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First Prime Minister of Canada: John Alexander Macdonald’s Legacy

Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the first prime minister of Canada and a significant and dominant leader in the Canadian federation. 

One of Canada’s most influential prime leaders began his profession as a lawyer fairly early in life, joined the liberal party, struggled to create a majority administration, and ultimately became Canada’s first-ever prime minister.

You’re lucky if you’re curious about the accomplishments of one of Canada’s most well-known prime ministers and his passing. Let’s go over basic information that every Canadian must know.

1. John A. Macdonald’s Birth

Born to an unsuccessful merchant in 1815, John A. Macdonald was the third child of his parents. The family had numerous relatives and people in Canada; John A was only a young boy.

After his father was burdened with high debt due to his business, in 1820, the entire family moved to Kingston in Upper Canada, today known as the southern and eastern areas of Ontario.

John A.’s father used to run a shop, but in 1829, his father was appointed as the magistrate of the midland district of Canada, but the family still struggled financially.

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2. John Macdonald Started His Career at a Very Young Age

Prime minister of Canada, John Macdonald’s family faced financial constraints throughout his young life, which pushed him to start earning money for his family at a young age.

 He got formal education only up to the age of 15, as it was a time when only a few children of prosperous families could attend university.

In his youth, prime minister john Macdonald complained, “I had no boyhood”, as he had to serve his house and support the family’s finance due to the unsuccessful business of his father. 

After leaving school, his parents decided that he should become a lawyer as he was considered “a boy uninterested in trade.

British North America did not have a law university, and aspiring lawyers were apprenticed to other established lawyers.  John Macdonald was apprenticed to a prominent young lawyer, George Mackenzie.

The latter was a corporate lawyer, a field which later Macdonald practiced. Macdonald traveled to Toronto, York, where he attempted and passed the upper Canada law society examination.

After the death of his supervising lawyer, John Macdonald returned to Kingston, where he started his practice without proper age or qualification. 

As a youth, he became a prominent criminal lawyer known even beyond Kingston while in his youth.

3. Entering Politics

While in Toronto in 1847, John Macdonald, as a youth, John Macdonald participated in the attacks on the rebels of Montgomery’s tavern. 

His earlier professional duration also coincided with various political happenings like rebellions in the upper part of Canada and border raids of the United States. John Macdonald formally entered politics at the municipal level and served as an alderman in Kingston from 1843 to 1846. 

He actively participated in Conservative party politics, and soon, at the age of 29, he was elected to the legislative assembly of the Canadian province to represent Kingston.

At a very early age, the prime minister of Canada, John Macdonald, emerged as a screwed politician. Because of his leadership skills and intelligence, he got the first cabinet post as a receiver-general in 1847.

Until the election of 1854, Macdonald remained a leader in the opposition, after which he created a new political alliance called the liberal-conservative party.

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4. A Leader

The liberal party, also known as the grits, still held their power in the 1851 general election but soon after some time, they also were left decided due to a parliament scandal.

In September of that year, the government resigned, due to which a coalition government was formed with parties from both provinces under sir Allan Maccabee. 

Macdonald had significant work aligning the government and served as the attorney general. Though he was the most powerful person in the government, Tache served as the premier.

In July of 1857, to promote Canadian projects, Macdonald departed for the UK, and when he returned to Canada, he was sworn as the country’s premier in the place of Tache, who was about to retire.

He led the Conservative party in the general election and got elected in Kingston with the help of French Canadian support. 

The parliament had voted to move the government permanently to Quebec City, but Macdonald opposed it.

He supported that queen victoria should decide on Canada’s capital. This was opposed by his opponents and the leadership from eastern Canada.

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5. The New Nation: Canada

The new country of Canada was established on July 1 of that year, and its new prime minister, John Macdonald, was hailed as a “nation-builder” of the country. 

Its economic development was so sluggish that it prompted the emigration of its citizens to the United States. He received a formal commission from the governor-general.

To help the economy, prime minister sir Macdonald planned to build a transcontinental railway to stimulate growth. 

He also planned to implement a “national policy of high tariffs” to protect the small Canadian firms that faced heavy competition from United States firms.

Upon the formation of the new country of Canada, prime minister Macdonald and his government faced many problems, like the federal government and working with the threats from various factions of ministers, withdrawal and the general national defense.

In August 1867, the first general elections of this new nation of Canada were held. Prime minister MacDonald and his party easily won the majority of seats to form the government. 

For John Macdonald to become the prime minister of Canada, his party also got the majority from the province.  The majority government was formed, and parliament was convened by November 1867.

Under Sir Macdonald’s leadership tenure as Canada’s prime mister, the country quickly expanded to include multiple provinces like Manitoba, Prince Edwards Island, and British Columbia.

6. The Pacific Scandal

The pacific scandal was a politically tumultuous event in the electoral history of Canada

It involved numerous significant political figures, including the prime minister of Canada, John Macdonald, who was accused of accepting bribes to influence the contract of the national rail: the Canadian Pacific railway.

As part of the 1871 agreement of British Columbia to join the Canadian confederation, both parties agreed to build a transcontinental railway linking the pacific province with the eastern province.

It was also a part of prime minister John A. Macdonald’s policy for the economic development of Canada. This event led to the resignation of the first prime minister, Sir John Macdonald. 

Still, he returned to power later and continued many such projects with his economic ideas for the country.

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7. Sir Macdonald’s Return to Power as the Prime Minister of Canada

Sir Macdonald faced a defeat as a prime minister against the liberal party candidate in 1973 and was forced to resign due to the pacific. 

In the year 1874 and lost against prime minister Alexander Mackenzie, the leader of the liberal party.

The liberal party, unlike their opposition, promoted free trade, but due to the economic depression faced by the country, prime minister Macdonald’s policy of protectionism in trade was supported.

Under prime minister Mackenzie, the liberal party government under prime minister Mackenzie proved ineffective in uplifting the Canadian economy, which paved the way for Macdonald to return to power and succeed as prime minister just after five years. 

He served as the prime minister till his death while doing significant projects and policy actions in Canada.

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Other Challenges and Responsibilities

Like many other prime ministers of Canada like Mackenzie King, John Turner, and Kim Campbell, john Macdonald also had his set of controversies.

During the last stages of Macdonald as prime minister of Canada, he faced multiple challenges. For example, northwest resistance occurred while Macdonald was the general of Indian affairs.

Although he did a lot of work for the railways, he didn’t do much for climate change. Sir John Macdonald was always guided by his principles of loyalty to the British empire and freedom from the United States of America.

While he was the minister of Indian affairs, he was responsible for the indigenous policy, like making the residential schools for the repression of the indigenous population.

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Closing Thoughts

From all the above-mentioned interesting facts and detail, it can be concluded that the first prime minister of Canada, John Macdonald, was unlike the other prime ministers of Canada. 

With his unique ideas of Canadian unity and progress, john Alexander Macdonald stands out among all other prime ministers of Canada.

When it comes to prime ministership may, prime minister Trudeau is probably the most well-known for Canada internationally. Still, out of all Canada’s prime ministers, the first Canadian prime minister, John Alexander Macdonald, is the greatest.

His guidance for cabinet minister, foreign minister, national defense, Canadian politics, and cabinet committee, leading a progressive conservative party, made him the only Canadian prime minister with an undivided majority government.

Even the deputy prime minister of the Canadian government, which the prime minister-designate himself, called me the best of Canada at that time.

Even two hundred years after his birth, John Macdonald remains relevant in the present politics in Canada. Still, even he wasn’t without his flaws.  Like most other politicians and prime ministers, he, too, was involved in controversies. 

 Unlike many other prime ministers, he remained true to this declaration until death.

“A British subject I was born; a British subject I will die”- John Alexander Macdonald. Before you go, how about checking up on a few more articles?

Last Updated on by Priyanshi Sharma


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