As Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald laid the groundwork for a united and prosperous Canada. In 1820, at the age of five, he arrived in Canada from Glasgow, with his parents. His family settled in Kingston, Ontario which remained his home for most of his life.
Sir John A. Macdonald’s Early Years
As a youngster, Macdonald attended John Cruikshank’s grammar school. Then at the age of fifteen, he began an apprenticeship in law. His work as an article clerk allowed MacDonald to gain practical legal experience under the guidance of experienced lawyers. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, he embarked upon a successful legal career. His early work showcased his commitment to justice and democratic principles through his representation of clients from diverse backgrounds and his commitment to providing equal access to legal representation.
Advocate for Representation by Population
In the early stages of his political career, Macdonald advocated for a more representative democratic system. He argued for “representation by population,” emphasizing the need for elected officials to reflect the population size of their respective constituencies. This principle aimed to ensure fair and equitable representation for all citizens, aligning with democratic ideals of equal political voice.
Championing Responsible Government
Macdonald played a significant role in promoting the concept of responsible government in Canada. He advocated for accountable governance and the idea that elected representatives should be responsible to the people rather than a Governor-General or a reigning monarch. This principle became a cornerstone of Canada’s political system, emphasizing democratic principles and public accountability.
Development of Political Alliances
Macdonald’s established political alliances based on shared goals and principles. He formed close partnerships with individuals such as George-Étienne Cartier, a prominent French-Canadian politician, to bridge regional divides and achieve national unity. This collaboration showcased Macdonald’s dedication to promoting inclusivity and democratic decision-making.
Role in Confederation
Macdonald’s most significant contribution to Canadian democracy and nation-building was his leadership in Confederation. Without question, MacDonald played a pivotal role in bringing together the colonies of British North America to form the Dominion of Canada. This monumental achievement demonstrated his commitment to democratic governance, as Confederation represented a cooperative approach among the various regions to build a united and democratic nation.
First Parliament of the Province of Canada (1844)
Macdonald won his first political seat in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1844, representing Kingston (Upper Canada) now known as Ontario.
Continuation as Member of Parliament (1857 – 1873)
Macdonald consistently won re-election as a Member of Parliament for Kingston after his initial victory.
Macdonald was a leading figure in Canada’s Confederation resulting in the formation of Canada as a federal dominion in 1867.
Following Confederation, Macdonald helped establish the Conservative Party and became the first Prime Minister of Canada, serving from 1867 to 1873.
Legacy and Inspiration
Throughout Macdonald’s political career, his focus was on national unity, infrastructure development, and economic growth. He played a vital role in shaping the early years of a young nation and laying the foundations of the Canadian political system. His determination, vision, and tenacity continue to inspire generations of Canadians. Promoting a forward-thinking, inclusive, and economically robust society are values rooted in Macdonald’s legacy.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Vancouver, BC, Canada