Page:EB1911 - Volume 17.djvu/226

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character cannot be spoken of too highly; no stain of cruelty or faithlessness rests on him.

Macdonald was especially fortunate in the accounts of his military exploits, Mathieu Dumas and Ségur having been on his staff in Switzerland. See Dumas, Ez/énements militaires; and Ségur's rare tract, Lellre sur la campagne flu Général Macdonald dans les Grisons en 1800 et 180I (1802), and Eloge (1842). His memoirs were published in 1892 (Eng. trans., Recollections of Marshal Macdonald), but are brief and wanting in balance.

MACDONALD, SIR JOHN ALEXANDER (1815-1891), first premier of the dominion of Canada, was born in Glasgow on the 11th of January 1815, the third child of Hugh Macdonald (d. 1841), a native of Sutherlandshire. The family emigrated to Canada in 1820, settling first at Kingston, Ontario. At the age of fifteen Macdonald entered a law office; he was called to the bar in 1836, and began practice in Kingston, with immediate success. Macdonald entered upon his active career at a critical period in the history of Canada, and the circumstances of the time were calculated to stimulate political thought. It was the year before the rebellion of 1837; the condition of the whole country was very unsettled; and it seemed well-nigh impossible to reconcile differences arising from racial and political antagonisms. During the rebellion young Macdonald volunteered for active service, but his military career never went farther than drilling and marching. The mission of Lord Durham; the publication of his famous report; the union of the two Canadas; the administrations of Lord Sydenham, Sir Charles Bagot, and Sir Charles Metcalfe, filled the years immediately succeeding 1837 with intense political interest, and in their results have profoundly influenced the constitution of the British Empire.

Macdonald made his first acquaintance with public business as an alderman of Kingston. In 1844 Sir Charles Metcalfe, in his contest with the Reform party led by Baldwin and Lafontaine, appealed to the electors, and Macdonald was elected to the provincial assembly as Conservative member for Kingston. A sentence in his first address to the electors strikes the dominant note of ' his public career: “ I therefore need scarcely state my firm belief that the prosperity of Canada depends upon its permanent Connexion with the mother country, and that I shall resist to the utmost any attempt (from whatever quarter it may come) which may tend to weaken that union.” He took his seat on the 28th of November as a supporter of the Draper government. During the first three or four years he spoke little, but devoted himself with assiduity to mastering parliamentary forms and the business of the house. His capacity soon attracted attention, and in 1847 he was made receiver general with a seat in the executive council, an office soon exchanged for the more important one of commissioner of Crown-lands. Although the government of which he thus became a member held office for only ten months, being placed in a hopeless minority on making an appeal to the country, Macdonald from this time forward took a position of constantly increasing weight in his party.

One of the first acts of the Reform government which succeeded that of which Macdonald was a member was to pass the Rebellion Losses Bill, made famous in colonial history by the fact that it brought to a crucial test the principle of responsible government. The assent of Lord Elgin to the bill provoked in Montreal a riot which ended in the burning of the houses of parliament, and so great was the indignation of the hitherto ultra-loyal Conservative party that many of its most prominent members signed a document favouring annexation to the United States; Macdonald on the other hand took steps, in conjunction with others, to form a British-American league, having for its object the confederation of all the provinces, the strengthening of the connexion with the mother country, and the adoption of a national commercial policy. He remained in opposition from 1848 till 1854, holding together under difficult circumstances an unpopular party with which he was not entirely in sympathy. The two great political issues of the time were the secularization of the clergy reserves in Ontario, and the abolition of seigniorial tenure in Quebec. Both of these reforms Macdonald long opposed, but when successive elections had proved that they Weresupported by public opinion, he brought about a coalition of Conservatives and moderate reformers for the purpose of carrying them. Out of this coalition was gradually developed the Liberalconservative party, of which until his death Macdonald continued to be the most considerable figure, and which for more than forty years largely moulded the history of Canada. From 1854 to 1857 he was attorney-general of Upper Canada, and then, on the retirement of Colonel Taché, he became prime minister. This first coalition had now accomplished its temporary purpose, but so closely were parties divided at this period, that the defeat and reinstatement of governments followed each other in rapid succession.

The experiment of applying responsible government on party lines to the two Canadian provinces at last seemed to have come to a deadlock. Two general elections and the defeat of four ministries within three years had done nothing to solve the difficulties of the situation. At this critical period a proposal was made for a coalition of parties in order to carry out a broad scheme of British-American confederation. The immediate proposal is said to have come from George Brown; the large political idea had long been advocated by Macdonald and Alexander Galt -in Upper Canada-by Joseph Howe and others in the maritime provinces. The close of the American Civil War, the Fenian raids across the American border, and the dangers incident to the international situation, gave decisive impulse to the movement. Macdonald, at the head of a representative delegation from Ontario and Quebec, met the public men of the maritime provinces in conference at Charlottetown in 1864, and the outline of confederation then agreed upon was filled out in detail at a conference held at Quebec soon afterwards. The actual framing of the British North America Act, into which the resolutions of these two conferences were consolidated, was carried out at the Westminster Palace Hotel in London, during December 1866 and January 1867, by delegates from all the provinces working in co-operation with the law officers of the Crown, under the presidency of Lord Carnarvon, then secretary of state for the colonies. Macdonald took the leading part in all these discussions, and he thus naturally became the first premier of the Dominion. He was made a K.C.B. in recognition of his services to the empire.

The difficulties of organizing the new Dominion, the questions arising from diverse claims and the various conditions of the country, called for infinite tact and resource on the part of the premier. Federal rights were to be safeguarded against' the provincial governments, -always jealous of their privileges. The people of Nova Scotia in particular, dissatisfied with the way in which their province had been drawn into the Union, maintained a fierce opposition to the Ottawa government, until their leader, Joseph Howe, fearing an armed rising, came to an agreement with Macdonald and accepted a seat in his cabinet. The establishment of a supreme court also occupied the attention of Sir John, who had a strong sense of the necessity of maintaining the purity and dignity of the judicial office. The act creating this court was finally passed during' the administration of Alexander Mackenzie. The pledge made at confederation with regard to the building of the Intercolonial railway to connect the maritime provinces with those of the St Lawrence was fulfilled. The North-West Territories were secured as a part of confederated Canada by the purchase of the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the establishment of Manitoba as a province in 1870. Canada's interests were protected during the negotiations which ended in the treaty of Washington in 1871, and in which Sir John took a leading part as one of the British delegates. In thisyear 'British Columbia entered the confederation, one of the provisions of union being that a transcontinental railroad should be built within ten years. This was declared by the opposition to be impossible. It was possible only to a leader of indomitable will. Charges of bribery against the government in Connexion with the contract for the building of this line led to the resignation of the cabinet in 1874, and for four years Sir John was in opposition. But he was by no means inactive. During