Jan 11 2008
Today is the birthday of Canada’s first Prime Minister; by most accounts, a visionary, ferocious politician and first-class drunk. Sir John A. MacDonald, if you’re up there, I raise my glass of Merlot as a tribute to you (I know Scotch whiskey would be more appropriate, but the wine is all I’ve got on hand). Canada is forever in your debt.
Macdonald was well known for his wit and also for his alcoholism. He is known to have been drunk for many of his debates in parliament. Two apocryphal stories are commonly repeated; the first describing an election debate in which Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting while on stage. His opponent quickly pointed this out and said: “Is this the man you want running your country? A drunk!” Collecting himself, Macdonald replied “I get sick … not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent.” The second version has Macdonald responding to his opponent’s query of his drunkenness with “It goes to show that I would rather have a drunk Conservative than a sober Liberal.” (Montreal Gazette, 30 May 1862)
Having personally written the largest part of the Canadian constitution (BNA Act), and having been the main lobbyist for its adoption at London, Macdonald can truly be called the “Father of his country.
“In 2003, Nafekh Technologies, Inc. created a John A. Macdonald action figure which was initially sold in specialty stores. The National Post reported on June 30, 2005, that Canadian Wal Mart stores are selling the figure.
Macdonald spoke a fluent Scots Gaelic, as did around 250 000 other Canadians at the time.