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Alone at the Top
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Banner: First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics
John Joseph Caldwell Abbott


Was Canada's third prime minister a traitor?

John J. C. Abbott became prime minister after the death of Sir John A. MacDonald in 1891. But what scandals lurked in his past? In 1849, Abbott had signed the annexation manifesto. This document, advocating union with the United States, had been drawn up by a group of Montreal businessmen ruined by an economic recession and by Britain's removal of tariffs beneficial to colonial products. The supporters of the manifesto were more interested in blackmailing Britain into trade concessions and economic support than really joining the United States. Like other entrepreneurs who later became prominent public figures, Abbott signed the document and soon regretted his actions. He later confessed that they had "no more serious idea of seeking annexation with the United States than a petulant child who strikes his nurse has of deliberately murdering her."

But what about the Pacific Scandal? Abbott was at the centre of that too. He was a Conservative M.P. and the lawyer for the president of the CPR, who funded the Tory election campaign in exchange for a contract to build the trans-continental railway.

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

Abbott: main page

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