cropped image of John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, ca. 1875 by George Lancefield. Photo by, George Lancefield –Wikimedia

Top 10 Amazing Facts about John A. Macdonald


Sir John Alexander Macdonald is known in political history as the first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada who took Canada in its early period of growth and prosperity. 

He was in power between 1867-1873 and 1878-1891. He was born on January 11, 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland. He later on emigrated from Scotland to Kingston(today’s Ontario in Canada). 

His father was Hugh, an unsuccessful merchant, and his mother was Helen Shaw.  John has four siblings with him being the third born and due to their father’s increase in debt, they sort to settle in Canada where they would start a new life. 

These are some of the facts about the former Canadian Prime Minister. 

1. John A. Macdonald started formal schooling at the age of 15 when he was a teenager

Like any other simple child, John attended local schools thanks to his parents who gathered enough funds to take him to school. 

They took the initiative to take him to Midland District Grammar School where he learned arithmetic and grammar articulation. Unfortunately, his formal education was cut short five years later. 

This was a norm for most children at that time and children from the most prosperous families were able to further their education at the university level. Macdonald, later on, regretted doing that for it disadvantaged him lots of career opportunities.

2. John A. Macdonald pursued law as a career and became a lawyer 

A few months after he opened his first law office in 1835. Photo by, Hammond, M.O-Wikimedia

This was made possible by his parents who sought to make Macdonald a lawyer for he was fond of reading and didn’t find any comfort in trade. 

Another reason why John sought to be a lawyer was that his father’s businesses were in shambles and did not earn any profits, and he needed to support his family. 

He read all that needed to be known about the law and later on, he traveled by steamboat to Toronto where he sat for the examinations set by the Law Society of Upper Canada he later on passed with flying colors.

3. Macdonald became one of the first Canadians to be immortalized on currency

Canadian stamp honoring Macdonald, 1927. Photo by, Canadian Bank Note Company –Wikimedia

Having served for 19 years as a prime minister a length of service that surpassed William Lyon Mackenzie King. He was ranked as one of the greatest prime ministers in Canadian history.

Therefore in 2015 during his 200th birthday, his face was featured on the Canadian two-dollar coin. He also appears on Canadian ten-dollar notes which were printed between 1971 and 2018.

4. John Macdonald once missed death by a whisker  

This incident occurred in December 1866 during the final negotiations of Confederation at the London Conference. 

John nearly kicked the bucket inside the room he was in at the Westminster Palace Hotel. He fell asleep with a candle still burning and as he was asleep, he was woken up by the smell of his charred flesh.

He had succumbed to a badly burnt on his flesh with the part of the body greatly harmed not known. He sought fast treatment while in London and soldiered on for attending the final negotiations. It is believed that he greatly concealed parts of his body that were greatly affected and no one noticed the burns. 

5. John A. Macdonald was luxurious 

This hidden attribute showed itself during a conference John and his political allies had attended in Charlottetown. 

Before attending the conference, they went about to purchase champagnes with which they would go with to the conference. They went on to purchase expensive champagnes worth $13,000.

They showed up with the champagnes leaving the political leaders of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island dumbfounded. 

These champagnes were used as an impressive gesture and in one way or another, it may have worked for the conference to come to terms with the agreement that was an early blueprint for a fledgling dominion. 

6.  Macdonald’s child  changed his career against his father’s will

Hugh John Macdonald being the only surviving son was not in good terms with his father and he was mainly brought up by his aunt.

As they say, like a father like a son but this was not the case with Hugh. He later went on to take a further step to abandoning his legal studies against his father’s will. 

He went about to sign up with the Queen’s Rifles and was later on sent to fight in the Red River Rebellion.  After returning from the rebellion, he was made Manitoba’s eighth premier. 

7. Sir John Macdonald has a simple grave despite him being a prominent person in Canadian history

Funeral of Sir John A. Macdonald in Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston, Ontario. Photo by, Powell, James W –  Wikimedia

Sir John was the first prime minister,  many expected to see him laid in a great monument.

Well, that’s not the case for the first Prime Minister of Canada for he has a modest grave even though many consider him the ‘Father of Canada’. Its grave can be a national historical but it can’t be noticed easily for one might just see it as any ordinary tombstone. 

The gravestone is inscribed with the words “John Alexander Macdonald 1815-1891 At Rest”

8. John A. Macdonald made it in Canadian history as the only Canadian Prime Minister to resign over a scandal 

This came shortly after his Conservative government was found to the allegations that they were engaging in corruption.

It was during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1873 when allegations were brought forward that his government was accepting bribes from the railway company that was given the mandate to bring the railway project to life. 

Macdonald was brought forward to the House of Commons to briefly address the allegations and shortly after the five-hour speech, he jotted down his signature on the resignation letter indicating that he had resigned. The Conservatives, later on, won back power in the 1978 election. 

9. John Macdonald also ventured into the field of commerce

During his early life, John did not show any interest in business but this all changed when he became a lawyer. 

After becoming a lawyer, he engaged himself in the field of commerce. He took part in a few trading activities as being a lawyer had sharpened his wits. 

The known business that he ventured into is real estate whereby he began in the early 1840s. He started in a warehouse firm for 25 years and also insurance in 1887

10. John A. Macdonald began his political career in 1843 

Macdonald entered politics in 1843, serving as an alderman in Kingston for three years. 

He was later on elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada to represent Kingston when he was 29 years. He took part in the formation of a political party known as the Liberal-conservative party.

He was into primogeniture( the eldest son inheriting everything if the property owner passed on without writing a will) hence opposing the abolition of such a rule since he was into male dominance and found the rule valid. 


Sir John A. Macdonald will be greatly remembered for his political expeditions and also will be remembered by some Canadian citizens as the founding father of Canada. He lived a life that can be fancied by the young generation and some of his life decisions can be emulated by people. 












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