Monday, December 13, 2004

Sir John A. Macdonald = The Greatest Canadian?

Well he had to be up there somewhere among the top ten. I mean, Sir John A. Macdonald was the first PM of Canada. He was even knighted for helping to bring about Confederation among the provinces. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1815 and moved to Upper Canada when he was five.

Now, besides being known as a roaring drunk, he also led the Conservative Party for 24 years and in 1856 became the leader of Upper Canada in government. He also became friends with George-Etienne Cartier who was the Conservative leader in Lower Canada.

There was an idea of a Coalition between the provinces. Originally John thought it would mean a weak central government but he soon warmed up to the idea. To accomplish the union he'd need the Maritimes but they weren't too keen to join. They were prosperous on their own and knew that they'd suffer if they joined Confederation. In the end, only New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Confederation along with the province of Canada on July 1, 1867.

One of the things he did was acquire Rupert's Land. It belonged to the British and the US wanted it, offering a large sum to buy it. But Britain gave it to Canada for 300,000 pounds. This of course had repercussions, most notably a conflict with a man named Riel and his Rebellion. This land would eventually be expanded and become what is now known as Manitoba.

Then John turned his eye on BC and the gold rush. Many Americans who had come there for the gold, encouraged union with the US and because of the Rockies, the land was cut off from the rest of Canada. John saw the solution to be a railroad that stretched from one side of the country to the other. It was a good idea and a great achievement but the railway would eventually destroy him. Okay, it wouldn't really destroy him but he would lose an election over it. This was mainly due to the "Pacific Scandal". In 1872, John picked Sir Hugh Allan to form a company to build a railroad. But the thing that he did wrong was promise Sir Hugh a majority in railroad stock in exchange for election funding. ($350,000)

After having survived through Confederation, a Rebellion, a Railroad and a Scandal, John finally passed away on June 6, 1891. He's buried in Cataraqui Cemetery near Kingston, Ontario.

Quote: "When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head, smile and say 'We are going to have a summer shower'."
- Sir John A. Macdonald

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