Clan Donald Magazine No 12 (1991) Online
The Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald PC KCB
GCB QC MP By Dr Wallace G. Breck, Professor Emeritus, University of Kingston, Ontario.
Every year on June 6th,
the Kingston Historical Society sponsors a memorial service in honour of
Sir John A. Macdonald, a father of the Confederation of Canada in 1867,
Canada's first Prime Minister, and generally regarded as the father of
the country as an independent nation.
The ceremony is held just
outside of the City of Kingston, Ontario, at Cataraqui Cemetery, where
his burial site is located in a beautiful wooded glade setting which
serves as an outdoor chapel. Such a natural setting we consider to be
more appropriate than any massive lithic structure to mark the place of
rest of an emigrant Highland Scot who became the definitive Canadian.
In Kingston we have a
special affection for him we call "Sir John A", since he grew up and
trained here and was for two long periods our own Member of Parliament
for Kingston and the Islands.
The Order of Service for
June 6th, 1990 follows:
||Truedell Public School
|| Isobel Trumpour
||The Rev. Lincoln Bryant
||Father Claude Ouillet
"Sir John A.
Macdonald and the Idea of Canada"
|Professor Kenneth McNaught
Laying of Wreaths
||) Fort Henry Guard and Piper
||The Rev. James Dalrymple
|Chairman's Closing Remarks
||George F. Henderson
||Guard and Piper
At this gravesite, as
directed in his will, are also located the graves of his first wife,
Isabella; his mother, Helen; his father Hugh; his son, John Alexander;
his sisters, Margaret and Louisa; and his brother-in-law, the Rev. James
With the assistance of
Fort Henry Guardsmen, wreaths were placed on behalf of: the Government
of Canada, the Government of Ontario, the City of Kingston, the
Townships of Kingston and Pittsburgh, Queen's University, Clan Donald
Council of Canada, Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, the Ancient St.
John's Lodge No. 3, the Marshall Loyal Orange Lodge No. 6, Kingston and
the Islands New Democrats, the Progressive Conservative Association of
Kingston and the Islands, the Kingston and District Folk Art Council,
and the Frontenac Law Association. All of the above organizations have
reason to respect the various contributions to Canadian life by Sir John
A. Macdonald. Knight Grand Cross of the Honourable Order of the Bath.
Our speaker, Dr. Kenneth
McNaught, is a distinguished academic and author who has specialized in
Canadian historical studies in Winnipeg, Toronto, Berlin, Warwick and
Hamilton. Professor McNaught has been active in several historical
societies and has received such significant honours as a Killam Award
and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.
The constant loyalty and
service of Lt. Col. Gordon D. Leggett to the memory of Sir John A
Macdonald was recognised by the Kingston Historical Society by the
presentation to him by the President of an engraved commemorative quaich.
Sir John A. Macdonald's Idea of Canada
According to Professor
McNaught, Sir John A. was a "romantic realist" who could relate "symbol
and fact" and carry a dream to implementation. His idea of Canada was
based on a model of the Monarchy and the Parliament of Westminster, but
with the clear distinction that the relation with the mother nation from
which the model was derived be recognised as an alliance. He sought to
avoid subordination to continentalism from south of the border and
colonization from over the sea. To quote Professor McNaught:
"Macdonald's idea of Canada, then, demanded new and complex loyalties"
and "with Burke (and Scots everywhere) he knew that true patriotism
springs from love of one's native valley".
It is patent that
Macdonald's strategy for creating the nation of Canada out of such an
immense territory and overcoming such daunting obstacles required an
ingenuity special to the task. He essentially welded the country
together from sea to sea against the north-south geographical and
geological grain by a policy the implementation of which included the
founding of such famous and distinctly Canadian institutions as the
Canadian Pacific Railway and the Northwest Mounted Police (later the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police). This weld has been a sound one for over
a century, but lately has shown evidence of threatening strains.
One of the complex
policies which strains the weld of Canada as a nation is the preference
for allowing minorities (French, Indian, Scots, Irish, German, etc.) not
only to retain, but also cultivate and celebrate their distinct ethnic
cultures in a national mosaic, as opposed to mashing them into a
national brew which is more the American way. In particular, the problem
of recognition of French Canadian and Native Indian communities as
"distinct societies" with their own "sovereignty" (whatever the
definition of those terms), has caused constitutional impasse. For this
reason McNaught believes that we are in sore need of a booster injection
of Macdonald's brand of conservatism today whereby we should "treat
French Canadians as a nation and they will act as a free people usually
do... generously". Since Dr McNaught's quote of Macdonald on June 6th,
1990, the same sentiment might be applied to the relation between the
Province of Quebec and the Native Mohawks near Montreal.
McNaught concludes with,
"finally, then, Macdonald's idea of Canada was that of a humanist. It
envisioned a country not fearful of planning, of collective action, of
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