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Monday, 11 January 2016

Remembering John A Macdonald

Author: Robert Finn@RobertFinn12

Sir John Alexander Macdonald is Canada’s greatest prime minister. Let us examine the facts: without Macdonald, Canada wouldn’t have existed. And, if it did, it wouldn’t last for long. No man besides Macdonald had the political skill, practical judgement, amiability, or drive to achieve the impossible: Canada.

He gave Canada a vision of nationhood. He, likewise, gave Canada the means to achieve nationhood: he gave us a backbone and a nationality. By giving us the Pacific Railway he gave us the former, the National Policy the latter.

Macdonald, unlike most of our “great” prime ministers, did not come from privilege. He rose to influence and power by his own assets, of which he had many: he was practical, he wasn’t an idealist, he had a great sense of humour, he stood out by wearing outlandish clothes, he was amiable even to his most vehement opponents, and, most important, he knew how to interact with everyone.

Of course most remember him as a drunk and as a racist. He also has been claimed to have started “Native genocide”; however, why would a man start a genocide on the people he gave the right to vote on the basis of the same property qualification as white men? Here’s something else you might not know: in 1867, Macdonald proposed universal suffrage. Another fact!: he gave workers the rights to form unions.

Also, he didn’t see Canada as two distinct nations. Though he firmly saw Canada as a part of the British Empire- “As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born; a British subject I will die”- he did not see Canada as a division between different ethnicities. Rather, he saw Canada as Canada, and all therein in Canadians- “Let us be English or let us be French... but above all let us be Canadians”.

Sir John A. Macdonald was our prime minister for 19 years. He created and protected Canada through all the tragedies and triumphs, foibles and follies of the 19th Century. He won 6 elections, and died while still firmly in the saddle. He may have been a drunk, but he was the greatest drunk in the long annals of mankind. And Sir John Alexander Macdonald was, beyond all doubt or dispute, the greatest prime minister Canada ever had, and ever will have.