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Andrew Archibald Macdonald

Photograph of the Honourable A.A. Macdonald, March 1892


Hon. A. A. Macdonald, March 1892

(February 14, 1829 - March 21, 1912)

In politics and business, Andrew Archibald Macdonald carried on his family's long tradition of regional influence. Always protective of Prince Edward Island's interests, Macdonald accepted Confederation only when the Island's economic condition presented few alternatives for recovery.

Andrew Archibald Macdonald's Scottish grandfather established his family on Prince Edward Island in 1806. His land purchases and business ventures provided the foundation for the family's social and political power. In 1830, Andrew Archibald Macdonald's father and uncle were both elected to the Island's House of Assembly. Macdonald achieved the same distinction in 1854, when he joined the Liberal government of George Coles.

As an individual with over two decades of business experience and as a prominent spokesperson for the Island's Scottish Roman Catholic community, Macdonald ran successfully in the elections of 1858 and 1859. However, the latter contest led to a period of political disruption that resulted in the loss of his seat in 1859 and a loss in the election of 1863. Also in 1863, Macdonald was married to Elizabeth Lee Owen, with whom he had four sons.

It was typical of the unpredictable political climate of the period that, within weeks of his defeat, Macdonald gained a seat in the Legislative Council, where he became leader of the Opposition in 1864. In that role, Macdonald participated in the Confederation conferences at Charlottetown and Québec City. Macdonald was strongly opposed to any union that did not provide Prince Edward Island with constructive economic incentives or effective political representation. His demands included equal representation for each province in the proposed British North American Senate.

Many of the Island's delegates shared Macdonald's concerns, and the colony did not join Confederation in 1867. Coles formed a new government that same year, and he invited Macdonald to serve on the Executive Council. Apart from the Confederation question, the government was confronted with a number of controversial issues, including the land reforms advocated by the Tenant League. Coming from a family of landowners, Macdonald did not fully support the proposed reforms, nor did he support his own party's views when it came to denying special funding for Roman Catholic schools. Consequently, Macdonald joined a coalition government with James Colledge Pope, which focused on railway building rather than controversial matters of education.

Railways, however, brought fresh controversy. Even as Pope's government fell as a result of railway funding problems, Confederation emerged as the favoured option to recover from the economic crisis. In the Legislative Council, Macdonald himself presented the motion to accept the terms of union. Two months later, on July 1, 1873, Prince Edward Island joined Confederation. Macdonald soon accepted a position as the Island's postmaster general and would add to his political distinctions in later years, first in 1884 when he became lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, and then in 1891 when he became a member of the Canadian Senate.


MacDonald, G. Edward. -- "Macdonald, Andrew Archibald". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography online [online]. -- [Cited December 13, 2004]. -- Access: