John A. Macdonald, Alcohol and Gallstones

Throughout the twentieth century, Canadians were well aware that their first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, had problems with alcohol. In 2006, I published an article examining the episodes of inebriation and reviewing how Macdonald returned to sobriety in the late eighteen-seventies. This 2019 reconsideration of the material suggests that his alcohol problem should be considered in the wider context of his health, drawing attention especially to evidence of bouts of illness caused by gallstones. It is suggested that the life-threatening illness which felled him in 1870 may have been pancreatitis. Gallbladder surgery in that era was a new and dangerous procedure, and the condition could best be managed through control of diet. Reduction in alcohol consumption would have formed part of this.


My 2006 study of the alcohol problem of Canada's first prime minister, "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle", appeared in the Journal of Canadian Studies.[1] This revision of the text, with some introductory updating, seeks to review the material after thirteen years. It is also a step towards looking at changing Canadian attitudes to Macdonald. Looking back at the image of Macdonald in those now-distant first years of twenty-first century, I am struck by the extent to which his residual status as Canada’s founding prime minister had placed him outside any kind of ethical structure. In his lifetime, Macdonald had aroused ferocious moral condemnation, but after his death, his ethical shortcomings came to be seen – perhaps fairly quickly – as loveable foibles, the amusing quirks of a genial rogue, to be pardoned in the light of his work as a nation-builder. In fact, a measured account of his career had appeared in the 1990 Dictionary of Canadian Biography essay by J.K. Johnson and P.B. Waite,[2] but the scholarly DCB did not directly or immediately re-shape public attitudes. Thus "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle" belonged to a benign era that roughly spanned the two-volume biographies by Donald Creighton, in 1952-1955 and Richard Gwyn in 2007-2011, both of whom predominantly celebrated Macdonald as the creator of modern Canada. His sometimes dubious political manoeuvres as well as his occasionally wayward personal behaviour could be excused as details that humanised a politician who sometimes believed that Canadian ends justified ruthless means.[3] However, the issues of political corruption and, particularly, injustice towards Aboriginal people were about to move Macdonald into a new sphere of judgemental values, a moral universe in which he was not automatically granted the benefit of the doubt. This essay reviews Macdonald's alcohol problem as identified in 2006, with occasional interpolations designed to signpost more recent information. An accompanying discussion explores "John A. Macdonald and the Moral Universe: Alcohol, Corruption and Racism".[4]

While I hope that my 2006 article remains a satisfactory general account of Macdonald's problem with alcohol, and his eventual coming-to-terms with it, the passage of time naturally modifies and perhaps even extends the picture in several respects.

First, while I sought to bring together and to discuss as many bouts of inebriation as I could trace, there were undoubtedly other episodes: Richard Gwyn found evidence of Macdonald failing to open his law office one day in 1839, thanks to a hangover, or – as a failed caller put it – "doing penance for the deeds of the previous day".[5] This is in fact the earliest documented example of his over-indulgence, but it would be about a decade and a half before the evidence points to a definite alcohol problem. Second, it became clear from subsequent research that Macdonald's intermittent binge-drinking did not merely dent his overall political standing across Canada. More specifically, it probably contributed to his declining electoral grip on his home city of Kingston, where he went from a landslide victory in 1857 to personal defeat – while heading a comfortable Dominion-wide electoral sweep – in 1878. In 2010, the Kingston Historical Society generously published my study of Macdonald's relationship with his riding. This exploration of his political career from the bottom up, taking account of the points of view of his support base, was designed to present an unusual perspective on a Canadian political career, one that would highlight the strong possibility that Macdonald's weakness for strong drink helped to undermine his local popularity. [6]

Third, it became clear that the identification of Macdonald's alcohol problem should form a step towards a more general review of his health. There is ample evidence, from his correspondence and from biographies, of frequent illnesses and – especially in his later years – consultations with specialists, the reason for several transatlantic journeys to seek the help of medical experts in London. Unfortunately, the sole extended discussion by a medically qualified historian deals with the pre-Confederation decades when Macdonald was resident in Kingston.[7] However, one point seems to stand out, and provides the basis for wider (if, it must be borne in mind, amateur) diagnostic speculation. Macdonald's serious illness in 1870, caused by the agonising discharge of "biliary calculus", was the result of a serious gallbladder problem.[8] This was almost certainly the trigger of two earlier episodes. In 1862, Macdonald had collapsed during the crisis over the defeat of the Militia Bill. It was clear that he was also drinking heavily. A correspondent of the hostile Toronto Globe, which had attacked his inebriation, accepted that he was "very ill – ill in earnest", adding the sage comment: "Doubtless the one illness was the consequence of the other."[9] Two years later, during the energetic banqueting cycle associated with the 1864 Quebec Conference, he fell ill at a formal lunch, an event that was almost certainly too much for his digestive system. That illness was severe: he reported to a friend that he had been close to "going off the books".[10] These attacks sound consistent with a malfunctioning gallbladder. (These episodes are also noted in the text that follows, based on the article of 2006.)

If it is conceded that Macdonald's health was dominated by gallbladder problems from the eighteen-sixties, two further possibilities would seem to invite the opinion of historians of medicine. The first, which I have raised tentatively and with (I hope) a layman's appropriate modesty, is that Macdonald's illness in 1870 may have been acute pancreatitis, a condition frequently resulting from a combination of gallstones and alcohol abuse.[11] If Macdonald was struck by acute pancreatitis in 1870, then he did indeed come close to death: a professional, even if necessarily retrospective, medical assessment is badly needed. The second element of the story would relate to an integral and important part of the story of John A. Macdonald's drinking – the fact that he overcame his weakness for the bottle. Gallbladder surgery was not an attractive option in the nineteenth century, making the problem manageable only through careful control of diet, including a strict limit upon alcohol intake. Thus, paradoxically, it may be that the affliction which nearly killed him in 1870 may have been indirectly responsible for giving him a further two decades of active life.

In 2006, it seemed a worthwhile exercise – and also an enjoyable one – to focus upon John A. Macdonald's alcohol problem, isolating it from the wider story of his career, as a step towards attempting to assess its overall importance. If that approach had a downside, it lay in the implied separation of his drinking from the more general questions relating to his health and political standing. John A. Macdonald's gallbladder remains an under-emphasised biographical element.

As suggested above, Macdonald's continued standing as a national hero largely depended upon the relatively innocent moral framework within which Canadians had assessed their first prime minister. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, John A. Macdonald was popularly viewed as a genially amoral personality, somebody who certainly cut corners, but who bent the rules in Canada's national interest. His fondness for alcohol formed part of that benign stereotype, a human weakness that somehow built bridges to ordinary people. This was a theme that he played up by allegedly claiming that Canadians preferred John A. Macdonald drunk to his doctrinaire rival George Brown sober. In teaching the unfamiliar field of Canadian history to British undergraduates, I certainly found this image a useful way of injecting some relaxing colour into the sometimes arcane issues of nineteenth-century politics (just as Mackenzie King's egotistic and spiritualistic foibles illuminated the first half of the twentieth century).

This received version of "John A." derived from Donald Creighton's two-volume biography of 1952-5, which was in turn seasoned with the legacy, albeit invisible, of E.B. Biggar's Anecdotal Life of 1891. Biggar was a major influence on John G. Diefenbaker, who himself invoked, although he failed to reincarnate, a Macdonald who was a good-humoured and easy-going nation-builder. It is noteworthy that Peter C. Newman, Diefenbaker's unimpressed chronicler, suggested that Macdonald would have responded to his successor's "beatification" with "a thigh-slapping guffaw".[12] Biggar's book was a scarce item: Creighton appropriated a few of his stories, but resolutely denied him any bibliographical mention. Yet Biggar's influence was pervasive, as a personal reminiscence may perhaps indicate. On an international flight in 1974, I found myself sitting next to a motherly and respectable Canadian lady. On learning that I was interested in Canadian history, she told me the tale of Macdonald vomiting on a public platform, but winning over the shocked audience by claiming that the thought of his opponent's policies had turned his stomach. It is hardly necessary to state that neither Creighton, nor Macdonald's private secretary and official hagiographer Joseph Pope had included this gem. Biggar was the ultimate source, probably passed through multiple narration into folk memory.[13] It also seemed unlikely that my companion's indulgent amusement at the alleged incident would have been replicated had she encountered such behaviour in her own daily life.

If "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle" achieved anything, I hope it succeeded in emphasising the dark side of his engagement with alcohol. In a concise biography published in 2013,[14] I sought to trace the pressures upon him to childhood, which the 2006 article had suggested was the key to his demons. There were traumatic episodes in his childhood, not least the event that in the Canadian story represents the first step in an onward-and-upward career, his parents' forced departure from Scotland for the wilds of pioneer colonial life. He was sent from the family home in Prince Edward County to school in Kingston before he was ten, enduring five lonely years of elite education, and one occasion running away to escape a stressful round of examinations. His first marriage, to Isabella Clark, was a tragedy of illness, probably compounded by his wife's determination to use physical incapacity to create her own personal politics-free zone. But the sweeping-aside of the conventional picture of the innocently tipsy John A. more or less coincided with the emergence of more serious charges: the loveable rogue stood accused of cynical corruption, and of uncaring, even genocidal attitudes towards Aboriginal people.[15] After getting a free ride on the ethical front for over a century, Macdonald's memory has suddenly become immersed in a moral universe that does not hesitate to judge him remorselessly. Turning to this edited version of the relatively uncensorious 2006 discussion of his alcohol problem is to step back into a very different era.


John A. Macdonald and the Bottle (based on the text of 2006)

Two incarnations of John A. Macdonald survive in Canadian popular memory: the creative statesman of Confederation, and the politician who could not handle his drink. Impressionistic evidence suggests that as many Canadians become vague about their history and cynical towards their politics, his achievements are forgotten while his weakness is emphasised. Although a survey of 2001 found that barely half the adult population could name Canada's first prime minister, some of those who identified him highlighted his failings: "Sir John A. rarely thought of much beyond his next drink," one citizen remarked.[16] In popular history, the legend of an inebriated architect of Confederation has fed into the self-deprecating insecurity of national identity: "Canada, like many a child, was conceived under the influence of alcohol."[17] The problems of the Conservative party in recent decades have also been associated with this aspect of his character. The Tories once ruled under a leader "preserved in giggle-juice", claimed one acerbic commentator, but they "have never got over the shock of Sir John A. Macdonald shucking his gin bottle for the last time."[18] Thus the investigation of Macdonald's relationship with alcohol represents something more than sensationalising prurience, but contributes to a wider understanding of how Canadians have memorialised their history.

Macdonald's biographers throw little light on this central aspect of his life. Although E.B. Biggar openly referred to "Sir John's unfortunate habit of indulging in strong drink", Joseph Pope's allusion to "an occasional irregularity" was so oblique that Goldwin Smith missed it altogether.[19] In 1902, one intending biographer even consulted the governor-general "as to the advisability of mentioning the intemperance question".[20] Half a century later, in his first volume, Donald Creighton awkwardly described Macdonald's "irresponsibility" as both "comic and awful", while a discreet indexer buried pre-Confederation drinking bouts under entries such as "sickness". While Creighton made clear that Macdonald "was occasionally a hard drinker", the biography does not convey the full extent of his hero's difficulties.[21]

By 1856 and at intervals for twenty years, Macdonald was a problem drinker, subject to intermittent binges that rendered him incapable of attending to his responsibilities. Some caveats are required to this general statement. The combination of public discretion and private gossip creates unusual problems in assessing evidence: some episodes were glossed over in the press, others were perhaps magnified in the telling. One allegation, the Toronto Globe's charge that Macdonald "was drunk in the plain ordinary sense of that word" during an all-night session of parliament in April 1878 was probably invented by opponents bidding for the temperance vote at the upcoming elections.[22]

Modern writers have applied the terms "alcoholism" and "chronic alcoholic" to Macdonald.[23] While the "disease theory" of excess drinking was long discussed in the medical profession, the concept of "inebriety" only gained attention in Canada during the 1870s.[24] The term "alcoholic" was coined in 1891, the year of Macdonald's death.[25] In his lifetime, critics usually attributed Macdonald's drinking to moral weakness. The disease theory is also unhelpful in grouping different forms of behaviour under one label. Macdonald resembles one category, "bout drinkers", people who for long periods cope with alcohol in moderation, but who "suddenly start to drink excessively, for days on end … neglecting all their responsibilities", before equally abruptly stopping.[26] However, as Heron notes, alcoholism is no longer "a recognized disease in the medical community" although "it retains that status in popular consciousness".[27] Given the generalised popular use of the term, it would be unhelpful to label Macdonald as an alcoholic because his behaviour sometimes conformed to one manifestation of a contested concept. For instance, in the disease theory "chronic alcoholism" implied mental or physical damage.[28] This can hardly apply to someone who held the office of prime minister until he was 76. Macdonald was not consistently drunk throughout a period of twenty years. He succumbed occasionally, under various forms of pressure. In their authoritative review of his career, Johnson and Waite challenge "the legend that Macdonald was a chronic drunkard", but concede that he was "a spasmodic one".[29]

Alcohol was not invariably disadvantageous to Macdonald. During his speech of 3 November 1873 on the Pacific Scandal, he persuaded fellow minister Peter Mitchell to supply him with tumblers of gin. Mitchell was nonplussed to discover that the prime minister had two other suppliers, but ruefully noted that the "mental excitement" of the crisis "would naturally enable him to stand almost any amount of liquor."[30] Macdonald's peroration, after five hours on his feet, was a dignified appeal to his position in Canadian history. Indeed, "Sir John's very weakness was a secret of his popularity with a certain class of men", something that he exploited in his claim that "you would rather have John A. drunk than George Brown sober".[31]

Paradoxically, to recognise the severity of Macdonald's drink problem is to underline his ascendancy in Canadian politics. Even during phases of heavy drinking, as in the years between 1864 and1867, his political achievement was still remarkable. Confederation is not discredited by Macdonald's occasional inebriation: rather his impairment underlines the political ability that contributed so extensively to designing a wholly new constitution. In an apocryphal parallel story, President Lincoln responded to warnings about the insobriety of Ulysses S. Grant by offering to send a barrel of Grant's favourite whisky to every Northern general.[32] Nevertheless, contemporaries who drank heavily, such as Nicholas Flood Davin, Michael Foley, and Robert Baldwin Sullivan, damaged their political careers: only D’Arcy McGee provides a partial exception. Yet the acerbic governor of New Brunswick, Arthur Gordon, conceded in 1865 that "Macdonald (when not drunk) is a really powerful man".[33] Twenty years later, a senior British politician called him "a singular instance of a successful man of great ability and industry who is subject to fits of drunkeness [sic]".[34]

"Booze" and tavern culture pervaded mid-nineteenth century Canada.[35] Consumption statistics are unreliable[36] but impressionistic evidence suggests that alcohol flowed freely, and that immigrants were especially vulnerable to the temptation of cheap drink. An English visitor in 1840 reported that "the people of Upper Canada were much less temperate than the people of the United States".[37] "The immoderate use of spirits, is one of the greatest curses in this country," an emigrant warned his fellow Scots in 1821. Finding rum cheap, newcomers "often indulge in it to the utmost extent of their voracious appetite". Susanna Moodie lamented that "the very low price of whisky places the temptation constantly in every one's reach".[38] Macdonald's own father seems to have succumbed.[39] Kingston, his adopted town, was the Bacchanalian capital of Canada. In 1842, it contained 136 licensed premises: Montreal, a port city with over four times Kingston's population, managed with 220.[40] Although taverns often broke down barriers of class, race and even gender, some Kingston establishments catered specifically for professional men.[41] However, reports of Macdonald's heavy drinking become relatively frequent in the mid-1850s, when he was usually absent from Kingston. Even the censorious Globe rarely associated him with bar-rooms.[42] But as a lawyer and politician, Macdonald belonged to two professions noted for alcohol consumption. In Cornwall in 1855, it was common to see barristers 'stretched out upon the street in a helpless state of intoxication".[43] Elections were notorious for conviviality. "Whiskey in large quantities must be wholesome," David Macpherson remarked after his first campaign, "or I would have given a job to a coroner before now."[44]

Each of these elements – culture, migration, parental example, Kingston, the law and politics – increased the potential risk facing Macdonald, but none of them forced him to drink. Indeed, his associate Alexander Campbell, the son of a Scottish migrant, also a Kingston lawyer-politician, was a severe critic. The deaths of Macdonald's son in 1848 and of his bedridden wife Isabella in 1857 call for compassion – but Canada's second prime minister, the lifelong teetotaller Alexander Mackenzie, had buried his wife and two children before he reached the age of 29.[45] The comparison warns against simplistic guesses at causation. Creighton has been criticised for failing to interrogate his gender perspective which subtly blamed Macdonald's two spouses for the drinking problem, implying that Isabella Clark failed as a homemaker, while Agnes Bernard was too strong-minded for wifely submission.[46] In writing about alcohol, historians must remember that "so many of the words we use have moral overtones, suggesting at least approval or disapproval."[47]

During his first decade in politics, Macdonald became known as a convivial backstage operator rather than a parliamentary orator. As the Globe remarked in 1849, "he never says much anywhere except in bar rooms".[48]   In office six years later, his role as a political manager was roguishly defined by Campbell to include "drinking the refractory members", plying backbenchers with champagne and stories "of doubtful moral tendency".[49] Campbell would hardly have joked about the matter had Macdonald's behaviour aroused unease. Indeed, in 1854, as Attorney-General, Macdonald dismissed a thief's appeal against a short prison sentence on the grounds that "he was intoxicated", arguing that "seven months enforced exclusion from the opportunity of indulging in his besetting vice may have an effect in weaning him from it".[50]

In January 1856, Isabella Macdonald fell dangerously ill. Macdonald's first documented alcoholic excesses occur soon after. On March 8, his secretary, Robert Harrison, recorded that his employer was "on the 'spree' – unwell." Two weeks later, Harrison's diary baldly noted another "spree".[51]   Drink probably contributed to Macdonald's angry denunciation of George Brown on 26 February 1856, which marked a permanent breach between them. Although a partisan source, the Globe's description of Macdonald speaking "in a state of wild excitement" was probably a coded reference.[52]

The death of Isabella is conventionally assumed to have driven Macdonald to drowning his sorrows: both Richard Cartwright and Pope identified the decade before Confederation as the peak period of his problem.[53] He was under great pressure during his brief term as premier in 1857-8.[54] Isabella's death occurred during an election campaign in which his government lost ground, placing him on the defensive in parliament. The Globe implied inebriation when it criticised his "post-prandial proceedings" one May evening. Soon after, the Reformer and temperance campaigner Malcolm Cameron announced that the premier had taken the pledge and that "for as long as he was in public life, he was determined to be a tee-totaller," adding that Macdonald "admitted that he had not been altogether free from blame in the course he pursued." The Globe called the story "the funniest thing which has occurred for some time."[55] Perhaps Macdonald did try to reform. In February 1861, he was angry with Cartier for getting drunk (a charge which his French-Canadian ally denied). However, since he begged a fellow minister, Sidney Smith, to deliver a rebuke, he perhaps that felt his own censure lacked credibility.[56]

Macdonald's restraint probably lapsed in April 1861 when he clashed with Oliver Mowat in the Assembly and threatened to slap his face.[57] Six months later, a visiting Englishwoman described a dinner given by the governor-general, Sir Edmund Head. Macdonald, "the cleverest man of the lot, distinguished himself by getting completely drunk". In contemporary slang, he was "decidedly screwed" on arrival and "the first glass of wine finished him off". Embarrassingly, he attempted an after-dinner speech but "was at last obliged to retire", only to return "in such a maudlin state that we didn’t know what he would do next!"[58]

In May 1862, Macdonald's behaviour had political repercussions. The ministry introduced a Militia Bill, an expensive overhaul of Canada's defences. The government was already under pressure, but Macdonald's incapacity during the crucial debates hastened its collapse. The Globe reported that he was suffering "one of his old attacks", adding that "Mr. Macdonald's 'illnesses' occur at very inconvenient times".[59] The governor-general, "deeply mortified", reported to London that Macdonald's absence from parliament as the Bill foundered was caused "nominally by illness, but really, as every one knows, by drunkenness".[60] (On this occasion, Macdonald was probably suffering from gallstones, an affliction that he aggravated by heavy drinking.) For the next dozen years, Macdonald's intermittent binges constituted a widely known element in contemporary politics. "[H]e frequently gave way to drink, sometimes absenting himself from work for days at a time, and paying little heed to the quality of the liquor he drank, or the standing of the place at which he got it." As a Toronto cleric bluntly commented in a commemorative sermon in 1891: "No one familiar with Sir John thirty years ago would have thought that he would have lived so long".[61]

Again, Macdonald promised to reform. In July 1862, "fully convinced of the evils of the drinking customs of society", he was reported "to renounce them on his own part". However, rather than join the Sons of Temperance at Quebec, the seat of government, he preferred "to associate with his own townsmen" in Kingston. A dispute with the local Orangemen over the cancelled visit of the Prince of Wales to the town in 1860 had outraged many Kingston Protestants.[62] Joining a Kingston temperance group combined the maximum of political advantage with the minimum of inconvenient supervision: unusually, there was an Orange temperance lodge in the city. A report in November 1862 asserted that "since Mr. Macdonald took the total abstinence pledge, he has kept it inviolate, and is determined to continue to do so". In March 1863, the Methodist leader, Egerton Ryerson, reported that "John A. is conducting himself with great propriety."[63] The temperance movement has been portrayed as a reaction against both Protestant and Catholic Irish. Either way, it was primarily associated with Macdonald's Reform opponents.[64] His decision twice to join them points to the extent of his problem.

It did not last. After the 1863 election, Richard Cartwright encountered "a rather remarkable tableau" in an alcove outside the parliamentary dining room. Macdonald was resting his head "on the shoulder of a certain stalwart Grit member", who remarked, "Ah, John A., John A., how I love you! How I wish I could trust you!"[65] That was a case of failed political seduction, but alcohol probably lubricated Macdonald's new alliance with former foe D’Arcy McGee. The January 1864 South Leeds by-election, in which they campaigned jointly, may be the source of a celebrated "John A. drunk" story, in which Macdonald shocked an audience by vomiting on the platform but then won them over by claiming that his opponent's policies had turned his stomach.[66]

From March 1864, Macdonald was again coping with the demands of office. In addition, his business affairs were thrown into disarray by unexpected death of his law partner. Kingston's Commercial Bank was also in difficulties and less likely to provide favourable treatment for his own debts – and in 1867 the bank collapsed altogether.[67] The combination of pressures probably drove him back to the bottle, even though relatively few descriptions survive from the hectic days of 1864-65 of Macdonald the worse for liquor. Some of the evidence comes from his fierce and sometimes unscrupulous critic George Brown, but in private letters to his wife Brown had little reason for invention and, as a member of the Great Coalition, he was a close observer. It is important to bear in mind that this was the period when Macdonald was almost certainly having problems with his gallbladder, very likely the cause of his serious illness in November 1864. "I was very near going off the books", he wrote to a friend.[68] However, since he collapsed at a banquet, contemporaries apparently suspected that his illness was alcohol-related. When Ryerson noted that Macdonald was sick again in March 1865, he quickly added that the illness was "not in consequence of any indulgence".[69]

However, there was an embarrassing incident at the Executive Council meeting, over lunch on 28 August 1864. It was an important gathering of the provincial cabinet, to review the proposals their delegation was to take to Charlottetown the following day. Macdonald arrived three hours late "bearing symptoms of having been on a spree". He grabbed some food and was soon "quite drunk with potations of ale". After a long discussion of Confederation, Macdonald suddenly tried to bounce his colleagues into paying disputed contractors’ bills for the new Ottawa parliament building. He clashed with Brown, a critic of the project, and both men threatened to resign. Brown's account is censorious but credible. Evidently Macdonald's alcohol intake had made him combative, but he was capable of discussing political strategy, constitutional change and public finance. Brown assumed the row would be forgotten "when John A. gets sober".[70] Presumably Macdonald survived the famously ferocious social whirl that accompanied the process of nation-building at Charlottetown. During a champagne lunch aboard the Canadian government steamer delegates jocularly pledged themselves in political matrimony, and nobody hinted that the leading member of the Canadian bridal party was incapacitated: the puritanical Brown even praised the quality of the champagne. Alcohol provided the celebratory context for the decision to launch British North American union, not the intoxicating cause.[71]

It was otherwise at the Quebec Conference in October 1864. Frances Monck, the governor-general's niece, recorded that Macdonald "is always drunk now, I am sorry to say". He had been found in his hotel room, with a rug thrown over his nightshirt, "practising Hamlet in a looking glass". The Monck household regretted Macdonald's behaviour, since "they wanted all Canadians to appear their best before the delegates". Arthur Gordon also alluded to Macdonald's weakness at this time, and there is a tradition – perhaps apocryphal – that he vomited in Lady Monck's drawing room.[72]

Brown is the source for another episode from this period, commenting one Monday morning in March 1865 that "John A. has been tipsy since Friday". Macdonald was perhaps unwinding at the end of a demanding parliamentary session – and "tipsy" was hardly as condemnatory as "drunk".[73] However, his behaviour had wider ramifications as ministers discussed the selection of a delegation to negotiate with the imperial government in London. Macdonald was an obvious choice, but "the chance of his breaking out there is not to be forgotten."[74] In the event, a broad-based delegation made sense on general grounds and three colleagues accompanied Macdonald across the Atlantic.

In December 1865 Brown resigned from the coalition ministry and resumed partisan hostilities. That winter, the government of the province of Canada moved to its new headquarters in Ottawa. Ominously, the city lacked both piped water and social amenities.[75] Macdonald helped found the Rideau Club which, in those early days, was perhaps less decorous than it subsequently became. In the 1866 parliamentary session, ministers aimed to avoid controversy in Canadian politics, and thus encourage the acquiescence of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the Confederation project. Westminster legislation would then be sought before the imperial parliament rose in August. The timetable was already constricted when, in June 1866, the Fenian invasion added to the workload of the Minister of Militia – a portfolio held by John A. Macdonald in addition to his other ministerial responsibilities.[76] It seems that the pressures proved too great.

On 21 June 1866 Lord Monck issued an unprecedented threat to resign if his ministers did not move faster to clinch the union of the provinces. Although Macdonald read him a dignified lesson in constitutional practice, the governor-general was probably delivering a coded warning.[77] Privately, Monck expressed concern that "the fact of seat of government being in such an isolated place will have a damaging effect on public men".[78] On 26 June, Brown noted that Macdonald had been "as usual out of order" in the Assembly for some days past.[79] A "disgraceful" two-day binge early in August kept him away from the House altogether.

In mid-August 1866, the Globe broke journalistic silence to launch a vigorous public attack. Pope called the leading article "more than usually vile" and even Alexander Mackenzie, George Brown's faithful echo, was reportedly shocked.[80] While the Globe's assault was an unprecedented violation of decorum, it was undoubtedly effective. For "three days in succession" Macdonald was alleged to have appeared in the House "so utterly gone at mid-day as to be unconscious of what he was doing". Macdonald and a cabinet colleague were seen "rolling helpless on the Ministerial benches". (The other inebriate was probably D’Arcy McGee: presumably from this time dates the tale of Macdonald telling his colleague that the ministry could not carry two drunks, and that McGee must reform.) Macdonald's speech was "wild and incoherent …so thick as to be almost incomprehensible". Worse still, the Globe continued, he had been drunk during the Fenian raid. (In 1870, the Globe elaborated the allegation, claiming that "telegram after telegram was left unanswered, because he was in such a state of intoxication that he could not comprehend them".) Echoing Lord Monck's concerns, it charged that Macdonald's incapacity was responsible for postponing Confederation into 1867. Widening the indictment, the Globe blamed his cabinet colleagues for failing to intervene, since they had "long known the road Mr. Macdonald was travelling".[81]

As a counter-measure, Macdonald's Kingston supporters organised a banquet in his honour – surely a high-risk strategy. Conspicuously sober, the guest of honour deplored the Globe's "wanton and unprovoked attack"; Cartier and McGee lauded his role in Confederation.[82] But, as the Globe pointed out, nobody denied the allegations. Government newspapers merely pleaded that the problem was "not confined to one side of the House".[83]

At the Kingston banquet, McGee described Macdonald as the author of fifty of the seventy-two Quebec Resolutions, the Confederation blueprint. Leading a Nova Scotian campaign in London to block the scheme, Joseph Howe decided that "the matter might be improved".[84] On 3 October, he wrote to the colonial secretary, Lord Carnarvon, "charitably attributing to the inveterate habits referred to the incoherent and defective character of the whole scheme", and objecting to placing the Maritime provinces under Canadian politicians who "cannot govern themselves". Officials were alarmed by Howe's attempt "to assail Confederation through the Canadian ministers". The foreign secretary, Lord Stanley, felt that, under responsible government, Macdonald's inebriation was Canada's problem, but Carnarvon, later nicknamed "Twitters" by his own party leader, argued that "Parliament would hardly absolve us" if British soldiers were killed because of paralysis of command in the Canadian militia. Monck privately confirmed that the Minister of Militia was occasionally so drunk "as to be incapable of all official business for days on end". But, as Colonial Office staff recognised, Canada was "jealous of interference" and nothing could be done from London. Carnarvon had to recognise that Macdonald, "in spite of his notorious vice", was "the ablest politician in Upper Canada", and to lose him "would absolutely destroy Confederation" and pave the way for annexation. One civil servant hoped that the Canadians "would now have the good sense to keep Mr John A Macdonald on the other side of the Atlantic", but Carnarvon decided that it would relieve "grave anxiety" if there was an ocean between Macdonald and the Canadian militia.[85] Macdonald's weakness for alcohol had become a problem at the heart of the Empire. Yet within a year, the British would him a Knight Commander of Order of the Bath and Lord Monck had singled him out to become the first Prime Minister of the Dominion.

Although he discreetly avoided naming Macdonald, Carnarvon impressed upon Monck that "undoubted ability" was no excuse for drunkenness.[86] However, censorious officials in London were soon "very greatly struck by [Macdonald's] power of management and adroitness".[87] He also married again. The privacy of the decision must be respected, but his sudden wooing was probably related to the furore over his habits. Agnes Bernard had left Canada the previous year to live in England, which seems to rule out any previous engagement between them. Their decision to marry was probably taken around Christmas 1866, when Macdonald was deeply absorbed in the drafting of the new constitution.[88] He had also suffered extensive burns after setting fire to his hotel bed. He had fallen asleep at the close of a busy day, and knocked over a bedside candle, and it may be revealing that he was anxious that the episode should not be reported.[89] At the age of thirty, Agnes was free to make up her own mind, but Macdonald sought the approval of the bride's brother, civil servant Hewitt Bernard, formerly his private secretary and now in London serving the Canadian delegation. Bernard assured the incredulous journalist T.C. Patteson that Macdonald had acknowledged that his drink problem represented an objection but "he had promised reformation in that respect". Bernard later claimed "he did everything he could to dissuade his sister from the marriage".[90]

Was Macdonald abandoning alcohol to get married, or taking a wife to break his habit? Either way, change did not come at once. Macdonald returned from England to a triumphant cabinet meeting 6 May 1867. Civil servant Edmund Meredith recorded that Macdonald was "carried out of the lunch room of the Executive Council office hopelessly drunk".[91] The challenge of forming the first Dominion cabinet next took its toll: "Macdonald has been in a constant state of partial intoxication", Galt told his wife as July the First approached.[92] A rival if eccentric candidate alleged that Macdonald was drinking during an election debate in Kingston in September.[93]

Official Ottawa looked to his young bride to curb Macdonald's weakness. "What a prospect Mrs John A[.] has before her!", Meredith exclaimed.[94] When Robert Harrison, now an MP, spotted "Sir John drinking" in December, he promptly collected Agnes by cab and escorted her to the rescue: afterwards, this proud, spiky woman thanked him.[95] In mid-January 1868, her diary noted "a rather trying week": the Commercial Bank had been swallowed by a Montreal rival, and Macdonald had now lost all control over his debts. Agnes gave up wine "for example's sake" and throughout 1868 she seemed to be winning the uphill battle: even references to her husband's headaches may refer only to overwork.[96] Macdonald came through the shock of the murder of McGee in April, his face "white with fatigue, sleeplessness & regret," Agnes noted in her diary. "Yet he never gave in, or complained, or was other than cheerful, to me, & kind."[97] More important still, he remained sober during the negotiations that summer to placate the Nova Scotian separatists. Her pregnancy, confirmed at the end of August, was probably a further steadying factor. In February 1869, she gave birth to a daughter.

The idyll was soon destroyed. It soon appeared that their child was physically handicapped and could never live a normal life. The blow coincided with a demand for the settlement of Macdonald's debts: he owed almost $80,000, about ten times his annual ministerial salary. At the age of 54, and with a second family to support, Macdonald was forced to surrender his assets.[98] This personal disaster destroyed his self-control. When apologists later claimed that the Red River crisis had wrecked his health, the Globe retorted that Macdonald had started to drink in the summer of 1869 when there were "no unusual pressures upon Ministers".[99] By September, rumours were rife in Ottawa. In October, Macdonald attended an official luncheon in Toronto to greet Queen Victoria's son, Prince Arthur. Hewitt Bernard, who accompanied him, "was kept in a state of miserable anxiety about Sir John who committed himself disgracefully at the Dejeuner at Toronto".[100] Macdonald was steered out of the dining room by T.C. Patteson. Weeks later, Agnes Macdonald finally admitted in her long-neglected diary that she had "suffered keenly in mind since I last wrote here. … I was over confident, vain and presumptuous in my sense of power. I fancied I could do too much and I failed signally."[101]

Yet Macdonald was neither permanently inebriated, nor incapable of doing his job, as was shown by his shrewd management of the Red River crisis through the winter of 1869-70.[102] It was not until late April that he cracked. An incidental embarrassment about this binge was the presence in Ottawa of a front-rank British politician, Sir Stafford Northcote: the Globe feared "the account he will have to give in England of the rulers of the New Dominion." Indeed, Northcote reported home that consternation followed the report "Sir John A. has broken out again". Macdonald's usual pattern, so he was told, was to go to bed and drink bottles of port. "All the papers are sent to him, and he reads them, but he is conscious of his inability to do any important business and he does none." Lord Stanley was amused by Northcote's letter. "It seems he breaks out in this fashion once or twice in the year", Stanley noted, adding that "the habit is so well understood that no especial notice is taken of it". Indeed, on this occasion the complaint was "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".[103]

The "urgent business" was the creation of the province of Manitoba. Macdonald's attendance in parliament was "very irregular" for several days, and there was "much comment and speculation". Some said he was drafting the Manitoba legislation, others admitted he was "indisposed". On 30 April, in a powerful editorial headed "A Foul Disgrace", the Globe charged that "the Prime Minister has again yielded to the temptation of drink" and was "incapable of attending to his duties" at a critical moment in the long campaign to absorb the Northwest. It was almost as if Macdonald chose "those seasons when his vice is calculated to bring the greatest disgrace upon himself and upon the country". The spectacle of its leader "babbling in maudlin intoxication in a hotel bar-room, is a thing to which no other country would submit for an hour." The Globe recalled "his pitiable condition" during the Fenian raid and revealed "his disgraceful condition" during Prince Arthur's visit. As in 1866, the attack was widened to Macdonald's colleagues for serving under "a confirmed drunkard."[104] Macdonald did return to work, but the excuse offered by apologists, that he had been "suffering from over-exertion", only provoked a further Globe thunderbolt on 5 May. Reading the Globe's denunciation over a century later, it is hard to see how any politician could have survived.

The following afternoon, Macdonald collapsed suffering from a kidney stone. The attack almost killed him, but it probably saved his career. Alcohol was not totally banished from the sickroom: on one occasion Agnes "took a flask of whisky and rubbed some of it over his face and chest", treatment that Macdonald found soothing. But his diet was controlled by his doctors. Meanwhile, well-wishers subscribed to mitigate his financial worries and the Montreal Gazette magisterially rebuked the Globe for its vendetta.[105] There were fears that Macdonald would not survive his 1870 illness, but its sudden severity probably saved his career.

The following year, after a desperately slow convalescence, Sir John A. Macdonald played a superb hand for Canada during the tense negotiations for the 1871 Treaty of Washington, which pitted him not simply against the voracious Americans but also the arrogant British.[106] But the unpopular Treaty, and the loss of the Ontario provincial government to the opposition, weakened him as he headed into the second Dominion election in 1872. Desperate for campaign funding and forced to act as his own bagman, he appeared to place himself under obligation to the entrepreneur Hugh Allan in his notorious telegram begging for one more $10,000 donation. He had no idea what promises Cartier had made to Allan to secure similar support – and Cartier, himself gravely ill, had left Canada soon after the election to die in London the following May.[107] Worse still, drinking heavily, Macdonald probably could not recall his own commitments. At the Kingston hustings in July, he was "much excited" and slapped his opponent's face: the colonial secretary, Lord Kimberley, thought the episode "delicious" and tried to imagine Britain's sanctimonious prime minister Gladstone slugging an opponent.[108] Unamused, Macdonald's campaign manager, Alexander Campbell claimed that throughout the election, Macdonald "kept himself more or less under the influence of wine" and hence had "no clear recollection of what he did on many occasions". Another lieutenant, Charles Tupper, also attributed Macdonald's notorious telegram to Allan to his "being 'upon the drink'".[109]

Throughout the six-month public humiliation of the Pacific Scandal of 1873, Macdonald returned to the bottle. Late in May, the governor-general, Lord Dufferin,

confidentially warned Lord Kimberley that Macdonald had "broken through his usual abstemious habits" and was resorting "to more stimulants than suit his peculiar temperament". Dufferin thought it tragic "to see so superior a man subject to such a purely physical infirmity, against which he struggles with desperate courage". Kimberley regarded this rare hint of the disease theory as an amusing euphemism, but he agreed that "we should excuse and cover his failings", adding "I am very sorry to hear he has had a relapse into his old habits".[110] Often veiled from the intrusion of posterity, Macdonald's alcohol problem was widely known among influential contemporaries.

During that summer of 1873, the governor-general shocked Alexander Mackenzie by inviting the "drunken debauchee" to become godfather to the Dufferins' latest child. Macdonald arrived at the christening from Cartier's funeral in Montreal, "in a very bad way, – not at all himself" after drowning his sorrows. Somehow, "he contrived to pull himself together … in a most marvellous manner". Even the blasé Dufferin was uneasy when they had to confirm a death sentence – probably that on Elizabeth Workman of Sarnia who was sent to the gallows for the murder of her husband, a heavy drinker with a record of physical abuse. Macdonald had already opposed a reprieve, but it seems that her hanging was finally confirmed during his hangover.[111] Throughout August, Dufferin was reporting "that Sir John has been constantly drinking during the last month" and "in a terrible state for some time past". Months later, he admitted that his prime minister had in fact briefly disappeared altogether. "No-one – not even his wife – knew where he was." Macdonald turned up at Rivière-du-Loup, where enemies alleged that he had attempted suicide by jumping off a wharf. Macdonald later laughed at the story, but alcohol abuse is associated with self-harm: perhaps it was founded upon some real incident.[112] Parliament reassembled in late October to confront the Pacific Scandal. Dufferin reported that Macdonald began the session well, "but after two or three days the strain became too much for him, and he was compelled to resort to stimulants, which produced the usual effect". During the debate, he delayed speaking for fear that the opposition might then reveal yet more damning evidence. But the principal Liberal orator, Edward Blake, refused to speak before Macdonald, "calculating on the effect of his physical infirmities breaking his adversary down". By the time Macdonald finally rose on 3 November, his majority had virtually evaporated. Although "quite tipsy" earlier in the day, as already noted he continued to drink gin throughout his "tremendous oration".[113] The next day, Macdonald's cabinet colleague, Peter Mitchell, found the prime minister "lying on a sofa in a state of intoxication". Macdonald reluctantly agreed to Mitchell's request that he meet with a key waverer, Donald Smith, asking only for time to sober up. But Smith angrily stalked out after twenty minutes, complaining that Macdonald had "done nothing but curse and swear at me since I went into the room". That evening Smith administered the government's coup de grâce.[114] As Campbell cleared his ministerial desk, he grumbled "that had Sir John A[.] kept straight during the last fortnight the Ministry would not have been defeated". Throughout the session, Campbell wrote, "we never had the full advantage either of his abilities and judgment or of his nerve and courage". Worse still, unlike Churchill, Macdonald suffered from hangovers. "A night of excess always leaves a morning of nervous incapacity and we were subjected to this pain amongst others."[115]

Macdonald continued to drink for a time after his downfall, although he seems to have overcome his problem by 1877. On one occasion, on a visit to T.C. Patteson's country property, "Sir John got very drunk at dinner" and insulted another guest, Charles Tupper. Agnes Macdonald was obviously upset and walked out.[116] "Once he was to speak at a town on Lake Huron," Willison recalled of another binge, probably from this period, "but he was so long in sleeping off the consequences that the vessel on which he was a passenger dare not put into harbour." Sometimes well-wishers discreetly veiled embarrassing lapses, and some episodes probably left no trace in the record. Interrogated by a group of MPs, his loyal Ottawa cabman Patrick Buckley – whose job was to get him home at night – diplomatically replied that Macdonald was never in better health.[117] The parliamentary correspondent of the Toronto Mail applied tactful self-censorship in reporting an occasion in 1875 when Macdonald appeared in the House slightly drunk ("though not very bad, his condition was well known"), to the disgust of his own supporters. The incident was probably the occasion of Macdonald's comments on the outlawry of Louis Riel, delivered "after the [dinner] recess" on February 24, when he was condemned by Prime Minister Mackenzie for his "vehement language". In March 1875, Macdonald delivered one of his most celebrated statements, proclaiming even if Canada's link with Britain was "a golden chain … he, for one, was glad to wear the fetters". Mackenzie responded that his adversary "appeared to be speaking under some unusual excitement".[118] There is a vivid though not explicit glimpse in one journalist's description of Macdonald leaving parliament one winter night in 1875, "tottering down the hill … alone, others passing him with a wide sweep."[119]

Yet in May 1877, Dufferin noted that Macdonald could "drink wine at dinner without being tempted to excess, which hitherto he has never been able to do, and during the present Session he has never given way as in former times". Pope, his private secretary from 1883, insisted that the problem had been solved "long before I knew him." To adopt Fotheringham's dismissive vocabulary, Macdonald shucked the bottle over a decade before he farewelled the Conservative party.[120]

There remain just two alleged lapses. One, already noted, was the Globe's charge that he was drunk during an all-night filibuster in April 1878. The report, supplied by Alexander Mackenzie himself, was probably politically motivated. Raising the allegation as an issue of parliamentary privilege, Macdonald's supporters testified to his sobriety, a risky strategy if untrue. Macdonald himself even engaged in an uncharacteristic threat of an action for defamation, although he directed his feint at a minor newspaper in Guelph rather than confront the mighty Globe.[121] Creighton relates a colourful tale of one final binge in November 1878. Macdonald, who had travelled to Halifax to welcome the new governor-general, Lord Lorne, was said to have retreated to bed with a pile of official reports, looking "more dead than alive". A private secretary who daringly invaded the room to warn that the viceregal party was about to disembark was dismissed with the words: "Vamoose from this ranch!". Although – unusually for his punctilious scholarship – Creighton gave no source for his story, it can be found in Patteson's reminiscences, recorded nearly thirty years later – and, when Creighton wrote, still officially closed to researchers.[122] The truth may be more prosaic. Having only just returned to office, Macdonald faced a heavy workload. He was suffering from corns and probably preferred to get off his feet. He had been in Halifax for just three days, hardly long enough for a prolonged disappearance, and he welcomed the Lornes on the dockside wearing court dress, formal attire which requires some preparation.[123] True or false, it seems to be the last story of John A. drunk.

"I believe he has been more sober lately," Lord Kimberley noted in 1884. J.W. Bengough still occasionally caricatured Macdonald with bottle in hand, but the prime minister no longer drank to excess.[124] Indeed, some preferred to remember that he had "completely triumphed" over his weakness, proving his "strength of character".[125] How did he overcome his problem? The major study of Macdonald's relations with his doctors concentrates on practitioners from Kingston, a city he left by the 1870s.[126] Hence it is impossible to know whether he received medical treatment. Dufferin's report that he could handle wine might suggest that Macdonald had belatedly decided not to mix his drinks. According to Pope, during his last decade, Macdonald confined himself to a glass of claret at dinner, drinking spirits only occasionally and "in great moderation." Macdonald himself implied that his metabolism rebelled and imposed a form of aversion therapy, telling Dufferin in 1877 that "his constitution has quite changed of late". This statement is certainly compatible with realisation that he had a gallbladder problem. By 1881 his digestive system was seriously disordered. Macdonald's sister plausibly blamed his liver, but an Ottawa physician suspected stomach cancer. A specialist in London diagnosed "catarrh" (possibly gastritis) and placed him on "a very rigid diet" (which would also be an appropriate regime for avoiding trouble with gallstones). Henceforth, his favourite tipple seems to have been milk.[127]

There were also political reasons for Macdonald to confront his behaviour in the mid-1870s. Excessive drinking was becoming politicised as a problem requiring State intervention. Ontario in 1873 and Nova Scotia in 1875 legislated for the confinement of inebriates. The Dominion Alliance was formed in 1875-76 to demand prohibition.[128] The attack on alcohol, associated with the incumbent Liberal government of 1873-8, also presented political opportunities, as shown by the working class backlash when the 1864 Dunkin Act was used to force local option vote aimed at closing the bars in Toronto in September 1877. Dominion temperance legislation, the 1878 Scott Act, helped brand the Liberals as "cold-blooded, cold-water and cold-hearted" meddlers.[129] However, Conservative chances of exploiting the backlash against interventionist legislation would be damaged if their leader was himself visibly impaired by alcohol – hence the attempt to brand him as drunk in parliament in 1878. Macdonald's reformation was timely. In May 1877 Canada experienced a new form of platform campaigning featuring moral exhortation from a reformed drunkard.[130] With the climate of opinion towards public inebriation changing, Macdonald essentially found politics more addictive than alcohol.

However, he remained capable of using alcohol in support of networking. "Well, boys, don't you think we have had enough of disallowance?", he remarked as he steered two supporters towards the parliamentary restaurant after a debate on Manitoba railway charters. "Let's go down and take our allowance."[131] Victorian convention credited Macdonald's recovery to "the care, solicitude and good counsel" of his second wife, Agnes.[132] Perhaps Agnes succeeded not by filling the gap left by the death of Macdonald's first wife, Isabella – indeed, her efforts as a bride failed – but by occupying a deeper void left by the passing of his mother, Helen Macdonald, who died in 1862. Like Mackenzie King and Trudeau, Macdonald was greatly influenced by his mother, and his descent into occasional despair after 1856 paralleled her decline through a series of strokes.[133] Amateur psychology might suggest that Agnes, strong willed and heavy featured, gradually acquired a maternal ascendancy. The teenage Maud Montgomery, who met her in 1890, described her as "quite stately and imposing, with very beautiful silver hair, but not at all good looking and dressed, as I thought, very dowdily".[134] If so, Agnes would be neither the first nor the last wife to discover that her husband needed a substitute mother. In addition, until her sudden death in 1875, Macdonald's mother-in-law formed part of their Ottawa household. Immediately after Theodora Bernard's death, Macdonald joined the Church of England, his wife's communion, thus finally breaking with his Presbyterian heritage.[135] This probably represented a resolve to make a fresh start in his own life, although Anglicans were not prominent in denouncing alcohol.[136]

Beyond that, historians must conclude that Macdonald's decision to stop abusing alcohol remains almost as difficult to explain as the causes that drove him to the bottle in the first place. Since his drinking bouts do not neatly slot into the years between his two marriages, they were probably traceable to deeper causes. "I had no boyhood", he once remarked. The family left Scotland because his father failed in business. At the age of seven, he witnessed a violent attack that had killed his younger brother – ironically, by a drunken childminder who had tried to force the boys to drink gin.[137] As the sole surviving son he became the vehicle of his ambitious mother's disappointed hopes. Aged nine, he was sent to school in Kingston where he lived in dismal lodgings, remote from his family on the Bay of Quinté. Although a star pupil in a competitive environment, it seems there were times when he found the demands too great: on one occasion he ran away from school rather than face its annual public examinations.[138] In later life, taking to the bottle was perhaps a surrogate form of escape. The fact that his father had a drink problem is probably suggestive, and the problem surfaced in the third generation, affecting Macdonald's son Hugh John as well.[139] Sometimes, as in 1862 and 1873, Macdonald drank because of political pressures, while at others, as in 1866 and 1869, family and financial worries predominated. The pattern was cyclical: the inebriate of the Militia Bill crisis, the Fenian raid, the Manitoba Act and the Pacific Scandal in 1862, 1866, 1870 and 1873 was also the controlled negotiator who made the most of the unpromising situations that he faced in Nova Scotia in 1868 and at Washington in 1871. Paradoxically, his personal weakness highlights his political strength, as the only front-rank figure in Canadian political history to have triumphed despite his weakness for the bottle. Even when he was challenged for the party leadership after the debacle of 1862, his caucus preferred John A. Macdonald occasionally drunk to John Hillyard Cameron unimaginatively sober.[140] "His drinking was exaggerated", Willison recalled, "… by sleepless and insensate opponents."[141] Perhaps they did so in the private world of political gossip but, in the public sphere, the picture was surely reversed. "In the lifetime of his wife and children it would be difficult for me to be more outspoken," Pope explained in 1900.[142] Macdonald's binges were treated with remarkable forbearance, and the Globe's attempts to unmask them probably offended Victorian propriety. Popular awareness of Macdonald's "weakness at various times for drink" probably explains the relative sparseness of major biographical studies, especially in the early years after his death when public interest in his career might have been assumed.[143] Both Pope and Creighton were reticent in confronting the extent of his problem. Moreover, both divided their studies at 1867, the midpoint of Macdonald's drinking years. Hence even where his excesses had to be acknowledged, they were portrayed as minor lapses in a career of achievement. In reality, between 1856 and 1877, the entire central phase of his life, Macdonald's weakness for alcohol was recurrent and sometimes disastrous, constituting a cumulative problem which has not been fully appreciated. Yet to focus on the frequency of Macdonald's dependence upon the bottle has a paradoxical outcome, since ultimately it forces us to rise above condemnation to recognition of his outstanding ability. "Being Prime Minister of Canada is not a picnic, even in the best of times," Brian Mulroney remarked on the centenary of Macdonald's death. "Some days, I think I know in some small way what Sir John A. felt."[144] Canadians had good reason to prefer John A. drunk to anybody else sober. Paradoxically, it is only by appreciating that, for two decades in the central phase of his career John A. was sometimes very drunk indeed, that we can begin to appreciate the remarkable extent of his achievement.

*Thanks are due to Peter Waite for his encouragement of my study of Macdonald, and to Donald Wright and to the readers of the Journal of Canadian Studies.



[1]  Ged Martin, "John A. Macdonald and the Bottle", Journal of Canadian Studies, xl, 2006, 162-185.

[2] J. K. Johnson and P. B. Waite, "Macdonald, Sir John Alexander ", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 17, 2019,

[3] D.G. Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1952; John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1955; Richard Gwyn, John A: The Life and Times of John A. Macdonald The Man Who Made Us, Toronto: Random House, Canada, 2007; Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times, Toronto, Random House, Canada, 2011.

[4] "John A. Macdonald and the Moral Universe" will be added to this website shortly.

[5] Richard Gwyn, John A: The Life and Times of John A. Macdonald The Man Who Made Us, 264.

[6] Ged Martin, Favourite Son? John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891, 112-13, 58-9, 63, 81-7.

[7] A.A. Travill, "Sir John A. Macdonald and his Doctors", Historic Kingston, xxix , 1981, 85-108.

[8] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 70.

[9] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 331-2.

[10] Library and Archives Canada [LAC], J.R.Gowan Fonds, M1898, Macdonald to Gowan, private, 15 November 1864.

[11] Ged Martin, "Understanding Macdonald: Reviewing a biographical project", in P. Dutil and R. Hall, eds, Macdonald at 200: New Reflections and Legacies, Toronto: Dundurn, 2014, 435-6.

[12] Peter C. Newman, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1968 ed., 9-10, 184-7.

[13] E.B. Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, Montreal: John Lovell & Son, 1891, 193.

[14] Ged Martin, John A. Macdonald: Canada's First Prime Minister, Toronto: Dundurn, Quest Biography series.

[15] In 1876, Macdonald addressed a series of political picnics across Ontario, in a remarkably successful outdoor campaign of speechmaking. In a recent, important and analytical work, E.A. Heaman calls these events "rowdy" and "boozy". There is no evidence for the first adjective, while consumption of alcohol at the gatherings was more likely convivial than excessive. It seems that the aura of genial over-indulgence still clings to Macdonald. E.A. Heaman, Tax, Order and Good Government, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017, 137.

[16] Globe and Mail, February 11, 2001.

[17] W. Ferguson, Bastards & Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders Past and Present, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999, 82.

[18] Allan Fotheringham, Look Ma … No Hands: An Affectionate Look at Our Wonderful Tories, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart-Bantam Limited, Seal Books, 1984, 20.

[19] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 192; Joseph Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, 2 vols, Ottawa: J. Durie & Son, 1894, i, 325; Maurice Pope, ed., Memoirs of a Public Servant, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1960, 130; Ged Martin, "Macdonald and His Biographers", British Journal of Canadian Studies, xiv, 300-19.

[20] P. Stevens and J.T. Saywell, eds, 1983, Lord Minto's Canadian Papers, 2 vols, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1983, ii, 115.

[21] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 217, 331-2, 519; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 40-1, 67, 158-9, 175, 621.

[22] Globe, April 16, 1878; D.C. Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1960, 325; P.B. Waite, "Sir Oliver Mowat's Canada: Reflections on an Un-Victorian Society", in D. Swainson, ed., Oliver Mowat's Ontario, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 21-2.

[23] B. Roberts, "'They Drove Him to Drink': Donald Creighton's Macdonald and his Wives", Canada: An Historical Magazine, iii, 1975, 51-64, esp. 60; Travill, "Sir John A. Macdonald and his Doctors", 85.

[24] C. Heron, Booze: A Distilled History, Toronto: Between The Lines, 2003, 9-10, 48, 141-3.

[25] Compact Oxford English Dictionary (1991), 34.

[26] N. Kessel and H.Walton, Alcoholism, Harmondsworth UK: Penguin, 2nd ed., 1969, 90-1.

[27] Heron, Booze: A Distilled History, 10.

[28] Kessel and Walton, Alcoholism, 71.

[29] J. K. Johnson and P. B. Waite, "Macdonald, Sir John Alexander", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 15, 2019,, esp. 605.

[30] A.L. Burt, "Peter Mitchell on John A. Macdonald", Canadian Historical Review, xlii, 1961, 209-27, esp. 216; Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 193-4.

[31] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 194.

[32] S.B. Oates, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Harper Row, 1977, 354.

[33] UK National Archives [UKNA], Cardwell Papers, PRO 30/48/6/39, Gordon to Cardwell, private, January 30 1865, 63-66.

[34] A. Hawkins and J. Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1869-1902, London: Royal Historical Society, Camden Fifth Series, 1997, 349-50.

[35] Heron, Booze: A Distilled History; J. Roberts "The Taverns and Tavern-Going in Upper Canada, 1849" in D. Pollard and G. Martin, eds., Canada 1849, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Centre of Canadian Studies, 2001, 95.

[36] J. Noel, Canada Dry: Temperance Crusades before Confederation, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995, 4-5.

[37] Noel, Canada Dry, 125.

[38] R. Lamond, Narrative of the Rise & Progress of Emigration, from the Counties of Lanark & Renfrew [Scotland], to the New Settlements of Upper Canada…, Glasgow: Chalmers and Collins, 1821, 94; S. Moodie, (ed. R. L. McDougall), Life in the Clearings, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1959 (cf. 1st ed. 1853), 48.

[39] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 80; Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 6.

[40] J.W. Spurr, "Garrison and Community, 1815-1870" in G. Tulchinsky, ed., 1976, To Preserve & Defend: Essays on Kingston in the Nineteenth Century, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1976, 107; J. Roberts, "The Taverns and Tavern-Going in Upper Canada, 1849", 93-107.

[41] J. Roberts, "'A Mixed Assemblage of Persons': Race and Tavern Space in Upper Canada", Canadian Historical Review, lxxxiii, 2002, 1-28; J. Roberts, "Harry Jones and his Cronies in the Taverns of Kingston, Canada West", Ontario History, xcv, 2003, 1-21.

[42] Globe, 4 August 1849; 30 April 1870.

[43] B.W. Hodgins, John Sandfield Macdonald 1812-1872, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971, 33.

[44] Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii 1990, 684. (K. Cruikshank, "Macpherson, Sir David Lewis", in vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 15, 2019,

[45] Thomson , Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, 22-3.

[46] B. Roberts, "'They Drove Him to Drink': Donald Creighton's Macdonald and his Wives".

[47] C .B. McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, 225.

[48] Globe, 4 August 1849.

[49] LAC, Macdonald Fonds, vol. 194, Campbell to Macdonald, March 8 1855; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 217. Campbell certainly wrote "drinking the refractory members" and not "drinking with". This suggests that it was a standard term within the narrow world of parliamentary politics, referring to a recognised technique for managing unreliable supporters.

[50] J.K. Johnson, The Papers of the Prime Ministers: Volume I, The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald 1836-1857, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1968, 210.

[51] P. Oliver, ed., The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003, 126-7.

[52] Globe, 27 February 1856; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 228-9.

[53] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 260-1; R.J. Cartwright, Reminiscences, Toronto: William Briggs, 1912, 10; J. Pope, The Day of Sir John Macdonald: a Chronicle of the First Prime Minister of Canada, Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1920, 166.

[54] Ged Martin, "John A. Macdonald: Provincial Premier", British Journal of Canadian Studies, xx, 2007, 99-122.

[55] Globe, 26 May, 16, 17 June 1858.

[56] J.K. Johnson and C. Stelmack, eds, The Papers of the Prime Ministers: Volume II, The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald 1858-61, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1969, 303.

[57] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician , 310.

[58] F.M.G. Wilson, A Strong Supporting Cast: The Shaw-Lefevres 1789-1936, London: The Athlone Press, 1993, 200.

[59] Globe, 14, 19 May 1862; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician , 327-33.

[60] LAC, Newcastle Fonds, A-308, Monck to Newcastle, private, May 23 1862.

[61] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 192-3, 326.

[62] Ged Martin, Favourite Son?: John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891, 55-9.

[63] C.B. Sissons, Egerton Ryerson: His Life and Letters, 2 vols, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company, 1947, ii, 480-1; J.D. Livermore, "The Orange Order and the Election of 1861" in Tulchinsky, ed., To Preserve & Defend: Essays on Kingston in the Nineteenth Century, 245-60; G.J. Lockwood, "Temperance in Upper Canada as Ethnic Subterfuge ", in C.K. Warsh, ed., Drink in Canada: Historical Essays, Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993, 68.

[64] Lockwood, "Temperance in Upper Canada as Ethnic Subterfuge "; J.M. Clemens, "Taste Not; Touch Not; Handle Not: A Study of the Social Assumptions of the Temperance Literature and Temperance Supporters in Canada West between 1839 and 1859", Ontario History, lxiv, 1972, 142-6.

[65] Cartwright, Reminiscences, 47.

[66] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 193; T.P. Slattery, The Assassination of D'Arcy McGee, Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited, 1968, 205-7; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, 345-6.

[67] Montreal Gazette, 30 March 1864; M. Magill, "The Failure of the Commercial Bank", in Tulchinsky, ed., To Preserve & Defend: Essays on Kingston in the Nineteenth Century, 69-81.

[68] LAC, Gowan Fonds, M-1898, Macdonald to J.R. Gowan, private,15 November 1864,

[69] Sissons, Egerton Ryerson: His Life and Letters, ii, 503.

[70] J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe, Volume Two: Statesman of Confederation 1860-1880, Toronto, Macmillan Company of Canada, 1963, 151-2.

[71] D. Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1964, 115-16;   Careless, Brown of the Globe, Volume Two: Statesman of Confederation 1860-1880, 228.

[72] W.L. Morton, ed., Monck Letters and Journals, 1863-1868: Canada from Government House at Confederation, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, The Carleton Library No. 52, 1970, 158-9; E. Batt , Monck: Governor General 1861-1868, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart 1976, 34. Alas, there is no clue to the speech from Hamlet that Macdonald chose to recite. "To be or not to be" is about suicide, not nation-building.

[73] Careless, Brown of the Globe, Volume Two: Statesman of Confederation 1860-1880, 190.

[74] H.B.M. Best, "George Etienne Cartier", PhD dissertation, Université Laval, 1969, 347.

[75] S. Gwyn, The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier, Toronto: Harper Collins, 1989, 45.

[76] Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867, 377-405.

[77] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 299-304.

[78] Gwyn, The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier, 39.

[79] Careless, Brown of the Globe, Volume Two: Statesman of Confederation 1860-1880, 228.

[80] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 325-6.

[81] Globe, 20, 24 August, 5 September 1866, 30 April 1870; Biggar, An Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, 193; Slattery, The Assassination of D'Arcy McGee, 343, 418.

[82] Montreal Gazette, 7 September7 1866; Canadian News [London, England] 13, 20, 27 September 1866, 169, 184-5, 197-8; Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867, 402. Ged Martin, Favourite Son?: John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891, 81-7 estimates ticket sales for the Kingston banquet, suggesting that the episode harmed his popularity in his home city.

[83] Globe, 5 September 1866.

[84] L.J. Burpee, ed., "Joseph Howe and the Anti-Confederation League", Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, series 3, vol. 10, March 1917, 435.

[85] UKNA, CO 42/661, Howe and W. Annand to Carnarvon, October 3 1866, and minutes by A. Blackwood and F. Rogers, 462-7; R. Blake, Disraeli, London, Methuen & Co Ltd, 1969 ed., 1969, 668; UKNA, Carnarvon Papers, PRO 30/6/138, Carnarvon to Derby, private, October 11-12 1866, 105-12. Both Carnarvon and Monck kept extensive personal archives. However, allusions to communications that cannot now be traced suggest that some private correspondence between them dealing with Macdonald's alcohol problem was discreetly destroyed.

[86] LAC, Monck Fonds, A-756, Carnarvon to Monck, private and confidential, 19 October 1866.

[87] G.E. Marindin, ed., Letters of Frederic Lord Blachford Under-Secretary for the Colonies 1860-1871, London: John Murray, 1896, 301.

[88] Ged Martin, Canadian History: A Play in Two Acts?, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Centre of Canadian Studies, 1999, 10-12.

[89] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 316-17.

[90] Ontario Archives [OA], T.C. Patteson Fonds, MS 49, Reminiscences, c.1905; Gwyn, The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier, 198.

[91] LAC, Edmund Meredith diary, MG26, E15/7, May 8 1867.

[92] LAC, Galt Fonds, RG27, 108/3, typescript copy of Galt to Amy Galt, confidential, June 23 1867.

[93] W.J. Coyle, "Elections in Kingston in 1867", Historic Kingston, xvi, 1968, 48-57.

[94] LAC, Edmund Meredith diary, MG26, E15/7, May 8 1867.

[95] Oliver, ed., The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878, 319-20

[96] LAC, Macdonald Fonds, 551A/C-1447, Agnes Macdonald diary, 11, 19 January 1868; L. Reynolds, Agnes: A Biography of Lady Macdonald, Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1990, 53-4.

[97] LAC, Macdonald Fonds, 551A/C-1447, Agnes Macdonald diary, 13 April 1868; Reynolds, Agnes: A Biography of Lady Macdonald, 55.

[98] Reynolds, Agnes: A Biography of Lady Macdonald, 60-1; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 42; Ged Martin, Favourite Son?: John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891, 89-90, 170-9.

[99] Globe, 5 May 1870.

[100] LAC, Edmund Meredith diary, MG29, E/17, 7, 13 September, 8 October 1868; Oliver, ed., The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878, 364.

[101] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 42.

[102] While Macdonald's handling of the Red River difficulty was politically skilful, the crisis arose out of his government's almost casual assumption of responsibility for the vast territories of the Hudson's Bay Company.

[103] Globe, 27 April 1870; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain , 67; J. Vincent, ed., A Selection from the Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, London: Royal Historical Society, Camden Fifth Series, Volume 4, 1994, 58-9. Dr Andrew Jones points out that Stanley (as 15th Earl of Derby) was similarly non-judgemental of his cabinet colleague R.A. Cross, who was widely believed to have appeared drunk in the (Westminster) House of Commons in 1884-5. J. Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: A Selection, Oxford: Leopard's Head Press, 719, 793.

[104] Globe, 27, 29, 30, April, 5 May 1870.

[105] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, ii, 76-7; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 70-1; Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, Montreal, 106; Montreal Gazette, 4 November 1870.

[106] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 75-129.

[107] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 103-79; J.-C. Bonenfant, "Cartier, Sir George-Étienne", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 18, 2019,

[108] Kingston Daily British Whig, 25 July 1872; Martin, Favourite Son?: John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston, 1841-1891, 94; LAC, Kimberley Fonds, A-315, Kimberley to Dufferin, private, 28 August 1872.

[109] D. Swainson, "Alexander Campbell: General Manager of the Conservative Party (Eastern Ontario Section)", Historic Kingston, xvii, 1969, 78-92, esp. 91; LAC, Kimberley Fonds, A-317, Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 7 August 1873. Tupper, who was medically qualified, seems to have acted, at least informally, as Macdonald's doctor at this time.

[110] LAC, Kimberley Fonds, A-315, Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 29 May 1873; A-317, Kimberley to Dufferin, private, 12 June 1873; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 158-9.

[111] Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, 156; LAC, Kimberley Fonds, Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 21 June 1873; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 159; J. Swainger, The Canadian Department of Justice and the Completion of Confederation 1867-78, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000, 70-1.

[112] LAC, Kimberley Fonds, A-317, Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 9, 14 August, 6 November 1873; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 164; Kessel and Walton , Alcoholism, 164-6.

[113] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 174-7; LAC, Kimberley Fonds, A-317, Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 6 November 1873.

[114] Burt, "Peter Mitchell on John A. Macdonald", 217.

[115] LAC, Edmund Meredith diary, MG29, E15/8, November 7 1873; Swainson, "Alexander Campbell: General Manager of the Conservative Party (Eastern Ontario Section)", 91-2; J. Charmley, Churchill: The End of Glory, London: Sceptre ed., 1993, 549.

[116] AO, Patteson Fonds, MS 49, Reminiscences.

[117] J. Willison, Reminiscences Political and Personal, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1919, 179; Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald , 243.

[118] AO, Patteson Fonds, F1191, MU 2306, Charles Belford to Patteson, private, "Saturday", 1875; Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, i, 318, 915; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 196.

[119] W.F. Maclean, "The Canadian Themistocles", Canadian Magazine, iv, 1894, 253-60, esp. 257.

[120] C.W. de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1955, 351; Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 325. Cf. Fotheringham, Look Ma … No Hands, 20.

[121] Globe, 14 April 1878; Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, 325; Waite, "Sir Oliver Mowat's Canada: Reflections on an Un-Victorian Society", 21-2.

[122] Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 248-9; AO, Patteson Fonds, MS 49, Reminiscences. Creighton presumably had either unofficial or indirect access to the source, and chose not to reveal that he was breaking the embargo.

[123] J.K. Johnson, ed., Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and His Family, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969, 130; Globe, 22, 26 November 1878.

[124] Hawkins and Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse First Earl of Kimberley for 1869-1902, 350; D. Fetherling,ed., J.W. Bengough, A Caricature History of Canadian Politics, Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Limited, 1974, 243; C. Cumming, Sketches from a Young Country: The Images of Grip Magazine, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997, 43.

[125] Stevens and Saywell, eds, Lord Minto's Canadian Papers, ii, 115; W.S. Wallace, Sir John Macdonald, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1924, 123.

[126] Travill, "Sir John A. Macdonald and his Doctors"; Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain, 111.

[127] De Kiewiet and Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 351; Pope, The Day of Sir John Macdonald , 166; Johnson, ed., Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and His Family, 144; E.M. Saunders, ed. The Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper, Bart, K.C.M.G., 2 vols, London: Cassel and Company, 1916, ii, 303; OA, Alexander Campbell Fonds, F23/MU474, Macdonald to Campbell, 2 June 1881.

[128] Heron, Booze: A Distilled History, 142, 144-5; J.L. Sturgis, "Beer Under Pressure: The Origins of Prohibition in Canada", Bulletin of Canadian Studies, viii, 1984, 83-100.

[129] Heron, Booze: A Distilled History, 161-2; Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, 327.

[130] A.J. Birrell, "D.I.K. Rine and the Gospel Temperance Movement in Canada", Canadian Historical Review, lviii, 1977, 23-42.

[131] G. Ham, Reminiscences of a Raconteur, Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1921, 236-7.

[132] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald , 192.

[133] Ged Martin, "Macdonald and His Biographers", British Journal of Canadian Studies, xiv, 1999, 300-19, esp. 305-6.

[134] M. Rubio and E. Waterston, eds, The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume I, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1985, 25-6.

[135] L. Reynolds, Agnes: A Biography of Lady Macdonald, 80-1.

[136] Heron, Booze: A Distilled History, 54, 58, 155-6.

[137] Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, i, 5-6.

[138] Biggar, Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald , 29-30.

[139] Reynolds, Agnes: A Biography of Lady Macdonald, 156; Kessel and Walton, Alcoholism, 71.

[140] Montreal Gazette, 30 May 1862,

[141] Willison, Reminiscences Political and Personal, 179.

[142] M. Pope, ed., Memoirs of a Public Servant, 160.

[143] T.W.L. McDermott, "John A. Macdonald – His Biographies and Biographers", Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1931, 77-84.

[144] Brian Mulroney, "Address, June 6 1991", Historic Kingston, xl, 1992, 9-13.

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