British Journal of Canadian Studies

John A. Macdonald: Provincial Premier

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2007), 20, (1), 99–122.


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.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Martin, Ged