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John A. Macdonald

John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician. The Old Chieftain

With a new introduction by P.B. Waite
  • Book Info
    John A. Macdonald
    Book Description:

    John A. Macdonald?s flamboyant personality dominated Canadian public life from the years preceding Confederation to the end of the 19th century. ?Probably the greatest Canadian biography yet published in English? ? Dictionary of Canadian Biography

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7642-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)

    John A. Macdonald and his colleagues intended that Canada would derive its strength from its diverse provinces and territories and would, as a federation, be stronger than any of its parts. John A. contributed his time and effort to building his vision of Canada into a strong reality. He set a standard of service to country that all readers of this new one-volume edition of his biography by Professor Creighton might follow.

    In the months leading up to the celebration of Canada’s Centennial Year, 1967, many Canadians became involved in planning various Centennial projects. One group of British Columbians, inspired...

    (pp. vii-viii)
    D. G. Creighton
  4. Introduction Donald Creighton and His Macdonald
    (pp. vii-xxvi)
    P.B. WAITE

    Half a century ago the History Department at the University of Toronto inhabited a spacious old house at the corner of St. George and College streets that once belonged to Robert Baldwin, the Reform politician from the 1840s and 1850s. Hence it was called Baldwin House. In 1950–51, in a large west room on the ground floor, for two hours Donald Creighton held his weekly graduate seminar in Canadian history, 1840 to 1900. There were a dozen graduate students there that year, some of them war veterans, from several universities—Dalhousie, U.N.B., Queen’s, Manitoba, U.B.C., as well as Toronto....

  5. John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician

      (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
    • Chapter One The Immigrant Macdonalds (1815-1830)
      (pp. 1-20)

      In those days they came usually by boat. A few immigrants may have made the long journey from Montreal by land, taking several weeks and stopping at a score of friendly farm-houses as they pushed their way through the green forest. But most people travelled westward by the river—either inbateaux, camping out at night on the shore under the stars, or by schooner, or by one of the new steamers which in the last few years had begun to chug noisily up and down the long stretches between the rapids. In its upper reaches, the St. Lawrence widened...

    • Chapter Two The Lawyer’s Apprentice (1830-1837)
      (pp. 21-45)

      It was a highly respectable establishment, and also, in a sober, provincial fashion, distinguished. George Mackenzie, who reached the age of thirty-five in the year John began his apprenticeship, was still a comparatively young man, in the early stages of his career;¹ but already he occupied a place of special importance in the eyes of Kingston townsfolk in general and of his Scottish fellow-citizens in particular. John Machar of St. Andrews admired and respected him.² The long-headed merchants and lawyers of Store Street held his professional ability and integrity in the highest estimation. And throughout Kingston and its neighbourhood there...

    • Chapter Three First Public Appearances (1837-1839)
      (pp. 46-68)

      That night, only an hour or so after the stage had brought the tidings of the rebellion, the magistrates called a meeting of the citizens at the court-house. The regular troops had left for Lower Canada. Apart from a few small detachments of Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, there were no imperial soldiers in Kingston; and there, as elsewhere in the province, it was the plain citizens who rushed together, in a great spontaneous movement, to improvise their own defence. On the first night, in a strange atmosphere of ignorance, and worry and excitement, only the sketchiest arrangements could be...

    • Chapter Four The New Conservative Candidate (1839-1844)
      (pp. 69-99)

      In January, 1839, he passed his twenty-fourth birthday. Less than a month later,The Timesprinted a large first instalment of Lord Durham’sReport;and, within another month, Kingstonians, as well as Canadians everywhere, were reading the famous document with varying degrees of interest, enthusiasm, apprehension, disgust, and anger. The peaceful reorganization of the Canadas, for which theReportappeared to be the official programme, could hardly have come at a more appropriate period of Macdonald’s career. If he had been older, even, perhaps, only a few years older, he would have belonged to the pre-Rebellion generation of Canadian public...

    • Chapter Five Minister of the Crown (1844-1847)
      (pp. 100-124)

      Macdonald stayed in town long enough to attend the dinner in honour of the completion of the new municipal building, which was held on Thursday, November 21, in the town hall itself, in one of the spacious assembly halls which Kingston had vainly hoped would house the two branches of the provincial legislature.¹ Then, early in the next week, it was time to leave for the first session of the newly elected parliament in Montreal. The first great moment in his political career had come; and yet it is probable that he did not depart for Montreal in a mood...

    • Chapter Six The Twilight of the Tory Party (1847-1849)
      (pp. 125-146)

      The boy was thin. As Maria said to Dr. Washington, that was scarcely to be wondered at, since he had been living on pills so long. But he was tall, and seemed strong and healthy.¹ His eyes, dark blue in colour, were very large, and his nose—his father’s nose—was generous also. They had not much chance to admire him, for he was whisked off almost immediately to Kingston by Maria; and Macdonald settled down in New York to watch anxiously over his wife’s convalescence. It was very slow. The neuralgic pains in her side and leg kept recurring;...

    • Chapter Seven Years of Recovery (1849-1851)
      (pp. 147-173)

      Once the conference had ended, he could give himself without distraction to the task of pacifying Campbell. It was a formidable business. For Campbell, sensitive, warm-hearted, dourly cautious yet not unambitious in his shrewd way, was troubled not only by his own personal grievances, but also by his worries for the business as a whole. He certainly had a good deal to complain of. For years he had done by far the greater part of the work and had received only a third of the profits; and of the bonus which was supposed to have compensated him for his additional...

    • Chapter Eight The Liberal-Conservative Coalition (1851-1854)
      (pp. 174-207)

      In the new parliament—it was the third of which he had been a member—Macdonald stepped easily into a new prominence. He turned thirty-seven in January, 1852. His powers had matured; he had grown increasingly expert in their use; and he had kept his political good fortune in the midst of catastrophes which had eliminated, at least temporarily, so many of his rivals. The financial worries and emotional disturbances of the winter of 1849 were apparently a thing of the past. He stood on some admitted limitations and some abandoned hopes; but the ground, if less pleasant than it...

    • Chapter Nine The Victory of the Progressive-Conservatives (1854-1856)
      (pp. 208-237)

      Yet, in the autumn of 1854, the victory must have appeared doubtful and impermanent. Who could be certain that the coalition of 1854 was not simply one more of the many political arrangements and rearrangements of a troubled decade? And, in any case, had it not raised almost as many problems as it had solved? Even on the personal, the domestic, side, this sudden rise to office had certainly disturbed the rather genial, easy-going course of Macdonald’s affairs. The new and welcome salary—it was £1250 a year¹—had transformed him from a casual amateur into a responsible professional who,...

    • Chapter Ten Double Shuffle (1856-1858)
      (pp. 238-272)

      Draper—it had been a characteristic sign of the two equally authentic elements in his Liberal-Conservatism—had thought of both John Hillyard Cameron and John Alexander Macdonald as his possible successors. The decade which had elapsed since Draper’s retirement in 1847, when regarded from the point of view of the Conservative party, had been, in effect, a long struggle between the principles represented by these two men. Indeed their rivalry itself was only the last phase of a conflict, which had begun before the Rebellion, between the High Toryism of the past and the Liberal-Conservatism of the future. The coalition...

    • Chapter Eleven The Humiliation of George Brown (1858-1861)
      (pp. 273-314)

      The affairs with which Macdonald had been dealing for the past two years—communications, defence, and political reorganization—were by no means exclusively Canadian. They were imperial. They involved the other British North American colonies; they involved Great Britain itself: and their solution could only be reached through a complicated process of correspondence and discussions. The long series of pilgrimages to the Colonial Office, of conferences in British North America, had already commenced. During the previous summer Macdonald and Rose had joined forces with the Nova Scotians in an attempt to persuade the imperial government to support the Intercolonial Railway;...

    • Chapter Twelve Impasse (1861-1864)
      (pp. 315-353)

      The famous victory had been adequately celebrated. It had been accompanied by so many blessings—including as a crowning mercy the defeat of George Brown in Toronto—that it might have seemed to have ended the very possibility of political worries and annoyances. But, in a curious and inexplicable fashion, they persisted. There were, of course, certain huge preoccupations, such as the problem of Anglo-American relations and the enigma of the political future of the North American continent, which had been raised by the American Civil War and which were beyond the healing power of even a Canadian general election....

    • Chapter Thirteen British North America in Conference (June-December, 1864)
      (pp. 354-390)

      Yet, even on Wednesday, June 15, there were a few slight signs that this “ministerial crisis” would not end as all ministerial crises had done before. When Macdonald had finished his announcement, John Sandfield Macdonald got up immediately to demand further information. It was the usual opposition request. But George Brown did not give it exactly the usual support that might have been expected of him. He agreed, of course, that the House had a right to information; but he felt “that in the position of great gravity in which the honourable gentlemen opposite were now placed, they should be...

    • Chapter Fourteen Checkmate (January, 1865-April, 1866)
      (pp. 391-430)

      Yet before Cardwell’s inspiring dispatch arrived, real trouble had broken out for Canada. It had been coming closer, despite the false appearances of calm, ever since the St. Albans raid on October 19. The American people had, it was true, temporarily dismissed the thoughts of the raid from their minds and had returned to the gorgeous excitement of the presidential election; but they had done so on the evident assumption that a savage retribution would be meted out to the raiders. “There can be no doubt,” Burnley wrote to Russell from Washington, “that considerable irritation exists in the minds of...

    • Chapter Fifteen Triumph (April, 1866-March, 1867)
      (pp. 431-465)

      Macdonald’s first feeling was one of enormous relief. “TheTelegraphof yesterday informed me,” he wrote to Peter Mitchell on the morning of April 10, before Gordon’s telegram had arrived, “that you have not yet got through your vote of want of confidence in the Lower House, but that you are in the midst of a ministerial crisis, in consequence of Mr. Gordon’s reply to the address from your branch of the Legislature. I hope this is correct, and that you will be able to form an administration that will at once carry Confederation.”¹ These hopes were strong—stronger now...

    • Epilogue The First of July, 1867
      (pp. 466-481)

      The day was his, if it was anybody’s. He, above all others, had ensured its coming, and he had prescribed the order of its celebration. But the actual day—July 1—was not his first choice. For simple and practical reasons—he did not believe the preparations could be completed earlier—he would have preferred a date a fortnight later. But he was far away from London when the matter was finally settled; and on May 22 a royal proclamation announced that the union of British North America was to come into effect two weeks before his chosen date. “So...

      (pp. 482-484)
    • NOTES
      (pp. 485-512)
    • INDEX
      (pp. 513-524)
  6. John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain

      (pp. vii-viii)
    • Chapter One The Pacification of Nova Scotia (1867-1869)
      (pp. 1-32)

      On Thursday afternoon, November 7, 1867, Macdonald, along with the other members of the Commons, stood waiting expectantly and somewhat nervously in the Senate chamber of the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa. The Governor-General, Lord Monck, was reading the speech from the throne to the first federal Parliament of Canada. The legislative history of the new Dominion was about to commence. Outside, though the season was far advanced in autumn, the day was fine. Most of the shops in town were shut. A great crowd had pressed behind the rows of regulars and militia which lined the carriage drive up to...

    • Chapter Two The West in Jeopardy (1869-1870)
      (pp. 33-69)

      Towards the end of February, the winter, which had been so mild and beneficent, lashed out in a sudden violent fury. The roads and railways were blocked with huge drifts of snow, and for a week, early in March, no mails whatever reached Macdonald’s office in the East Block.¹ He lived in a curious state of isolation and helpless inactivity which was like a physical expression of the miserable suspense of the past few weeks. For a time it seemed that there were no foreseeable happy endings ahead. The reports of Howe’s progress in his by-election contest in Nova Scotia...

    • Chapter Three Fish and Diplomacy (1870-1871)
      (pp. 70-102)

      Dr. Grant, who arrived in a few minutes and found Macdonald in a state of collapse, diagnosed the disease as “biliary calculus” or gall-stones. Obviously the dreadful seizure had been caused by the passage of a stone, and there could be no doubt that the patient was in a most alarming condition.¹ His pulse barely fluttered; he was almost insensible with the pain he had endured; and, as Dr. Grant explained to the fearful Agnes, it was utterly impossible to think of moving him for a while at least. He would have to lie, almost literally, where he had fallen....

    • Chapter Four Design for the Future (1871-1872)
      (pp. 103-128)

      He did not return to Ottawa as a conqueror. He did not feel like a conqueror and he did not want the pretence of a conqueror’s reception. A conqueror would be expected to receive tributes and furnish reports. He had no desire to take the one or to make the other. At the back of his mind was the troubled realization that the first Parliament of the Dominion of Canada was nearing its inevitable end, and that in twelve months’ time or a little more he would have to face a general election—a general election in which the unpopularity...

    • Chapter Five Blackmail (1872-1873)
      (pp. 129-179)

      The brief remainder of the session was an unbroken success. The Washington Treaty passed the House by the large majority of one hundred and twenty-one to fifty-five. The Trades Union Bill, the repeal of the tea and coffee duties, the Redistribution Bill allocating the six new seats due to Ontario as a result of the recent census all slipped through with a minimum of trouble and difficulty. “We had a most triumphant session,” Macdonald wrote to Rose, “not having experienced a single check of any kind. The opposition were completely demoralized and I am going to the country with good...

    • Chapter Six The Forked Road (1873-1876)
      (pp. 180-212)

      On November 6, the day after the resignation of the government, Macdonald met the Conservative Members of Parliament in caucus.¹ He hoped, if he did not really expect, that the meeting would end in the choice of a new leader. There were all sorts of reasons—cogent, solid, unanswerable reasons—for his own retirement at the moment. He had compounded great mistakes with little ones. He did not know, of course, that so close a friend as Alexander Campbell had been privately declaring that the ministry Would not have been defeated “if Sir John A. had kept straight during the...

    • Chapter Seven The Picnic Grounds of Ontario (1876-1878)
      (pp. 213-242)

      He took up his new position circumspectly, with an air of cautious reconnaissance. Tupper, who was the first to reply to the budget speech, moved no amendment to Cartwright’s resolutions;¹ and it was left to the back-benchers, the protectionist Liberals in particular, to sponsor the first formal protests against the government’s fiscal policy. Their intervention, they declared, had been prompted by the failure of the Conservatives to meet the budget with an instant challenge. They begged Macdonald to declare himself; and one of them—Devlin of Montreal Centre—promised that if the leader of the opposition would only put himself...

    • Chapter Eight The Plan in Realization (1878-1880)
      (pp. 243-283)

      “I am waiting to be summoned,” he wrote to Goldwin Smith on October 1, “Lord Dufferin (entre nous) having told me, when here, to keep my carpet bag ready.”¹ It was the end of his freedom, the end of the tranquil, almost carefree, life in the St. George Street house. “I am in good health,” he reassured his sister Louisa, “but have not yetquiteregained my strength.”² He had certainly overtaxed himself during the election, and he spent the last few weeks of his time in Toronto in recuperative idleness, varied by busy letter-writing and by long meditations on...

    • Chapter Nine Contract for Steel (1880-1881)
      (pp. 284-316)

      It was at this point that George Stephen re-entered his affairs.

      He had, of course, known George Stephen before. He had known George Stephen for the sufficient reason that he knew everybody of any real importance in the business world of Canada. And George Stephen was undeniably important. Since 1850, when, a young man not yet twenty-one, he had arrived in Canada from Scotland, Stephen had certainly enjoyed an impressively solid and impressively swift success. Beginning modestly as a junior partner in a Montreal importing house, he had gradually developed a substantial interest in a variety of Canadian manufactures—textiles,...

    • Chapter Ten Good Times (1881-1883)
      (pp. 317-352)

      On the voyage home, he presided over theSardinian’s ship’s concert—“his first appearance before the public”, the programme proudly announced;¹ and when the vessel docked at Quebec on Saturday, September 17, his alert eyes and easy movements convinced the curious Canadians that he was back again on an indefinite engagement. Everybody noticed how much better he looked. His old buoyancy, the newspaper correspondents informed their readers, was back again unimpaired.² And, as he hurried to Ottawa and began, in his usual easy, effortless fashion, to acquaint himself with the moods of his fellow-countrymen, he realized that his own restored...

    • Chapter Eleven Stand Fast, Craigellachie! (1883-1884)
      (pp. 353-398)

      The recession had no dramatic beginning. There was no “Black Friday” to date it, no collapse of some venerable bank or commercial house to fix its commencement in popular memory. It just began. Unheralded, unannounced, unspectacular, it could hardly have made a more unobtrusive appearance. Only gradually did people become conscious of the fact that the grey, chill, all-too-familiar presence was there. A slow but persistent decline of prices set in. The stock-market at New York began to behave in an unconvinced and highly nervous fashion; and suddenly—it was a grim foreshadowing of future deficits—J. H. Pope, who...

    • Chapter Twelve Triumph and Disaster (1884-1885)
      (pp. 399-439)

      The dusk of the brief January day had fallen long before the train reached Montreal. A curious balmy softness, like a false, delicious breath of spring, was in the air. The long queue of carriages moved off easily through the streets which were strangely unencumbered with snow; and the crowd waited comfortably as if it had been a night in April. There were masses of people everywhere. Macdonald could sense the enormous presence of the crowd all along the packed roads to the drill hall. The roar of welcoming applause was unbroken. There were two miles of flaming torches. High...

    • Chapter Thirteen The Revolt of the Provinces (1885-1887)
      (pp. 440-481)

      When the Allan linerPolynesiandocked at Liverpool on December 1, Macdonald was greeted by two warmly cordial invitations. Both George Stephen and John Rose wanted the visitor to spend his time in London at their houses. Anne Stephen promised, her husband wrote, to “do” Macdonald quite as well as Batt’s.¹ “I am all alone,” John Rose assured his old friend. “You can have the whole house to yourself, breakfast and dine when you please.… I know it is rather far, but it may keep too many people from boring you, and there is a brougham which shall be at...

    • Chapter Fourteen The Renewal of Cultural Conflict (1887-1889)
      (pp. 482-520)

      During the autumn of 1887 the newspaper attack against Macdonald’s national design reached a harsh crescendo of intensity. Never before had there been such a heavy bombardment of his whole position; never before had the bombardment been sustained by so many thundering pieces of journalistic artillery. In French-speaking Canada and the Maritime Provinces, the principal newspapers had largely gone over to the opposition. In English-speaking Quebec, the MontrealGazettemaintained a stout defence virtually alone; and in Toronto, the capital of the “banner” province of the Dominion, the two most popular and most frequently quoted newspapers, theGlobeand the...

    • Chapter Fifteen The Last Election (1889-1891)
      (pp. 521-563)

      He was nearly seventy-five years old. He faced the world like an old lion, less strong than he had been and conscious of his waning strength, but still powerful and proud of his continued mastery. He was tall and slight; his carriage was erect; he held himself like a young man; and his hair, waving in a fine, thin, silvery cloud, was a not too unsubstantial ghost of the curly chevelure of his young manhood. His eyes were tired and disillusioned; but his mouth was firm with strength and humour; and there was no bitterness, no mere shrewdness, no cunning...

    • Epilogue The Sixth of June, 1891
      (pp. 564-578)

      It was six o’clock when he reached Earnscliffe on the evening of Saturday, May 23. Parliament, of course, stood adjourned for the week-end; but he had taken advantage of the free day to call a meeting of the Cabinet, and the whole afternoon had been filled with its prolonged deliberations. Slowly he alighted from the cab; and Agnes, who had come anxiously out to the gate to meet him, saw at once, with the familiar pang, how dreadfully weary he looked. She took his brief-case—the inevitable accompaniment of his journeys home—in her hand; and when they walked up...

      (pp. 579-580)
    • NOTES
      (pp. 581-613)
    • INDEX
      (pp. 614-630)