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John A. Macdonald facts for kids

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The Right Honourable
Sir John Alexander Macdonald
Macdonald in 1868.
(age 53)
1st Prime Minister of Canada
In office
July 1, 1867 – November 5, 1873
Succeeded by Alexander Mackenzie
In office
October 17, 1878 – June 6, 1891
Preceded by Alexander Mackenzie
Succeeded by John Abbott
Personal details
Born January 11, 1815
Glasgow, Scotland
Died June 6,1891
Ottawa, Ontario
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Isabella Clark (1st wife)
Agnes Bernard (2nd wife)
Children John Alexander (died in infancy) and Hugh John by Isabella;
Mary by Agnes.
Alma mater none (articled with a lawyer in Kingston)
Profession Lawyer

Sir John Alexander Macdonald (11 January 1815 – 6 June 1891) was the first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891). The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, he had a political career which spanned almost half a century.

Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He had four siblings. He was the third of five children.

When he was a boy his family immigrated to Kingston in the Province of Upper Canada (today in eastern Ontario). As a lawyer he was involved in several high-profile cases and quickly became prominent in Kingston, which elected him in 1844 to the legislature of the Province of Canada. By 1857, he had become premier under the colony's unstable political system.

In 1864, when no party proved capable of governing for long, Macdonald agreed to a proposal from his political rival, George Brown, that the parties unite in a Great Coalition to seek federation and political reform. Macdonald was the leading figure in the discussions, which resulted in the British North America Act and the birth of Canada as a nation on 1 July 1867. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of the new nation, and served 19 years.

He was re-elected in 1878, continuing until he died in office in 1891.

Macdonald was in office from 1867 to 1873 and again from 1878 to 1891, making him the second longest-serving Prime Minister of Canada and the only one to win six majority governments.

Macdonald did not speak French as well the Prime Ministers that came after him, but he could speak Scottish Gaelic and a bit of Latin.

One of the things Sir John A. Macdonald wanted to do was to build a transcontinental railway that would link Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. That railway, called the Canadian Pacific Railway, was completed in 1885.

Macdonald's greatest achievements were building and guiding a successful national government and completing the Canadian Pacific Railway. He died in 1891, still in office; he is respected today for his key role in the formation of Canada. Historical rankings have consistently placed Macdonald as one of the highest rated Prime Ministers in Canadian history.

Legacy and memorials

Canada 1 cent 1927
Canadian stamp honouring Macdonald, 1927

Macdonald served just under 19 years as prime minister, a length of service only surpassed by William Lyon Mackenzie King. In polls, Macdonald has consistently been ranked as one of the greatest prime ministers in Canadian history. No cities or political subdivisions are named for Macdonald (with the exception of a small Manitoba village), nor are there any massive monuments. A peak in the Rockies, Mount Macdonald (c. 1887) at Rogers Pass, is named for him. In 2001, Parliament designated January 11 as Sir John A. Macdonald Day, but the day is not a federal holiday and generally passes unremarked. He appears on Canadian ten-dollar notes printed between 1971 and 2018. In 2015, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Macdonald's face on the Canadian two dollar coin, the Toonie, to celebrate his 200th birthday. He also gives his name to Ottawa's Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway (River Parkway before 2012), Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (renamed in 1993) and Ontario Highway 401 (the Macdonald–Cartier Freeway c. 1968).

Sir John A Macdonald Monument Montreal - 03
The statue in the Macdonald Monument in Montreal in 2011

A number of sites associated with Macdonald are preserved. His gravesite has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Bellevue House in Kingston, where the Macdonald family lived in the 1840s, is also a National Historic Site administered by Parks Canada, and has been restored to that time period. His Ottawa home, Earnscliffe, is the official residence of the British High Commissioner to Canada. Statues have been erected to Macdonald across Canada; one stands on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (by Louis-Philippe Hebert c. 1895). A statue of Macdonald stands atop a granite plinth originally intended for a statue of Queen Victoria in Toronto's Queen's Park, looking south on University Avenue. Macdonald's statue also stood in Kingston's City Park; the Kingston Historical Society annually holds a memorial service in his honour. On June 18, 2021, following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the statue of Macdonald was removed from Kingston's City Park after city council voted 12–1 in favour of its removal, and is set to be installed at Cataraqui Cemetery where Macdonald is buried. In 2018, a statue of Macdonald was removed from outside Victoria City Hall, as part of the city's program for reconciliation with local First Nations. Macdonald's biographers note his contribution to establishing Canada as a nation. Swainson suggests that Macdonald's desire for a free and tolerant Canada became part of its national outlook and contributed immeasurably to its character. Gwyn said Macdonald's accomplishments of Confederation and building the Canadian railroad were great, but he was also responsible for scandals and bad government policy for the execution of Riel and the head tax on Chinese workers. In 2017, the Canadian Historical Association had voted to remove Macdonald's name from their prize for best scholarly book about Canadian history. Historian James Daschuk acknowledges Macdonald's contributions as a founding figure of Canada, but states "He built the country. But he built the country on the backs of the Indigenous people." A biographical online article about Macdonald was deleted from the Scottish government's website in August 2018. A spokesperson for the Scottish government stated: "We acknowledge controversy around Sir John A Macdonald's legacy and the legitimate concerns expressed by Indigenous communities". On July 5, 2021, Canada's national library, Library and Archives Canada, deleted its web page on Canada's prime ministers, "First Among Equals", calling it "outdated and redundant".

Honorary degrees

Macdonald was awarded the following honorary degrees:

Location Date School Degree
Canada West 1863 Queen's University at Kingston Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 England 1865 University of Oxford Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.)
Ontario 1889 University of Toronto Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: John Alexander Macdonald para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Influential Hispanic activists
Janet Murguía
Nelson Merced
Jovita Idar
Dolores Huerta
María Teresa Kumar
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