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Background of John Alexander Macdonald


Presently, Canada is undergoing another shudder of argument on the legacy of its pioneer prime minister, John A Macdonald. Even though he was a prolific leader who laid the solid groundwork for the future development of modern day Canada, some people are of the opinion that he was responsible for causing a rippling effect on destructive elements in terms of policy formulation. Nevertheless, the public cannot dispute his contribution. There is no shadow of doubt that he performed his duties with passion and he had the leadership qualities, which took Canada then next level. Born as Sir John Alexander Macdonald, in 11th of January in the year 1815, Scotland and died in the year 1891, he rose in the political world to become a well-known prime minister of Canada 1867 to 1891. His leadership period coincided with early development of Canada. This essay will elaborate on his contribution to Canada through his effective leadership.

Background of John Alexander Macdonald

 Macdonald migrated from Scotland to Kingston, presently, Ontario situates in Canada around 1820. In the year 1836, he went into the bar. Later, the British assembly combined the higher and lower sections of Canada into Ontario and Quebec in an act known as Union, in the year 1840 (Martin 54). Macdonald came into parliament of Canada in the year, 1844. Between 1848 and 185, while his political party was in the opposing side, Alexander toiled at the British American association, elected for promoting unity within Canada and reinforce its relations with British. Rising compassion for reformation pushed Macdonald to bring forth an alliance government in the year 1854 in partnership with George Cartier, the front-runner in the eastern side of Canada, from which emerged the growth and formation of a liberal conservative political party with Alexander at the helm of the new political outfit. Later on, he used the party as his political vehicle to ascend into the prime minister position in the year, 1857.

            In 1864, Alexandra and Cartier came together and joined forces with their main rivals, George Brown for the sake of arrangement of association of British North America (Martin 104). After the discussions in Charlottetown with Prince Edward of London, they passed the British north act in 1867 hence producing Protectorate of Canada and Macdonald was its primary leader. In order to recognize his efforts and service, the same year, Macdonald received the award from the British Empire. Under his rule, Canada rose to fame, grew its borders, and included new counties such as Manitoba.

His most defining moment

            One of the defining moments, even though not known to many about John Macdonald is the fact that, he was the first person to occupy the prime minister position, not only in Canada but also in the world (Martin 59). He also tried to enact policies that would allow women to vote. He tried to extent the right to vote to women in the year 1885 through the House of Commons but the bill failed miserably. The one thing that stands out for this leader was his words, which he uttered during the house of common sessions, as he tried to convince other leaders to give women an opportunity to vote. John discussed women’s rights, which were often overlooked. Hence, his efforts were figurative even though he failed.

 Macdonald wanted Canada territories to remain free from American. He believed that Canada should align itself with British ideals because of Great Britain’s authority (Martin 123). As he campaigned for his last term in office, his objective was to keep Canada from trading with America. In addition, he lost after the exposure of the pacific scandal, which left every tongue waging. To the public eye, he ran for office and won with a huge margin.

Characteristics of John A Macdonald

In the 1860s, Macdonald was Canada’s most known leader and politician. He was clever, calculating, and witty, had good strategizing skills with stamina, and loved alcohol. During his tenure, he would prove to be instrumental in generating Canada into a functional state. John was tall, with loose legs, black hair, and loved caricature. His was charismatic yet courteous, flirtatious and had a lot female admirers (Martin 67). Apart from his public life, he had a personal life, marked with sad tales. Macdonald married his Isabella, a cousin, five year older than Macdonald. Isabella became sick and bedridden for year. She developed an addiction to opium and alcohol. In spite of his sickness, she gave birth to a boy who later died a year after his birth. The death of his son affected John so much, people close to him claimed, he never really got over the death and kept the son’s toys until his death. Isabella gave birth to another son who survived him. He facilitated his political career with charisma, determination, and smart negotiations. In addition, his dedicated his life to his family and people.

 He was a nation builder and led by example. In his prime, British North America was covers of territorial works (Azzi, and Norman 23). He left Canada a nation, stretching from one coastline to another. An appealing man and a clever manipulator who would move mountains and achieve the unthinkable. For instance, he convinced New Brunswick and Scotia into constructing Quebec and Ontario in establishing league in the year 1867 under his own administration, the coalition continued to expand and grow.

As one of the founding fathers of Canada and its first prime minister, his duties varied in terms of magnitude and frequency (Azzi, and Norman 26). By making North West police, Macdonald recognized the perpetual implementation of Canadian law in the western areas. By doing so, he was able to avert war and even civil war like the one witnessed in United States during its expansion.

Macdonald’s government enacted starvation policies, which assisted, perfect First nations from prairies for the sake of structuring the Trans Canadian routes consequently leading to numerous dead people (Azzi, and Norman 36). Aboriginals did not get any food until they travelled to reservation areas. Once, they started moving, the food was unsafe for consumption hence people suffered from malnutrition and sickness.

Contributed in the formation of Trans Canadian route. Then protracted the intercolonial routes, which lays between Quebec and Halifax near the coastlines (Azzi, and Norman 23). Nevertheless, before acquiring the contractual agreement for building British Columbia, his government and its administrators made sure huge monetary aids to Hugh Allan who was the founder of the railway.

Hoping to construct a robust industrial location within Canada, Macdonald’s state policy charged high prices on overseas imported items in order to regulate American rivalry. This strategy was relevant all through the World War 2 (Azzi, and Norman 45). More so, he decided to regulate his drinking habit when he turned 60 years old. From that day henceforth, no one ever saw him drank in public.

            In the year, 1883, he presented a bill to the national assembly, which would give single women a chance to vote for their leaders. The bill failed but he presented it again to the national assembly the next year but still it could not pass through, in the process, shedding light to the sufferings women underwent on a daily basis (Stanley 78). In terms of the transcontinental railway, it became a reality in 1885. He celebrated the railway transport by riding the train with his wife.

The ability to convince a huge number of people to follow your perceptions and dreams is not an easy task. It takes courage, good communicative skills, and charisma, understanding the people’s predicaments and how to meet them at their point of need. Macdonald was like an artist who knew how to strike a good relationship with his audience and ensure relevance through the issues he spoke about. At end of it all, he was able to transform Canada into a nation while taking into account the basic opinions of people (Stanley 123). As many scholars claim, he was good at what he did since creating unity from despair is an uphill task for anyone. There could be no Canada without Macdonald, he was simply a genius who stood the test of times and gave people a chance in life by creating a bright future for Canadians. Of course, many aspects changed after the reign of Macdonald; however, his shadow will always hover around Canada’s history.

His experienced coupled with the ability of persuading a large group of people will remain once of his greatest attribute (Stanley 207). From knowing how and when to execute, retrieve and initiate a strategy left most his plans success. For instance, he knew which strings to pull in order to get a good railway system, which would link Canada to various places. His integrity and confidence to do what was right made achieve success in many ways. Without solid integral values, he may have failed terribly in establishing some of the country’s land marking projects and serving the people with his talents and intellect. The assertiveness he needed to join the upper and lower sections of Canada into one section was not short of amazing, to say the least.

Macdonald was able to inspire his followers or supporters. Perhaps the most challenging job for any leader of Macdonald’s caliber is persuading the crowd and pushing them toward the same boat. Any leader needs loyal followers hence the need to inspire others into action and believing ideals of the leaders (Stanley 213). When the journey became tough, a good leader keeps on the course and retains focus of the objectives. John was able to handle various issues well, even though, he was under immense pressure. In, the process, he gained followers and won elections after his term came to an end. Therefore, he was a positive leader with a vision of changing the state of the Canada regardless of the uphill task. Putting words spoken into action is key even as pressure increases all over the place.

 The standing qualities of Macdonald mad him standout from the rest of the leaders Canada had to offer during that era. He easily won over the support of many people due to his impeccable skills and relating with people and their challenges. He exhibited humility and people saw him as one of them. In addition, he dedicated his time and talents to assist communities all through his life’s course (Bakvis, 61). As some scholars say, leadership is not a position. In fact, his life story reveals his determination to save and keep people safe from harm through formation of policies that shape and enhance the state of the economy. In other words, he took his time to serve and influence the lives of other people positively hence, he came out as a genuine leader with an open heart, willing to serve.

John A Macdonald became famous for the manner in which he socialized around the public. He was kind man and courteous to each and everyone around him. As a result, people loved his company, as he was humorous and as usual, generated a calm tranquility around people he was with. All of his social skills made it possible for him to leave a lasting impression on the people he associated with (Stanley 112). For example, he went to the council house and met more than thirty farmers and after conversing for a few moments, he knew them by their names. In another occasion, one of his guests was astonished with his courtesy and hospitality that he described him as a good man with good leadership qualities. Simply put, he became more famous for the manner in which he handled people and issues that came with leadership or the position he held.

 There is no debate around Macdonald’s reputation as a Canadian leader with a vast influential grip on the country. There exists plenty of evidence to show his prowess as an outstanding leader with unique character and leadership skills, unmatched and relevant in the present world. After analyzing his character and prowess through the eyes of people who met him in person, his speech reveals a man who was great and filled with passion to serve and achieve the unthinkable (Carter 90). In addition, through the analysis of his speech, one could tell his character as a leader and a person who valued integrity and courage. According to his speeches, he was an active man, decisive, enthusiastic, and loved gin while at the same time extending of lead of kindness to his rivals. His flaws somehow were not shameful. In fact, his weak qualities made him appear normal and an average man just like his followers.

            Macdonald was an astute man with the ability of shaping perceptions for the better. For example, during the American civil war, he praised anyone who attempted to bring peace and calm in the troubled times. He lay down his personal feelings about America and gave the situation his undivided attention(Carter 250). After the war, he continued to avert the American economic model and was able to infuse his ideas into Canada without any trouble. One of his most notable attribute was uniting people and giving them a chance to thrive under his leadership. For illustration he join his rival into forming one territory and enhancing skills and supervising administration duties which made the people believe him in all governmental aspects. In terms of accountability he was able to be transparent and willing to accept his mistakes and recover any mistakes committed.

Leadership is not hereditary and thus one cannot be a leader from birth. Some may argue that the exposure to leadership positions at a young age sets one into a leadership path, early in their lives. However, exposure is not equal to attaining successful leadership. History has enough examples of people who failed to leave up to expectations although they were leaders from an early onset. Although all of the above may be true, leaders are made; it is fact that stands undebated for centuries as from the examples of Alexandra demonstrated above. People do not have qualities that make them leaders from birth (Pyne 199). In fact, leaders learn a lot from their day-to-day activities, which later shape their perspectives and decisions on various matters. On the other hand, enrolling to a program does not automatically make one a leader. Making a leader means that a person is willing to learn. Some people succeed and give out good results after learning while others fail. Leadership should be inspiring and motivating others to be a better version of themselves through daily interactions. Besides, people cannot except to follow an individual who does not inspire them to be better than they were yesterday. In other words, a systematic belief in humanity gives a leader credible followers that later crown him or her with leadership even without a position of authority. Leadership is not a position. More so, not a combination of qualities that helps one exerts authority over his or her subordinates. Rather, leadership is a service offered to all with good intention being the driving force of the person at the helm. Studies prove that an individual’s intentions inspire the qualities of a leader, which in turn stimulates him to take a position of service to all. For instance, a person who wants to affect his or her whole country has to run for the office of the president.

In summary, the first prime minister to serve was loved but received criticism in equal measure. John had various controversies such as the Pacific scandal which revolved around the construction of a railway. However, this does not imply he was not an effective leader. To say the least, he outdid himself during his tenure as a prime minister due to his ability to set pace and enact relevant and quality policies. His open book nature won him many hearts, which translated into followers and admirers. In the current world leaders have a variety of talents sets and qualities. Political leaders such as Macdonald standout due to their charisma and ability to sway the public on their side. He had a vision, stamina, and creative thinking hence pushing words into actions easily and gave out a hospital attitude every time he met people. No one can undermine the achievement of Alexander who enabled the formation of Canada territory and put in place policies, which enabled smooth running of the government. During his rule Canada became a formidable force due to John’s organizational skills and ability to move beyond the expected norms. The ability to convince a huge number of people to follow your perceptions and dreams is not an easy task. It takes courage, good communicative skills, and charisma, understanding the people’s predicaments and how to meet them at their point of need.







Azzi, Stephen, and Norman Hillmer. "Evaluating prime-ministerial performance: The Canadian experience." Understanding Prime-Ministerial Performance: Comparative Perspectives (2013): 242.

Bakvis, Herman, R. A. W. Rhodes, and Patrick Weller, eds. The hollow crown: countervailing trends in core executives. Springer, 2016.

Carter, Byrum E. Office of the Prime Minister. Vol. 2291. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Martin, Ged. John A. Macdonald: Canada's First Prime Minister. Dundurn, 2013.

Pyne, Stephen J. Awful splendour: a fire history of Canada. UBC Press, 2011.

Stanley, Timothy. "John A. Macdonald,“the Chinese” and Racist State Formation in Canada." Journal of Critical Race Inquiry 3.1 (2016).

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