John A. Macdonald

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The Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald (January 11 1815 - June 6 1891) was the first Prime Minister of Canada. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland. While there is some debate over when his actual birthdate was, January 11 is the official date recorded and January 10 is the day Macdonald celebrated it. His family emigrated to Canada in 1820 along with thousands of others seeking affordable land and new promises of 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. He married his cousin Isabella Clark (1811 - 1857) in 1843, at the age of 28. They had two children together, John and Hugh John. John died in infancy at the age of one, Hugh John went on to become premier of Manitoba. He later re-married in the year of Confederation, 1867, to Susan Agnes Bernard (1836 - 1920). They had one child, Mary.

In 1843 Macdonald exhibited his first interest in politics. He was elected as alderman of Kingston. The next year he accepted the Conservative nomination for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Winning the seat easily, Macdonald was now a player in the provincial political scene.

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, what would later become Ontario and Quebec, with Etienne-Pascal Tache for the years 1856-1857.

In the election of 1858, the Macdonald-Cartier government (Tache had resigned the previous year, with George E. Cartier taking his place) was defeated. They resigned as premiers. In an interesting piece of politics the governor general 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 re-entered within a month of resigning their previous position and provided that they had resigned their previous position. The coalition government was again defeated in 1862. Macdonald served as the leader of the opposition until the election of 1864, when Tache 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 was done in an attempt to provide stability to the colonies, which were experiencing frequently 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.

Thus, 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. As of 1866, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada agreed to confederation. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island were opposed. In the final conference of confederation the London conference held in London, England in 1866 completed the agreement to confederate. This was brought to the British Parliament who in 1867 passed the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada. Upon the creation of the Dominion of Canada the Province of Canada became Quebec and Ontario.

Queen Victoria knighted 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 Sir Macdonald and his Conservative party into power.

Looking back on his career as Prime Minister, Sir 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 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 Macdonald the second longest reigning Prime Minister of Canada