Breaking News about Sir John A.

Posted by Daniel on Dec 8, 2010

Back in January I wrote a post (here) about Sir John A. Macdonald's connection to British Columbia. In the federal election of 1878 voters in the Kingston riding that he had held for 34 years turfed him out so Sir John had to go looking for a safe riding to get himself back in Parliament. He found one all the way out here in Victoria. The Conservatives had won the 1878 election so when Sir John was able to capture the Victoria seat in a byelection it meant that Canada for the first time had a prime minister from BC (leaving aside the fact that he never actually visited the province for the few years that he held the seat).

Anyway, I raise the matter again because British-based historian Ged Martin has just published revelations about Sir John's relationship with voters in Kingston (details here). According to Martin, Kingstonians grew disenchanted with Macdonald as their MP because they felt he was not delivering enough public contracts and buildings for their community, and also because he had recently moved his law office from Kingston to Toronto, a slap in the face to the smaller city that had supported him for so many years. So, in spite of his stature as the leading Father of Confederation, they sent him packing.

Macdonald only represented Victoria in Parliament for four years. In 1882 he won another Ontario seat and then in 1887 all was forgiven and he was able to win back his Kingston riding.

Ged Martin's major revelation is that just prior to his death Sir John was orchestrating a scam to bring a large dry dock to Kingston. In fact Martin contends that it was worry over the secret deal that brought on the strokes that eventually killed the prime minister on June 6, 1891. (I kind of suspect that the drinking had more to do with it.)

Martin's article is called Favourite Son? John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston and is published by the Kingston Historical Society.