The Young Conservative


John A. MACDONALD was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1844. He soon established his own style:

“… he was never an entirely reactionary conservative. His approach to politics from the first was always essentially pragmatic. The fact was that circumstances made it impossible for Macdonald, or any other conservative politician, to cling to political positions that had become outmoded. The transfer of power from the governor and his appointed advisers to elected colonial politicians and the gradual acceptance of party politics created a system in which exclusivist views could not be maintained, at least in public. Macdonald preferred conservative options but did not wish, he stated in 1844, ‘to waste the time of the Legislature, and the money of the people, in fruitless discussions of abstract and theoretical questions of government.’”


In 1847 came a glimpse of Macdonald’s tendency towards moderate conservatism, commonsensical and disdainful of political “abstractions,” in his advancement of the University Endowment Bill:

“It did not pass but it reflected both his conservatism and his pragmatism. In an attempt to steer a middle course between the reform policy of a single state-supported, nonsectarian university and tory plans for a revived and strengthened Anglican King’s College in Toronto, he proposed to divide the university endowment among the existing denominational colleges but to give King’s College the largest share. In 1848 he resigned with the government to make way for the reform administration of Robert Baldwin* and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine*.” 


While the Conservatives were out of power between 1848 and 1854, Macdonald continued to promote the interests of his constituents in Kingston. Besides supporting charitable, religious, and educational institutions, he introduced legislation to incorporate Kingston as a city and encouraged its development. His constituents would re-elect him for seven consecutive terms between 1844 and 1867, and three terms between 1867 and 1874.

For more information on Macdonald’s early political career, please consult the following biographies.