January 11

1815 Birth of the founder of Canada

John Alexander Macdonald was born in Scotland but emigrated to Upper Canada with his family in 1820. They settled in Kingston where Macdonald trained for a career in the law. In 1838 he was in Toronto where he famously defended an accused rebel from the 1837 uprising. His law practice and business thrived; he acquired large real estate holdings and was named the first president of Manufacturers Life Insurance.

Macdonald entered politics first as an alderman in Kingston and then as a representative in the Legislative Assembly, serving in a Conservative administration as receiver general. Canadian political life was in a state of flux; reformers were making demands for responsible government; there were calls to split the united Province of Canada. Macdonald walked a careful line in an alliance with Québec politicians, serving as joint premier from 1857-62.

In the 1860s there was widespread interest in the colonies of British North America for some sort of union and increased independence from Great Britain. Macdonald took part in conferences to help bring those aims to fruition. In 1867 a new nation emerged – a confederation of Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada. Macdonald assumed the office of Prime Minister.

The Canada of 1867 was an enclave in the eastern part of the continent; Macdonald had a vision of a nation that would embrace other British colonies, resist American encroachment, and stretch to the Arctic and the Pacific Oceans. Canada soon acquired the vast territories of the Hudson Bay Company (which became the Northwest Territories), admitted the provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, and began railway projects to bind the country together.

A financial scandal brought down the Macdonald government in 1874 but Sir John (as he now was) returned to power four years later and remained Prime Minister until his death in 1891. These last terms brought about the completion of the transcontinental railway, the defeat of the Northwest Rebellion, and the implementation of a high-tariff National Policy to protect Canadian industry from American competition.

Macdonald was undeniably the greatest Canadian; the equivalent of George Washington,  Alfred the Great, or Giuseppe Mazzini. He has fallen into disfavour in the eyes of today’s hypersensitive pearl-clutchers for his discouragement of Chinese immigration, the execution of Louis Riel, and his part in the establishment of Indian Residential schools. It is the fashion of the day for bien-pensants to regard this country as a racist hell-hole and, thus, Macdonald is now the equivalent of Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper, or J.K. Rowling. Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

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