Macdonald and His Biographers

Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-91) was first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada. This review article was published in British Journal of Canadian Studies, xvi (2001), pp. 300-19.

 

MACDONALD AND HIS BIOGRAPHERS

 

'Anybody can write anybody else's life,' Macdonald once remarked; 'you cannot stop them'.1 For half a century, 'Anybody' has been Donald Creighton, and the re-issue of his two-volume biography of Canada's first prime minister, with an introductory essay by Peter Waite, suggests that it is indeed unstoppable. The first key to the assessment of any biographer is an understanding of the biographer, and never more so than in this case.2 Waite is too modest to point out that the best available account of Macdonald's career is now to be found not in Creighton, but in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography essay of which he is co-author. 3

One reason why Creighton has dominated Macdonald biography is that he largely ignored his predecessors. There were, he observed in 1947, 'two curious and unexpected facts' about Macdonald biography: 'there is not very much of it' and it was not very recent. Historians had 'walked all round Macdonald without troubling to look at him'. Macdonald did not fit comfortably into the dominant historiography which Creighton lampooned as 'the Authorized Version of our nation's story, the Liberal or Grit interpretation'. The teleological Colony to Nation theme had devalued Canadian biography by reducing individuals to abstract agents of a greater cause. 'Are there really biographies of Baldwin, Hincks, and Laurier, or are these merely lives of Robert Responsible-Government, Francis Responsible-Government, and Wilfrid Responsible-Government?'4 Creighton's riposte, it might be said, equally by-passed the real Macdonald to give us John A. Confederation and Sir John A. National-Policy.

Creighton sternly ignored one earlier compiler altogether. E.B. Biggar's Anecdotal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald cashed in on a wave of nostalgia produced by Macdonald's death in 1891. Biggar is remembered today as a principal source for the stories of that other Macdonald, the folkloric drunk, who co-exists alongside the solemn Father of Confederation. In fact, Biggar offered glimpses of many other aspects of his hero's life, even daringly hinting at his relations with women.5 Moreover, as a rival biographer said of Macdonald legends in general, 'there are many incidents which have the local colouring so well-defined that their authenticity cannot be doubted'.6 Creighton occasionally used stories from Pope and Macpherson, respectively Sir John A.'s secretary and his nephew. Pope was a reluctant official biographer. He laboured under the injunction of his subject's formidable widow to produce 'a faithful and agreeable biography', not to mention the natural concern of an Ottawa civil servant that he should 'walk warily' in case the Grits won the next election.7  Although dismissed by the gung-ho Lord Minto as 'a very dry dog',8 Pope did his job well, both in the carefully coded biography and in his subsequent edition of Macdonald's correspondence.9 Indeed, Creighton based much of his own analysis upon documents that his forerunner had already put into print. Macpherson was less impressive. A later biographer tactfully remarked that his book 'embodied many of his uncle's most important speeches'.10 Apart from a few stray recollections, even the family connection added little to Macpherson's work. 'I am aware of the great value that would attach to these pages,' he confessed sadly, 'were I able to say that they had been revised and approved by the late Premier.' 11

In one respect, however, Creighton was profoundly influenced by Pope. Over-ruled in his wish 'to allow some years to elapse' before tackling the biography, Pope did manage to insist that his account 'should not come down as a connected narrative later than 1873'.12 This approach obscured the fact that 1873 was the pivot of Macdonald's career. By default, Pope fell back on 1867 as the dividing line between his two volumes, resuming his narrative with a wonderful piece of biographical sleight of hand. 'Sir John Macdonald has been more than once known to observe that his greatest triumphs were won before Confederation.'13 This unlikely claim set the scene for a volume that tailed away after just six years. The thin gruel was disguised by the lengthy padding of Macdonald's part in the negotiations for the Treaty of Washington, which Pope claimed his master had wished to make known to posterity.14  Characteristically, Pope omitted to add that Macdonald used the Washington Treaty to blackmail the British into making available seed-money for the Pacific railway, an episode that was indeed to show Creighton at his scholarly best.15 However, Creighton followed Pope in accepting that 1867 divided 'the two great periods into which Macdonald's career naturally falls'.16 As a result, the central if rarely noticed weakness of Creighton's portrayal of Macdonald lies in its artificial caesura between young politician and old chieftain.

Ostensibly, Creighton based his portrait upon archival sources, notably the 500 volumes of Macdonald's own papers. This is what we should expect from a scholar who insisted that graduate students work from the primary evidence, who even took his own proofs to the Public Archives to re-check the quotations.17 However, it is not the whole story. In his controversial last years, Creighton himself condemned the Canadian historians for 'grubbing in archives', placing such 'an exaggerated valuation on the evidence of unpublished documents -- which they themselves have toiled so hard to get' that they ignored 'the merits of printed letters, diaries, memoirs and speeches'.18 This was not wholly self-accusation, since Creighton had spread his own net widely, even if one of the chief deficiencies in his use of sources was his relative under-use of descriptive and atmospheric newspaper material, a source that Waite quarried so brilliantly in The Life and Times of Confederation. More seriously, Creighton seems never to have questioned the basic fact of the existence of Sir John A.'s private papers. John A. was neither patrician nor plutocrat. He lacked the wealth and the country house that usually went with the accumulation of personal archives in British public life. In fact, to Macdonald, archives were a political weapon: 'never write a letter if you can help it,' he once remarked, 'and never destroy one'.19 The historian's suspicions ought to have been aroused by Pope's loyal comment that there was 'very little in anything Sir John Macdonald left behind him which might not be proclaimed upon the housetops'.20 Almost by definition, the Macdonald papers would generate a biography that viewed his career as Macdonald would have intended us to see it.

Nor was this all. Where Pope, the Victorian amateur, had provided massive extracts from documents as a do-it-yourself history kit, Creighton not only avoided extensive quotation but was sometimes arbitrary in his selections. Waite demonstrates that in 1869, Macdonald was sympathetic to the Metis, 'these poor people', and even wrote that 'it was not to be wondered at' that they threatened resistance. Creighton quoted the first sentiment, which showed Macdonald as a good guy, but omitted the second, probably because it conflicted with his own belief that those who obstructed Canada's Laurentian destiny were bad guys. Yet, Waite suggests, the second sentiment is arguably the more important.21

Creighton was equally cavalier in conscripting the past in the interests of the Conservative party of which he was a lifelong supporter. 'A central misfortune of the Conservative Party of the 1950s,' he would later write, 'lay in the fact that it lacked a comprehensive and coherent body of doctrine.'22 Somehow, the party's loss of direction seemed linked to their inability to define the heritage of Macdonald. As Allan Fotheringham put it: 'The Tories have never got over the shock of Sir John A. shucking his gin bottle for the last time.'23 In 1942, they had re-branded themselves as the 'Progressive Conservatives'. In shifting factional politics ninety years earlier, Macdonald had sought the centre ground, aiming 'to embrace every person desirous of being counted as a progressive Conservative'.24 On the basis of this single sentence, Creighton entitled a whole chapter, 'The Victory of the Progressive-Conservatives'. Not surprisingly, for the PC party a century later, 'Creighton's Macdonald was a timely gift', inspiring Diefenbaker to campaign for a Canada of the North as John A. had once evoked the vision of a Canada in the west.25 Now little more than a saucy chapter heading survives to remind us that the great biography was also a partisan tract for its times.

Creighton departed from the strict path of archival reconstruction in another and more breath-taking fashion. As a business and political archive, the Macdonald papers throw relatively little light on the man himself.26  Since little correspondence survived from either of his marriages, Macdonald biography cannot be enriched by the kind of material that J.M.S. Careless tracked down for his life of George Brown, in the form of a trunk full of family letters located in the Highlands of Scotland. This material enabled Careless to conjure up a far gentler picture of Macdonald's great enemy than either the public record or Creighton's demonology had suggested. Both in portrayal and political analysis, Brown of the Globe has been unfairly overshadowed by Creighton's Macdonald. Yet precisely because Careless could re-create a loving husband and father, his study understates the fundamental truth that, outside the home, George Brown was a bully and a bigot.

How did Creighton make good the deficiency of the material in personal portraiture? The answer is simple, and shocking. He made it up. Waite describes Creighton as 'a sorcerer around a campfire telling the story of a great adventure'. It is no accident that he was one of the few serious historians ever to have published a novel. Where the documents were inadequate for the historian, the novelist stepped in. Take, for example, the notorious passage describing the attack of gallstones that felled Macdonald in 1870: 'the pain was upon him, like a wild animal, savage, implacable, immitigable. ... He clutched the table, swayed, tried to recover his balance, and fell blindly across the carpet'. This is strong stuff, and it probably happened like that, but can the description be squared with Ranke's definition of history, 'as it really was'? Nobody can doubt the huge importance of the letter that Macdonald received from the governor-general, Lord Dufferin, at the climax of the Pacific scandal, warning that 'your personal connection with what has passed cannot but fatally affect your position as minister'. Yet on what evidence could Creighton decide to italicise those last six words and tell us that 'Macdonald stared at the conclusion'? 27

If it makes for a good 'read', does it matter that Creighton infused his imagination into the dusty parchments? In one case, it led him to gloss over a biographical enigma. Macdonald was 22 when Upper Canada was rocked by rebellions in 1837. Already a community activist, he could hardly have dodged some form of involvement in the episode. 'I carried my musket in '37', he would say in his later years, and Pope believed that he had served with a militia company somewhere near Toronto.28  Creighton silently relegated the Yonge Street uprising to the sidelines and instead placed Macdonald 'almost certainly among the 1500 militiamen and armed civilians' who assembled to defend Kingston against a subsequent cross-border attack.29 In fact, on the fiftieth anniversary of Mackenzie's uprising, Macdonald recalled that he had marched in the attack on Montgomery's Tavern. Since the correspondence did not come to light until 1967, Creighton cannot be faulted for failing to make use of it. Yet its discovery prompted J.K. Johnson to ask an obvious question: why did a man who placed so much emphasis upon the British connection say so little about his own role in fighting for it?30 Should we trace Macdonald's devotion to coalition and consensus (including his partnership with that reformed rebel, George-Etienne Cartier) to revulsion against his sole experience of violent conflict, an episode which he preferred to obscure? With an air of omniscience, Creighton asserted that Macdonald's part in the rebellion was limited to 'some drill and target-practice, some marching and counter-marching', with 'no fighting whatsoever'. As a result, he failed to pursue an intriguing negative clue about Macdonald's later silence.

Indeed, Creighton had relatively little to say about Macdonald's early life. Background and youth are the keys to understanding most people, but those first years are generally the least well-documented phase in the lives of the famous. A biographer keen to capture personality will seize upon the smallest shreds of information and try to make sense of them in terms of the subject's later life. Yet Creighton ignored not just the tales of Biggar but most of the scraps recorded by Pope and Macpherson as well. Perhaps he did not wish his earliest chapters to tread too closely in the footsteps of his predecessors. Perhaps, too, John A. Macdonald was not his real focus at all.

In 1969, Creighton acknowledged that his two volumes on Macdonald formed part of 'a trilogy on one theme'. That theme was identified in the opening work, The Commercial Empire of the St Lawrence, published in 1937. 'The protagonist ... was the River itself; but it was obvious that the River could not play the same dominating role in the period after 1850.' Working upon Macdonald, he 'stumbled upon the only satisfactory method of writing the second phase of the history of the Empire of the St. Lawrence'.31 Hence Macdonald could not be shaped by normal human influences, but had to emerge from the upheavals of 1849 as a fully formed moderate Conservative, just as the St Lawrence itself has neither source nor headwaters, but flows broad and strong out of Lake Ontario beside John A.'s home town of Kingston.

The link can be seen in the first and last sentences of the biography. 'In those days they came usually by boat.' The opening sentence of The Young Politician is oddly understated, and it was criticised when it first appeared.32  An earlier biographer, Edmund Collins, had used a similar device, imagining 'a bright-eyed little boy' on board a ship out at sea and peering at the 'blue, hazy hills' of his new homeland.33 Creighton shifted the location to a river, indeed the River. The form of the brief sentence was intended to convey a daring subliminal message. Imbued with the vocabulary of the United Church, Creighton felt no inhibitions in deriding the Grit orthodoxy of Canadian history in terms such as 'Holy Writ', 'Authorized Version' and 'Book of Genesis'.34 Here he moved from sacrilege to the hint of blasphemy, with a sentence that defined his biography as the Gospel According to John A. In Macdonald, the river was become flesh. If The Empire of the St Lawrence was Creighton's Old Testament; the biography of Macdonald would be the New. Over one thousand pages later, we are led from Macdonald's graveside at Kingston, through the town to the harbour and the islands 'and beyond the islands the St. Lawrence River began its long journey to the sea'.35 Earlier biographers had concluded their accounts with the funeral, since it was a notable public event in recent memory when they wrote.36 Creighton was alone in not only committing Macdonald's body to the ground but returning his spirit to the river whence it had come.

Another unusual influence upon Creighton was his enthusiasm for grand opera: Waite gives us a glimpse of a dying man moved to tears by Der Rosenkavalier.37 Creighton's devotion to Wagner was dismissed by Establishment friends with the same 'majestic condescension' that scorned his Toryism. For Creighton, Wagner was a writer's composer. He contended that there was 'a basic similarity' between the operatic use of musical motif and the historian's development of a theme, however 'absurd and pretentious' it might seem to compare 'an historian's prosaic methods with Wagner's beautiful, haunting musical device'. 38  Behind Creighton's St Lawrence trilogy lie elements from Wagner's Ring Cycle. The River Rhine is replaced by the St Lawrence, and the Rhinegold for which gods, heroes and Nibelung struggle is represented by Canada's Laurentian imperial destiny. Macdonald, with his black curly hair, was not an obvious Siegfried, although his second wife, Agnes, could have been typecast as Bruennhilde. Wagner's bad guys, the Nibelung, are ugly, treacherous gnomes who worked in the bowels of the earth, recalling Underhill's sneer that in the pages of Creighton, 'those political leaders who collided with Macdonald were not only intellectually deficient and morally delinquent but also physically repulsive'.39 Where else in Canadian history could we read that Louis Riel was 'determined to pull down the heavens' in 1885?40 Perhaps most Wagnerian of all is the closing image of The Commercial Empire of the St Lawrence, which fades on the blazing parliament buildings during the riots of 1849. The conflagration 'was symbolic of the blind urge towards disavowal and destruction; and the hopes of successive generations of Canadians, consumed in a last blaze of anger, were reflected in the red sky over Montreal'.41 This is a picture in words of the final scene of Goetterdammerung, in which the reddening sky shows that the gods have set fire to Valhalla, just as the British in 1849 sacrificed the empire of the St Lawrence. Far-fetched? The chapter on 1849 in The Young Politician is entitled 'The Twilight of the Tory Party'.

By dissociating Macdonald 'from the maddened extremism of his party' in 1849, Creighton could build the first volume of the biography, but second of the trilogy, around a hero dedicated 'to the idea of a separate, British future in North America'.42 There was a heavy biographical price to be paid for this rendering of Macdonald as a symbol of Laurentian renewal. Creighton failed to explore his background and formative years, and was consequently unable to trace the origins of Macdonald's personality traits in adult life. Little attention is given to the influence of John A.'s parents. At fifteen, Macdonald was forced to earn his living because his father was 'unequal to the responsibilities of the head of a family'.43 It was John A's mother who was the stronger personality. The parallels with William Lyon Mackenzie King are striking.

Macdonald turned to his mother's extended family for his own sense of self-worth, most notably when he visited Britain in 1842, travelling in some style thanks to a lucky streak as a card-player.44  It is noteworthy that he visited Scotland in March 1842, at just the moment when the Kirk was in turmoil thanks to a rumbling dispute between Church and State which culminated in the famous Disruption the following year. The Ten Years Conflict posed searing issues for Scots all over the world: it was the Disruption that brought George Brown to Toronto to produce a Free Church news-sheet that quickly spawned the Globe.45  The crisis in the Kirk represented a social and political division: democrats and the disadvantaged supported the secessionists, the privileged and conservative backed the status quo. Macdonald could hardly have visited Scotland in the spring of 1842 without hearing about the crisis in his own Church. Yet there is not the slightest indication, then or later, that he was stirred by the issues. His Macpherson and Clark cousins were army officers and gentlefolk. Macdonald, in short, was on the side of the lairds. When, in his first election campaign in 1844 (as, memorably, in his last in 1891), Macdonald pledged himself to Canada's 'permanent connection with the Mother Country',46 he was deriving his own personal sense of self-worth from his mother's extended family back 'home'. It is surely worth noting that the founder of the Canadian nation imported both his wives from Britain, the first of them being his cousin (and his mother's niece), Isabella Clark. It may well be that Macdonald entered politics because elected office offered the only means of conferring the status that could bridge the gap between his mother's social background in Scotland and his father's dismal record in the colony.

'I had no boyhood', Sir John A. once said in old age.47 It is curious that Creighton passed over this remark, since it could be made to fit with the picture of a Macdonald emerging fully formed as a Wagnerian champion against evil. By the age of fifteen, he was earning his own living. At seventeen, he was managing a branch law office. A more robust biographical analysis might have traced some of his later personality traits to the forced maturity of a lively teenager. Both Pope and Creighton quote a letter that Macdonald received shortly before his eighteenth birthday from his boss, George Mackenzie, who was soon to perish in the cholera epidemic. Neither biographer asked why this document came to be preserved. Did Macdonald hang on to it because it said something important about him? Criticising Macdonald's 'dead-and-alive' manner, Mackenzie told him that he was not 'so free and lively with the people as a young man eager for their good will should be.' In short, the teenage boy fast-tracked into adult life needed to lighten up a bit.48

Throughout his life, the 'buoyancy'49 of Macdonald's suppressed adolescent personality broke through the veneer of forced maturity. 'Socially, he was a delightful man to come in contact with,' wrote one disapproving biographer, 'though perhaps a greater restraint upon himself and more dignity of manner would have become his position and honours.'50 It was this emotional duality that so effectively placed Macdonald on the wavelength of ordinary Canadians:

 

Sometimes, by a familiar word or two, you see him levelling distinctions between himself and the audience ...; you observe that one and all, the farmer, the labourer, the mechanic, feel that they and the prime-minister are assembled there on a common mission -- the prime-minister only happens to be prime-minister, and speaking then; any one else, also, might have been -- the I is lost in the we ...

 

Yet gradually 'the crowd is led to see that the speaker is the man who is doing their work best'.51 Pope tells the story of a country meeting that was to begin with a torchlight procession in Macdonald's honour, which he was too exhausted to attend. 'I saw a stalwart farmer deliberately throw his lighted torch in the mud, exclaiming ... "I have driven twenty-three miles to-day over bad roads to carry a torch for John A., and I'll be d----d if I carry it for any one else."'52 It was this hot-line to the people of Canada that enabled Macdonald, according to Biggar, to claim that 'you would rather have John A. drunk than George Brown sober'.53

Biographers have had difficulty in confronting the truth that 'John A. drunk' was an integral part of the story. Pope's allusion to 'an occasional irregularity' was so cautious that Goldwin Smith missed it altogether.54 A later biographer went so far as to seek the advice of the governor-general on the propriety of referring to the problem at all.55  More recently, Johnson and Waite 'confront the legend that Macdonald was a chronic drunkard': he drank, they admit, but was it such a problem?56 Contemporaries thought so. Sir Edmund Head had to send his private secretary to extricate Macdonald from one binge.57 Macdonald was so drunk at the farewell dinner in Head's honour that he rushed from the room to vomit.58  His incapacity during the debates on the Militia Bill in 1862 did nothing to strengthen a failing ministry.59 He was 'often drunk' during the Quebec Conference, as he designed the new constitution for British North America.60 Although Minister of Militia at the time of the Fenian attacks in 1866, Macdonald was 'so drunk as to be incapable of all official business for days together'.61 That August, the Globe broke the silence on the issue, reporting that the Attorney-General West had appeared in parliament 'in a state of gross intoxication, his remarks being quite wild and incoherent', so much so that he moved the same business twice in succession. 'We do not believe that a Minister of the Crown was ever before seen to hold on to his desk to prevent himself from falling ... with utterance so thick as to be almost incomprehensible'. Pope called this 'a more than usually vile attack'. Yet there is something in the Globe's defence that 'in twelve years of bitter controversy' it had 'scorned to use the vices of the member for Kingston as a political weapon'.62

If, as I suggest below, Macdonald's sudden decision to marry Agnes Bernard was prompted by the need to get a grip on his weakness, the solution was only partially successful. 'John A. carried out of the lunchroom, hopelessly drunk,' a civil servant noted in May 1867. 'What a prospect Mrs. John A. has before her!'63 Galt complained that Macdonald was in a 'weak maudlin state' during the difficult negotiations for the formation of the first Dominion cabinet the following month, an episode that Creighton briefly describes as if triumphant and trouble-free.64 There were more sprees in the two following years. A British politician noted that Macdonald 'breaks out in this fashion once or twice in the year; and the habit is so well understood that no especial notice is taken of it'. However, there were complaints during the Red River crisis 'not that the minister should be drunk for a week together, but that he should not have waited till the urgent business on hand was disposed of'.65 During the Pacific Scandal of 1873, Macdonald left the government rudderless as he sought solace from the bottle.66 'Down to middle life and beyond Sir John Macdonald had periodical "sprees",' Willison recalled, adding 'and nothing that he attempted was done badly.'67 Even if Macdonald was not a 'chronic' alcoholic, the adjective offers but a small defence for a leader who succumbed so often under pressure.

Macdonald did eventually overcome his problem. Dufferin thought he had turned a corner by 1877, noting that Macdonald 'can drink wine at dinner without being tempted to exceed, which hitherto he has never been able to do'.68 The rejoicing may have been premature, for there are indications of another spree early in 1878, during an all-night sitting on the Canada Temperance Bill.69 Creighton details an extended drinking bout when Macdonald was at Halifax late that year to welcome the new governor-general, Lord Lorne. Interestingly, for a scholar who so rigidly set his face against the gossip of Biggar, Creighton gives no source for this tale at all.70 In his first volume, allusions to Macdonald's problem are cautious: even the index references are confined to 'sickness' and 'Macdonald severely criticized'. By the time the second volume appeared, Creighton's status as biographer was secure, and the index to The Old Chieftain boldly contains a sub-section on 'drinking'.

What drove John A. to drink so heavily? Of course, booze was one of the lubricants of colonial politics. 'Another glass of champagne and a story of doubtful moral tendency with a little of the Hon. John Macdonald's peculiar "sawder" are elements in the political strength of a Canadian ministry not to be despised'.71 Yet most politicians knew when to stop, and those who succumbed to the demon drink generally remained on the margins of power. Macdonald's private life was clouded by the prolonged illness of his first wife, and the death of one of their two children. We know something of the impact of bereavement upon Robert Baldwin and Alexander Mackenzie, but neither of them took to drink: Mackenzie, indeed, was a teetotaller.72 Moreover, Macdonald's problems with the bottle continued for at least a decade into his second marriage. It is more likely that his drinking bouts stemmed from deeper personal insecurities, traceable to those teenage years when the young John A. found himself prematurely pitchforked into adult life.

Macdonald's inner insecurity seems to have made him wary of close relationships, keen to keep people at arm's length. He married twice, but each time after very brief courtships. Presumably he first met his cousin Isabella Clark while on holiday in Britain in 1842. The following year, she visited her married sister in Kingston, an unlikely excursion for a young spinster without some prior family understanding that a marriage was likely. Creighton weaves a sudden romance. 'This was first love, spontaneous, unpremeditated and impulsive; and within a few months, perhaps even a few weeks, it had brought the lovers to that quick, sure decision upon which happy marriages are based.'73 The wedding,   on 1 September 1843, certainly must have followed very shortly after Isabella's arrival. Her  subsequent poor health may well be evidence that this marriage of two virtual strangers was never a union of kindred souls. Isabella's mysterious bouts of sickness started around the time that her husband began to leave her to attend the legislature in Montreal. If we dismiss Creighton's imagined love match, we may perhaps see two people in rapid retreat from one other, the wife to her sickbed and the husband into politics.

Macdonald's second venture into matrimony, in February 1867, looks suspiciously like a marriage of convenience designed to rescue his political career at a time when his drinking had become a public issue. Macdonald and Agnes Bernard had known each other slightly through her brother, Hewitt, who had worked with John A. as a civil servant. Since Agnes moved to England in the summer of 1865, it seems highly unlikely that she was then engaged to Macdonald, who was a widower more than twenty years her senior. She met him again strolling in London's Bond Street during the final Confederation conference in December 1866, and had agreed to marry him by Christmas. Pope was hardly in a position to point out that this was a hurricane romance. Creighton did not pick up on the issue at all.74

From her diary, it appears that Agnes did not find her role as 'a great Premier's wife' an easy one, not least because she hardly knew her husband. 'He is so busy and so much older than I that I would soon fall out of his life if I went my own ways -- as I might -- disregarding his.' Agnes knew that she had a wifely mandate to clean up Macdonald's lifestyle, and there were some clashes as a result of her initial distaste for the intrusion of politics into the home, and her attempt to enforce sabbatarian principles upon her easy-going spouse. Agnes herself acknowledged in April 1868 that 'my love of power is strong, so strong that I sometimes dread its influence on me when I imagine that I am influenced by a sense of right'. A year and a half later, with Sir John A. back on the bottle, she confessed that she had been 'over-confident, vain and presumptuous in my sense of power'. 'Power' is an odd term to find recurring in a love match.75

Pope excused Macdonald's nickname of 'Old Tomorrow' as evidence of wise caution. 'It is very easy for a Prime Minister to invite a man to enter his Cabinet, but it is very difficult to repair a hasty selection.'76 It seems that he did not apply the same principle in the selection of brides as he did to the recruitment of cabinet ministers. Other politicians -- Brown, Galt, Howe, Langevin for example77 -- discussed politics with their wives and actively sought their advice. Initially, at least, Macdonald made it clear to Agnes that she was to confine her activities to the domestic sphere. It was almost as if he wished to have marriage without closeness, to protect his own insecurity from too intimate a relationship with another human being.

Nor were his other close relationships more successful, excepting perhaps those with his two sisters, a link with his mother and curtailed childhood. (This intimacy was never fully extended to Margaret Macdonald's husband, James Williamson of Queen's University whom Macdonald always addressed as 'Professor'.78) Macdonald's son, Hugh John, grew up in other people's homes, seeing little of his father. In 1875, father and son quarrelled over Hugh's decision to marry a Catholic. (Creighton suppressed any allusion to the motive behind the breach.) Hugh protested with dignity that Macdonald had behaved 'in an unnecessarily harsh manner'.79 The Queen's Printer, S.E. Dawson, told Pope that Macdonald had once remarked that 'you stood almost in the relation of a son to him'.80 Pope defined his relationship to Macdonald as 'the subordinate one of secretary', and recalled 'I never had a whole day off'.81 Unhappy memories of his father seem to have left Macdonald with a curious notion of the role of a son.

There were tensions, too, in the longest surviving of all Macdonald's business and political relationships. Alexander Campbell had entered his law office in 1839, and at various times he managed Macdonald's election campaigns and served in his cabinets until he was pensioned off as lieutenant-governor of Ontario in 1888. Yet he could be censorious of his chief's failings, breaking up their legal partnership in 1849 and roundly condemning his intemperance during the Pacific Scandal a quarter of a century later.82 'Campbell hates me', Macdonald told Pope, and blamed his colleague for ingratitude.83 Overall, it sounds to have been the least satisfactory relationship between a Macdonald and a Campbell since the Massacre of Glencoe.

It may seem a paradox that someone for whom human relations in private life were so difficult could prove such a success as a human resources manager in politics. Macdonald saw no inconsistency. 'A public man should have no resentments', he told Pope.84 Macdonald was good at politics precisely because it enabled him to reduce individuals to counters in a game, however much they might have angered him in real life. The extreme example was his relationship with the hated George Brown during their brief period in  government together during 1864-65: 'we acted together, dined at public places together, played euchre in crossing the Atlantic, and went into society in England together. And yet on the day after he resigned we resumed our old positions and ceased to speak'.85 These were not the strategies of somebody who was good at relating to people, but rather the devices of  a person who sought to avoid close involvement.

Far from memorialising his success, Macdonald biography should take account of his flaws and explain how he managed to rise above them. Creighton, however, implied an inevitability in Macdonald's rise to leadership, notably by portraying the politics of the eighteen-fifties as a duel between Macdonald and Brown, an unconscious mirror of the contemporary struggle in British politics between Disraeli and Gladstone.86 Since Brown was a 'government impossibility', Macdonald was a government necessity. However, while it was true that Canada was likely to be governed by a broad centre coalition of French and English moderates, it was by no means clear that only John A. Macdonald could fashion such an alliance. In many respects, the pivotal figure in the decade from 1854 was Macdonald's namesake, and rival for dominance of the small political power base of eastern Upper Canada: John Sandfield Macdonald. By the early eighteen-sixties, it was Sandfield who seemed likely to triumph over his Kingston clansman. Significantly, it is Sandfield's biographer, and not Creighton, who pointed out that John A. had 'only a remnant of supporters'  after the 1863 election.87 Nationalist historiography has been dazzled by the formation of the Great Coalition in June 1864 to such an extent that it has failed to note the shared personal element underlying the unexpected alliance between Brown and John A. Macdonald. Both wished to bar Sandfield from office, and only through the adoption of a breath-taking programme of constitutional reform could they hope to win the initiative. Creighton portrayed Sandfield's decision in March 1864 to resign 'without even waiting for the vote on the want-of-confidence motion' as a desperate surrender to the inevitability of his own marginalisation. However, a similar tactical move by Cartier and John A. in 1858 had enabled them to bounce back into office, stronger than ever, and in 1864 that it was believed that Sandfield was engaged in a similar manoeuvre.88

Ironically, in playing down the political centrality of Sandfield Macdonald, Creighton did less than justice to John A.'s Houdini-like success in extricating himself from the sidelines of 1863 to become prime minister of the Dominion and a Knight of the Bath just four years later. Indeed, biography has contributed to the distortion. John A. Macdonald was memorialised across two lavish volumes by Creighton, a senior scholar. Sandfield's life was published twenty years later, written by Bruce Hodgins, then a relatively junior History professor, as one of a series of short studies designed to force authors to brevity.89 Hodgins duly condensed his research, and the life of Sandfield Macdonald is encapsulated in one tenth of the space that Creighton devoted to his namesake. As a result, the received view of the relative historical importance of the two Macdonalds is determined by the lengths of their respective biographies, rather than -- as ought to be the case -- the other way about.

One of Sandfield's political advantages was that he spoke fluent French, while John A. did not. In 1856, when John A. Macdonald supplanted Sir Allan MacNab, L.T. Drummond claimed the leadership on grounds of seniority 'and his intimate acquaintance with the French language', which John A. had 'not so mastered so as to be able to speak it in the house'.90 Twenty years later, when he toured rural Quebec, Macdonald sat silently on the platform while Chapleau addressed French-speaking audiences.91 Macdonald understood French, and Quebec colleagues occasionally wrote to him in their own language.92 More often, though, they went to the trouble of corresponding in English, Narcisse Belleau in 1867 for instance describing the problem of Nova Scotia as 'that naughty black speck rising at the horizon'.93 Creighton made little of this. He spoke French with a 'west Toronto' accent and lived in a world in which bilingualism was at most a marginal requirement. This he back-projected into the biography, describing how Macdonald 'would notice approvingly how tactfully Agnes spoke French to the Quebec members'.94 Agnes brushed up her irregular verbs by taking lessons from the Grey Nuns, and used her French to converse with Ottawa tradesmen as well as Quebec politicians.95 Her husband seems never to have bothered.

One reason for Macdonald's ascendancy lay in his skill as an administrator and parliamentary draughtsman. In an era when Canada had a very small civil service, much routine work fell upon ministers themselves. In some respects, Macdonald does not seem the ideal bureaucratic workhorse. Pope found him 'somewhat impatient of detail' and resistant to 'wading through official papers'.96 In earlier years, his administrative efficiency can only have been reduced by alcoholic excess.

Macdonald owed his administrative talents to his legal training. He was not a successful court-room lawyer, although as a very young man he tended to receive hopeless briefs, such as those of Von Schoulz the border raider and William Brass the alleged child rapist, both of whom were hanged.97  W.H. Draper was said to have joked that Macdonald's claim to the office of Attorney-General lay in his success in securing convictions for the Crown.98 But, as J.K. Johnson points out, Macdonald was a corporation rather than a courtroom lawyer, who rose to leadership because he was trusted by other businessmen-politicians, his business dealings smoothing the way for political alliances with former opponents such as Galt and Foley. However, John A. also had dealings with Holton and Christie, who remained aloof. 99

In any case, Macdonald's speculations do not explain why he should have emerged as the political voice of the business community, the more so since he was not  especially successful at making money. Campbell found him an impossible business partner.100 Macdonald over-extended himself in the investment boom of the mid-fifties,101 and by 1861 his Kingston business associate, David Shaw, was complaining that 'Macdonald has all but ruined me by his wretched carelessness'.102 Johnson's study deals mainly with the pre-Confederation Macdonald. It remains to be explained how his political career survived his brush with bankruptcy in 1870. A similar catastrophe had virtually eliminated John Hillyard Cameron as Macdonald's rival for the Conservative leadership in 1857.103 When well-wishers collected $67,500 as a testimonial fund, it is noteworthy that they did not pay off the leader's debts but held the cash in trust to provide an income for his wife and handicapped daughter. Macdonald, in short, was seen as the author of his own misfortunes: 'you certainly were awfully neglectful of your own interests as well as mine', wrote the reproving Shaw.104 It seems unlikely that Macdonald remained as party leader purely because he possessed the confidence of the business community.

With Creighton clearly in his sights, Johnson suggested that the failure of biographers to examine the extensive accounts in the Macdonald papers implied 'a series of conscious decisions to ignore this side of his life'.105 Pope had cleverly given the impression that Macdonald stood above all commercial speculation, telling a story of the prime minister banning his wife from buying town lots in Vancouver to protect him from charges of corruption. Creighton implied that Macdonald found business 'humdrum' and actually stated that he invested in land only once.106 Creighton's reluctance to ask questions about Macdonald's income is all the more mysterious given that he was well aware of the problems of making a living, since the University of Toronto was not a generous employer.107  His research for the Rowell-Sirois Commission showed that Creighton was a first-rate economic historian.108 Even if Macdonald's accounts were too complex for a lone researcher to unravel, there was a snapshot of the estate that the old chieftain left behind in 1891. When his will was proved, Macdonald turned out to be unexpectedly wealthy (another parallel with Mackenzie King). Ottawa gossip 'supposed that he just took for himself many of the large sums of money sent privately for electioneering purposes & that he felt himself justified in so doing'.109 Creighton quoted just one sentence from Macdonald's will, his wish to be buried at Kingston, and even that was taken from Pope.110 Clearly, there is more to tell that Creighton revealed.

Yet it would be ungracious not to recognise Creighton's achievement in producing two giant volumes from less than a decade's work. Unlike the near-contemporary Mackenzie King commemoration, he worked alone. In Creighton's time, historical research meant longhand transcription. The phrases that struck a scholar as noteworthy early in a project are not always the ones that leap out from a photocopy when the findings are being written up. If Creighton made inadequate use of newspapers, it was partly because they survived as dusty files in scattered locations, where the microfilmers had yet to do their work.111 The Dictionary of Canadian Biography calls Creighton's Macdonald 'unforgettable, splendid, but flawed'.112 There is an odd echo here of G.R. Parkin's comment on Macdonald himself: 'against the greatness of the man history must set the shortcomings which he himself so candidly admitted'.113 Biographer and subject might thus seem ideally matched. Unfortunately, the flaws of the biography are cleverly concealed and so obscure the shortcomings of its subject. It is good to have a new edition of 'probably the greatest Canadian biography yet published in English' if only to remind us that Creighton too walked all round some aspects of Macdonald without really troubling to look at him.114

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

1. Joseph Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald First Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada (2 vols, Ottawa, 1894) [cited as Memoirs], i, p. 183 n; Macdonald formally declined to assist his major biographer, Edmund Collins, but authorised his family to provide basic information: J. Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald (New York ed., 1921) [cited as Correspondence], i, p. 294; J.K. Johnson, ed., Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and His Family (Toronto, 1969) [cited as Affectionately Yours], p. 147.

 

2. Donald Creighton, with introduction by P.B. Waite, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician / The Old Chieftain (2 vols in 1, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1998) [cited as YP, OC].

Waite's introduction, "Donald Creighton and his Macdonald", pp. vii-xxvi, is cited as Waite.

 

3. P.B. Waite and J.K. Johnson, "John A. Macdonald", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii, pp. 591-612 [cited as DCB]. Johnson's valuable contribution to Macdonald studies can also be found in his contribution to J.M.S. Careless, The Pre-Confederation Premiers: Ontario Government Leaders 1841-1867 (Toronto, 1980), pp. 197-245. For a useful general account with an extensive bibliography, D. Swainson, Sir John A. Macdonald (Kingston, 1989 ed.).

 

4. D. Creighton, Towards the Discovery of Canada: Selected Essays (Toronto, 1972), pp. 195-6, 199, 213.

 

5. E.B. Biggar, An Anecdotal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald (Montreal, 1891), pp. 192-5 (drinking), 237-40 (women).

 

6. G. Mercer Adam, Canada's Patriot Statesman: The Life and Career of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald (Toronto, 1891), p. 535.

 

7. L. Reynolds, Agnes: The Biography of Lady Macdonald (Ottawa, 1990), p. 149; Maurice Pope, ed., Public Servant: The Memoirs of Sir Joseph Pope (Toronto, 1960) [cited as Public Servant], p. 82 and cf. Memoirs, i, p. 9.

 

8. P. Stevens and J. Saywell, eds, Lord Minto's Canadian Papers (2 vols, Toronto, 1981), ii, p. 423.

 

9. One reason why the publication of Correspondence followed so long after Memoirs was that Lady Macdonald quarrelled with Pope and ordered him to hand over the papers to Sir Robert Borden. Reynolds, Agnes, p.184.

 

10. G.R. Parkin, Sir John A. Macdonald (London, 1909), p. v.

 

11. J.P. Macpherson, Life of the Right Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald (2 vols, Saint John N.B., 1891), i, p. vii.

 

12. Public Servant, p. 84; Memoirs, ii, p. 197.

 

13. Memoirs, ii, p. 1.

 

14. Memoirs, i, pp. ix-x.

 

15. OC, pp. 103-15.

 

16. YP, p. vii.

 

17. Waite, pp. vii-viii, xxii-xxiii.

 

18. Donald Creighton, The Passionate Observer: Selected Writings (Toronto, 1980), p. 75 (essay published 1977).

 

19. Correspondence, p. xxiii.

 

20. Correspondence, p. xxiv.

 

21. Waite, pp. xviii-xix; OC, pp. 46-7.

 

22. Donald Creighton, Canada's First Century 1867-1967 (Toronto, 1970), p. 310.

 

23. Allan Fotheringham, Look Ma ... No Hands (Toronto, 1984 ed.), p. 20.

 

24. YP, p. 199, and see the use made of the letter by the party's historian, Heath Macquarrie, in Red Tory Blues (Toronto, 1992), p. 54. There are inverted commas around the words "progressive Conservative" in Memoirs, i, p. 103 and J.K. Johnson, ed., The Papers of the Prime Ministers: ii, The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald 1836-1857 (Ottawa, 1968), p. 202. The party name was changed in 1942 to bring aboard Manitoba premier John Bracken, who was not a Conservative but seemed to know how to win elections. The awkwardness that the Progressives had been allies of the Liberals was smoothed over by reference to the fact that Bracken's father had attended Sir John A.'s funeral: J.L. Granatstein, The Politics of Survival: The Conservative Party of Canada, 1939-1945 (Toronto, 1967), p. 89; P.C. Newman, The Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (Toronto, 1964 ed.), pp. 184-5.

 

25. Denis Smith, Rogue Tory: The Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker (Toronto, 1995), p. 223, and cf. 229-30. The influence of Macdonald on Diefenbaker was not entirely positive. He identified with Creighton's portrayal of the stag-at-bay facing "that "malignant host" of enemies who tried to thwart his nation-building work", especially after the 1962 election. George Grant was to criticise Diefenbaker for his failure to appoint Creighton to policy-making commissions. Diefenbaker was inspired more by the folksy Macdonald of Biggar (whose book he had been given in 1937), and "he was at his best telling anecdotes" about his hero. One problem in the identification was that Diefenbaker was a teetotaller, but he managed to launder at least one celebrated story of Macdonald (in which Macdonald blamed a bout of nausea on his opponent's policies) to remove all reference to alcohol. Newman, Renegade in Power, pp. 9-10, 185-6; J. Diefenbaker, One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, iii: The Tumultuous Years 1962-1967 (Scarborough, Ont., 1978 ed.), p. 123; George Grant, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Toronto, 1970 ed.), p. 24; Charles Lynch, A Funny Way to Run a Country (Toronto, 1987 ed.), pp. 197-8.

 

26. Johnson points to "a persistent strain of boyish boastfulness" in Macdonald's family letters: Affectionately Yours, p. 1.

 

27. Waite, p. viii; OC, pp. 68-70, 171.

 

28. Memoirs, i, p. 9.

 

29. YP, pp. 48-51.

 

30. J.K. Johnson, "Sir James Gowan, Sir John A. Macdonald, and the Rebellion of 1837", Ontario History, lx (1968), pp. 61-4.

 

31. Creighton, Towards the Discovery of Canada, p. 160 (written in 1969) and cf. Carl Berger, The Writing of Canadian History (2nd ed., Toronto, 1986), ch. 9: "Donald Creighton and the Artistry of Canadian History".

 

32. YP, p. 1. The apparently indeterminate "they" is the author's coded bid for inclusion. The Creighton brothers immigrated to Kingston in 1823. John Creighton was the town's mayor and also Warden of the Penitentiary, which perhaps helps to explain Donald Creighton's sympathy for Warden Smith in YP. The family came from Clandeboye in County Down, also the birthplace of Thomas Scott, Riel's victim during the Red River Troubles. DCB, xi, pp. 216-7 and cf. Creighton, Passionate Observer, p. 94.

 

33. J.E. Collins, The Life and Times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald Premier of the Dominion of Canada (Toronto, 1883), p. 1.

 

34. Creighton, Towards the Discovery of Canada, pp. 56, 213.

 

35. OC, p. 378.

 

36. Pope called the funeral "a stately and solemn progress, the like of which had never before been witnessed in Canada", Memoirs, ii, pp. 263-4; Macpherson, Macdonald, ii, pp. 460-7.

 

37. Waite, p. xxii.

 

38. Creighton, Towards the Discovery of Canada, p. 20 (written in 1977).

 

39. Quoted, Berger, The Writing of Canadian History, p. 225 and cf. Waite, p. xii.

 

40. OC, p. 416.

 

41. D. Creighton, The Empire of the St Lawrence (Toronto, 1956 ed. with revised title), p. 385.

 

42. YP, pp. 140, 146.

 

43. Memoirs, i, p. 6. Macdonald's family letters show that he made contact with his mother's relatives on visits to Britain in 1842, 1857 and 1866, and as late as 1879 asked his sister for information about maternal cousins (whom he reckoned up in dozens). There is no hint that he ever sought out any Macdonald kin, even though his father was one of seven children. There is a family tree in Affectionately Yours, pp. 6-7, and cf. pp. 135-7.

 

44. Memoirs, ii, p. 270.

 

45. For the impending Disruption, Stewart J. Brown, Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth (Oxford, 1982), pp. 326-37.

For its Canadian ramifications, B.C. Murison, "The Disruption and the Colonies of Scottish Settlement" in Stewart J. Brown and Michael Fry, eds, Scotland in the Age of the Disruption (Edinburgh, 1993), pp. 135-43; R.W. Vaudry, The Free Church in Victorian Canada 1844-1861 (Waterloo, 1989), pp. 14-37; J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe: i, The Voice of Upper Canada 1818-1859 (Toronto, 1959), pp. 20-35.

 

46. Memoirs, i, p. 32.

 

47. Memoirs, i, p. 6, also quoted by Parkin, Macdonald, p. 3 and Swainson, Macdonald, p. 19.

 

48. Memoirs, i, p. 7; YP, p. 27.

 

49. Sir Charles Dilke's comment in Memoirs, ii, p. 280.

 

50. Adam, Canada's Patriot Statesman, p. viii.

 

51. Collins, Life and Times of Macdonald, p. 502.

 

52. Memoirs, ii, p. 277.

 

53. Biggar, Anecdotal Life, pp. 193-5.

 

54. Public Servant, p. 130 and cf. Memoirs, i, p. 325.

 

55. Stevens and Saywell, eds, Lord Minto's Canadian Papers, ii, pp. 14-15.

 

56. DCB, xii, p. 605. For a selection of stories of Macdonald drunk, see Cynthia M. Smith and Jack McLeod, eds, Sir John A.: An Anecdotal Life of John A. Macdonald (Toronto, 1989), pp. 73-80.

 

57. J.S. Willison, Reminiscences: Personal and Political (Toronto 1919), p. 180. Willison claimed that Bury (later Earl of Albemarle) was the source of the story.

 

58. F.M.G. Williams, A Strong Supporting Cast: the Shaw-Lefevres 1789-1936 (London, 1993), p. 200.

 

59. YP, pp. 331-2.

60. W.L. Morton, ed., Monck Letters and Journals 1863-1868: Canada from Government House at Confederation (Toronto, 1970), pp. 158-9.

 

61. Public Record Office, Carnarvon Papers, PRO 30/6/138, Carnarvon to Derby (copy), private, 12 October 1866.

 

62. Globe, 17,22, 24, 25 August, 5 September 1866, and cf. Memoirs, ii, p. 325.

 

63. Sandra Gwyn, The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier (Toronto, 1989 ed.), p. 97.

 

64. National Archives of Canada, Galt Papers, RG27/108/3/1174, Galt to Amy Galt, confidential, 23 June 1867 (typescript). Cf. YP, p. 474. Galt's biographer had written out the allusion to alcohol but quoted enough of the letter to make clear that there were problems in forming the first Dominion ministry. O.D. Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (ed. G. MacLean, Toronto, 1966), p. 196. This Creighton was to recognise in his Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867 (Toronto, 1964), pp. 434-5.

 

65. J. Vincent, ed., A Selection from the Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (London, 1994), p. 59.

 

66. OC, pp. 165, 175.

 

67. Willison, Reminiscences, p. 179. Macdonald's problem was "well known to anyone acquainted with Canadian history", Lord Minto wrote in 1902. Stevens and Saywell, eds, Lord Minto's Canadian Papers, ii, p. 115).

 

68. C.W. de Kiewiet and F.H Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence (Toronto, 1953), p. 351.

 

69. P.B. Waite, "Sir Oliver Mowat's Ontario: Reflections on an un-Victorian Society" in D.B. Swainson, ed., Olievr Mowat's Ontario (Toronto, 1972), p. 21.

 

70. OC, pp. 248-9.

 

71. Alexander Campbell, in a letter of 1855, YP, p. 217 but sentence omitted from transcription of the letter in Memoirs, i, pp. 140-1.

 

72. For Baldwin, see DCB, viii, p. 58; D.C. Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit (Toronto, 1960), p. 32.

 

73. YP, p. 91. Macpherson, Macdonald, i, p. 85 placed the meeting "amidst the romantic scenery of the Highlands" but Isabella and her sisters were living in the Isle of Man in 1842. Johnson suggests that the tone of a letter of invitation from Margaret Greene, Isabella's sister, implies that they had previously met, but "yrs faithfully" may equally imply a choice of language appropriate to cousinage. Affectionately Yours, pp. 10-11, 28. The Isle of Man was a refuge for the hard-up, which further suggests a definite purpose behind Isabella's transatlantic journey a year later.

 

74. Memoirs, i, pp. 316-7; Reynolds, Agnes, pp. 37-8. Creighton was low-key ("... now he was about to marry again"), YP, p. 455.

 

75. Reynolds, Agnes, pp. 46, 50, 61. Waite, p. xix, regards access to the diary as one of the strengths of OC, but Creighton's use of this revealing source seems sparing in retrospect.

 

76. Memoirs, ii, p. 280.

 

77. This is clear from biographies of Brown (J.M.S. Careless), Galt (O.D. Skelton), Howe (J.M. Beck) and Langevin (A. Désilets). Agnes gradually claimed a larger role in her husband's political life. In 1872, he returned thanks for a gift on her behalf; in 1877, she made a speech herself. OC, pp. 134, 235. By 1883, it was "whispered" that the premier "was in the habit of consulting her when he is about to take some important step". Collins, Life and Times of Macdonald, p. 507.

 

78. And not just in correspondence: Reynolds, Agnes, p. 157. The Macdonald- Williamson relationship can be followed through Affectionately Yours. The Professor lobbied his brother-in-law for funding and even urged him to appoint a member of the Queen's faculty to the Senate. Macdonald in turn asked the Professor to support a Conservative construction firm tendering for the Arts Faculty building. DCB, xii, p. 1102, describes their relationship as "cordial but formal". Pope evidently found it odd, Memoirs, ii, p. 278.

 

79. OC, pp. 200-1, 225; Affectionately Yours, p. 117.

 

80. Public Servant, p. 83.

 

81. Memoirs, p. ix; Public Servant, p. 51.

 

82. YP, pp. 147-8; Swainson, Macdonald, pp. 97-8 and cf. DCB, xii, pp. 150-4.

 

83. Public Servant, p. 50; Memoirs, ii, p. 248.

 

84. Memoirs, ii, p. 281.

 

85. Memoirs, i, p. 265.

 

86. Lord Blake points out that although the Gladstone-Disraeli duel hangs over British political history from 1852 to 1880, their parliamentary confrontation as party leaders was confined to the eight years between 1866 and 1874. R. Blake, Disraeli (London, 1966), p. 568. The Macdonald-Brown rivalry was an underlying theme in Canadian politics during a similar period, 1856 to 1880, but they clashed in the Assembly as party leaders for barely four years, 1856-1860. Thus to focus on this one political feud is to distort the factionalism of Canadian politics that lasted until c. 1873.

 

87. Bruce W. Hodgins, John Sandfield Macdonald 1812-1872 (Toronto, 1971), p. 68.

 

88. YP, p. 351; Montreal Gazette, 25 March 1864.

 

89. Canadian Biographical Studies was a spin-off from the DCB: Hodgins, Sandfield Macdonald, pp. v-vi.

 

90. Sandfield's denunciation of Lord Elgin in both official languages in 1854 was the first great bilingual tour-de-force in Canadian political history, Hodgins, Sandfield Macdonald, p. 28; Canadian News (London), 25 June 1856, pp. 22-3.

 

91. OC, p. 233.

 

92. Taché wrote to Macdonald in French, Memoirs, i, pp. 175-6, 285, but this seems to have been unusual.

 

93. Correspondence, p. 49.

 

94. Waite, p. x; OC, p. 9.

 

95. Reynolds, Agnes, p. 52; Biggar, Anecdotal History, pp. 239-40

 

96. Memoirs, ii, p. 285, but cf p. 281, and the earlier assessment of John Langton, YP, p. 218.

 

97. YP, pp. 62-8, 43; DCB, vii, pp. 779-80 (von Schoulz) and 102-3 (Brass). The DCB account of the latter case throws some doubt on Creighton's statement that "Macdonald could not save William Brass".

 

98. Memoirs, i, pp. 11-12.

 

99. J.K. Johnson,"John A. Macdonald: the Young Non-Politician", Canadian Historical Association Historical Papers, 1971, p. 144; Johnson, "John A. Macdonald" in Careless, ed., Pre-Confederation Premiers, p. 213.

 

100. YP, p. 147.

 

101. Johnson, "Macdonald: Young Non-Politician", p., 143.

 

102. National Archives of Canada, Macdonald Papers, 188 (C-1588) David Shaw to Sir H. Smith, copy, 25 June 1861.

 

103. YP, p. 259.

 

104. National Archives of Canada, Macdonald Papers, 188 (C-1588) note from Shaw, "late 1873".

 

105. Johnson, "Macdonald: Young Non-Politician", p. 147.

 

106. Memoirs, ii, p.  253; YP, p. 149; OC, p. 38.

 

107. Waite, p. xvii.

 

108. D.G. Creighton, British North America at Confederation (Ottawa, 1939).

 

109. J.T. Saywell, ed., The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen 1893-1898 (Toronto, 1960), p. 165. For Pope's oblique rebuttal, Memoirs, ii, pp. 252-3.

 

110. OC, p. 578, quoting Memoirs. ii, p. 264.

 

111. P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation 1864-1867: Politics, Newspapers and the Union of British North America (Toronto, 1962), pp.6, 331-8.

 

112. DCB, xii, p. 612.

 

113. Parkin, Macdonald, p. 352.

 

114. DCB, xii, p. 612 and cf. note 4 above.

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