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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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Banner: First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics Sir John Alexander MacDonald Banner
John Alexander MacDonald.


Rebels with a cause: future prime minister helps save the day

Montgomery's Tavern, Yonge Street, Toronto, December 7, 1837. Some 400 rebels have gathered to protest the domination of the colonial government by a privileged few. Grievances over patronage have compounded with crop failures and economic decline. In desperation against an unresponsive government, men have taken up arms. Leading the rebels is William Lyon Mackenzie, the future grandfather of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada's longest-serving prime minister. Bearing rifles, pitchforks and staves, they face a larger and better-armed force of militia. Among the troops is the future Father of Confederation and prime minister-to-be John A. Macdonald. The destiny of Canada hangs in the outcome of this confrontation!

Fortunately for Canadian history, both Macdonald and Mackenzie survive this fateful encounter! The revolt is repressed; fifty-three rebels are tried the following year and two are hanged. After his militia duties, the young lawyer John A. Macdonald defends one of the rebels at his trial. The leader of the revolt, William Lyon Mackenzie, is exiled from Canada for ten years, during which time his daughter is born, the mother of our future prime minister, Mackenzie King.

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

Macdonald: main page

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