Bekah's report on Sir John A MacDonald......
Sir John bent over feeling nauseous, the effects of last night’s drinking starting to take their revenge on him. Everything started to whirl around him; he groaned; and then, threw up. Everyone stared! Sir John groaned for the second time. What was he, the Prime Minister, and the first (and probably only) man to throw up in the House of Commons, going to say to the reporters?
Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was a skilled lawyer and politician, but even more importantly, a persevering man. Unfortunately for him, however, he is also remembered for his drinking problem. Even though it was his many business, political and personal challenges that contributed to this problem. Despite these significant obstacles, however, MacDonald persevered. He played a key role in bringing together Canada as a nation while serving as the country’s first prime minister.
Macdonald was a well-regarded politician, however, his political life had complications. In 1873, six years after becoming Canada’s first prime minister, he had to resign because of the Pacific Scandal. He had accepted money for his electoral campaign from the company he awarded the much sought-after Pacific Railway contract. He was very upset and disappeared for six months. Not even his wife knew where he was. Upon his return, Macdonald’s party insisted that he stay their leader and he won the next election. So, despite significant challenges, Macdonald’s stubbornness helped him succeed.
Macdonald also had business problems. Growing up, his family had always had money troubles but, as a successful lawyer and politician, he had managed to turn that around. Unfortunately however, while he was out of the country with his sick wife, his law partner, A.J. McDonnell, was not making sound business decisions. When McDonnell died, he left Macdonald with over one million dollars in today’s money of business debts. However in his typical tireless fashion, Sir John rose to the occasion, assuming full responsibility for all of the debt.
As if his business and political trials were not enough, MacDonald also had a heartrending and difficult personal life. His wife, Isabella Clarke, struggled with a psychosomatic disorder and alcohol addiction. In fact, she was so sick that they had to move to Georgia, USA. Happily, Isabella started to improve there but after a few months John had to return to Canada to work, leaving her alone to recover. Sir John was extremely lonely without her and visited her whenever he could get away from his law practice and Parliament. During this same time, their first son also died in infancy. This blow weakened Isabella even more and she died shortly after at the age of 48. John was grief stricken and sadly turned to drinking away his troubles. Throughout all of these hardships, however, Macdonald persisted and continued to advance his political career.
Sir John Alexander Macdonald is now remembered for his great triumphs as Canada’s first prime minister. While leading Canada he was also overcoming all of his family issues, political messes, and business challenges. Now THIS was a persevering politician!
Brown, Jacqueline. Sir John A. MacDonald: The Rascal Who Built Canada. Toronto: JackFruit Press, 2005.
Waite, P.B. The Canadians: John A. MacDonald. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000.
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