Although textbooks describe ministries in the province of Canada
as dual premierships, contemporaries regarded the senior sectional
leader as Premier. John A. Macdonald's tenure of the office from
November 1857 to August 1858 was unsuccessful. The loss of
seats in Upper Canada in the midwinter general election left him
dependent upon French-Canadian support, and his ministry came
under prolonged attack from Reform leader George Brown.
Macdonald's ability to resist was undermined by the death of his
wife, causing poor health and an alcohol problem. The ministry
ended in the inglorious episode of the 'double shuffle', in which
Brown was outwitted, and Cartier succeeded as Premier. In deciding
to stage a tactical resignation over the seat-of-government issue,
Macdonald probably expected Brown to fail to form a ministry. He
considered leaving politics, and his brief premiership makes his
emergence as the dominant post-Confederation leader surprising.