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John A. Macdonald, 1815-1891 First Prime Minister of Canadian Confederation - Biography
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John A. Macdonald, Montreal, 1863

John A. Macdonald, Montreal, 1863
Photo: William Notman McCord Museum, Montreal, Notman Photographic Archives

Signature of John A. Macdonald
Canadian Museum of Civilization Library
FC 25 M342 v.18


Sir John A. Macdonald was the chief architect of modern Canada. In his youth, British North America was a patchwork of separate colonies; by the time of his death, Canada stretched from sea to sea. Shrewd and charismatic, Macdonald persuaded New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to join Québec and Ontario in forming Confederation in 1867. He was the main author of the young country's constitution and its first Prime Minister.

Macdonald devoted his later career to expanding the country, tying it together with a transcontinental railway, and populating it with white settlers. To these ends, his government implemented policies designed to displace, control, and assimilate Indigenous people while also working to prevent Asians from immigrating and voting. These policies and their legacies have made Macdonald a deeply controversial figure.

quote If we wish to form... a great nationality, commanding the respect of the world, able to hold our own against all opponents, and to defend those institutions we prize... this can only be obtained by a union of some kind between the scattered and weak boundaries composing the British North American Provinces. quote

John A. Macdonald, 1865

quote I have reason to believe that the agents as a whole... are doing all they can, by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense. quote

Sir John A. Macdonald, 1882

Signature of John A. Macdonald

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