Sir John A Macdonald
Without question John A Macdonald is the greatest Canadian Prime Minister of all time. He created this country, built the world's first continental railroad, and protected us from American imperialism. A Scottish highlander who immigrated to Canada who would become a politician for 47 years, and leader of the Conservatives for 36 years, and prime minister for 25 years. He was born in the year 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland. In that year Napolean was still emperor of France. He died on June 11, 1891 when Germany and Italy were unified. Politicians such as Abraham Lincoln only served for nine years, and historical events such as the American Civil war and Franco-Prussian war were only brief flicker points in the life of Sir John.
One of the most remarkable aspects of his politican life was his ability to forge alliances. He befriended Geroge E.M. Cartier which all Canadians look upon today as the basis for the English-Canada alliance in Canada today. To built this country he achieved something that no other Canadian Prime Minister has been able to do since - get all Canadian premiers and opposition leaders to sign a constutional document. Trudeau did it, but he didn't have the support of Quebec. In order to create the dominion of Canada, Macdonald did the unthinkable by forging a political alliance with his life-long rival George Brown. He was the main author of the Dominion Act that created a country from sea to sea.
But what really sets Macdonald apart from all other Canadian politicians was the construction of the intercontinental railroad. This massive project was a key incentive for Brittish Columbia in joining the union. During union negoiations the leaders of Brittish Columbia wanted a wagon road to eastern Canada. They were absolutely stunned when the Macdonald government gave them more than they wanted when he proposed building a ribbon of steal to the Pacific. To build the railroad requiring shrewed deal making. To get the railroad built Macdonald had to hire an American - William Van Horne. He was a slave driver that was responsible for the death of thousands of Chinese workers. Despite the human cost, the financial cost, and the Pacific scandal was responsible for the halting of the railroad construction. Macdonald was soon defeated and it appeared that the construction of the railroad was finished. During this time there were rumours of Macdonald's suicide. The Government of MacKenzie King was proposing a Free Trade Agreement with the Americans. In outrage Canadians brought back their leader, and contruction of the railroad continued. As the railroad finally reached the priaire provinces, Canada experienced its first open inserrection against the government. Louis Riel proclaimed an independent state and lead the Metis resistance. With the help of the railroad hundreds of volunteers were able to be deployed within days. The rebellion was soon crushed. Later Macdonald's most controvesial decision was made as he decided to hang Riel for treason. Despite emotional appeals from the Governments of the United States and Great Britain Riel was hanged on November 16, 1885. This was just a week after November 9th when the last spike was laid at Craigechellie.
In relations with the United States there was very little move to manoever. He was forced to remain friendly and almost sub-servient to American politicans. He guaranteed Canada's status as a nation with the signing of the Washington treaty in 1870. Throughout his career he campainged against Free Trade with America and was very protective against American intervention. In a 1891 campaign speech Macdonald stated:
"But if it should happen that we should be absorbed in the United States, the name of Canada would be literally forgotten; we should have the State of Ontario, the State of Quebec, the State of Nova Scotia and State of New Brunswick. Every one of the provinces would be a state, but where is the grand, the glorious name of Canada? All I can say is that not with me, or not by the action of my friends, or not by the action of the people of Canada, will such a disaster come upon us."
Also John A Macdonald was one of the most colourful figures in Canadian history. In his first visit to the White House he met with the Fist Lady who didn't know who she was talking to. She responded is it true that the Canadian Prime Minister is Intelligent? Yes Madam. How about witty? Yes Maddam. Is it true that he is a Public Drunkard? Yes Maddam. When the President introduced the PM to her, he wispered in her ear that, all the things that she said were true. Also he owns the dubious record of being the only politician to throw up in the House of Commons which he shot back at the opposition:
" I get sick sometimes not because of drink or any other cause, except that I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honorable opponent."
The following is the speech that Wilfrid Laurier gave to parliament following the death of John A. Macdonald.
"The place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to conceive that the politics of this country -- the fate of this country -- will continue without him. His loss overwhelms us. For my part, I say, with all truth, his loss overwhelms me, and that it also overwhelms this Parliament, as if indeed one of the institutions of the land had given way. Sir John A. Macdonald now belongs to the ages, and it can be said with certainty that the career which has just been closed is one of the most remarkable careers of this century ... As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of Canada. It may be said without any exaggeration whatever, that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the time he entered Parliament, is the history of Canada."
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