyer dead, Macdonald remained at the cousin's law office in Hallowell (today Picton, Ontario). In 1835, Macdonald returned to Kingston, and even though not yet of age nor qualified, began his practice as a lawyer, hoping to gain his former employer's clients. Macdonald's parents and sisters also returned to Kingston, and Hugh Macdonald became a bank clerk.Soon after Macdonald was called to the Bar in February 1836, he arranged to take in two students; both became, like Macdonald, Fathers of Confederation. Oliver Mowat became premier of Ontario, and Alexander Campbell a federal cabinet minister and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. One early client was Eliza Grimason, an Irish immigrant then aged sixteen, who sought advice concerning a shop she and her husband wanted to buy. Grimason would become one of Macdonald's richest and most loyal supporters, and may have also become his lover. Macdonald joined many local organisations, seeking to become well known in the town. He also sought out high-profile cases, representing accused child rapist William Brass. Brass was hanged for his crime, but Macdonald attract.... Discover the John D Macdonald Lee Child popular books. Find the top 100 most popular John D Macdonald Lee Child books.