Richard J. Gwyn -- Reading & SigningMonday Jan 16 2012 7:30 pm, Saskatoon, Travel Alcove
Nation Maker, Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times (Random House)
An exciting story, passionately told and rich in detail, this major biography is the second volume of the bestselling, award-winning John A: The Man Who Made Us, by well-known journalist and highly respected author .
John A. Macdonald, Canada's first and most important prime minister, is the man who made Confederation happen, who built this country over the next quarter century, and who shaped what it is today. From Confederation Day in 1867, where this volume picks up, Macdonald finessed a reluctant union of four provinces in central and eastern Canada into a strong nation, despite indifference from Britain and annexationist sentiment in the United States.
But it wasn't easy. The wily Macdonald faced constant crises throughout these years, from Louis Riel's two rebellions through to the Pacific Scandal that almost undid his government and his quest to find the spine of the nation: the railroad that would link east to west. Gwyn paints a superb portrait of Canada and its leaders through these formative years and also delves deep to show us Macdonald the man, as he marries for the second time, deals with the birth of a disabled child, and the assassination of his close friend Darcy McGee, and wrestles with whether Riel should hang.
Indelibly, Gwyn shows us Macdonald's love of this country and his ability to joust with forces who would have been just as happy to see the end of Canada before it had really begun, creating a must-read for all Canadians.has long been widely-known as a political columnist for The Toronto Star and a frequent commentator on tv and radio. He is also well-known as the writer of award-winning books. These include highly-praised biographies of Pierre Trudeau, The Northern Magus, and of Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood, The Unlikely Revolutionary. His study of Canada as a post-modern, multi-cultural society, Nationalism With Walls; The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian, was cited by the Literary Review of Canadian as one of the country’s 100 most-important books.
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The first full-scale biography of Canada’s first prime minister in half a century by one of our best-known and most highly regarded political writers.
The first volume of Richard Gwyn’s definitive biography of John A. Macdonald follows his life from his birth in Scotland in 1815 to his emigration with his family to Kingston, Ontario, to his days as a young, rising lawyer, to his tragedy-ridden first marriage, to the birth of his political ambitions, to his commitment to the all-but-impossible challenge of achieving Confederation, to his presiding, with his second wife Agnes, over the first Canada Day of the new Dominion in 1867.
Colourful, intensely human and with a full measure of human frailties, Macdonald was beyond question Canada’s most important prime minister. This volume describes how Macdonald developed Canada’s first true national political party, encompassing French and English and occupying the centre of the political spectrum. To perpetuate this party, Macdonald made systematic use of patronage to recruit talent and to bond supporters, a system of politics that continues to this day.
Gwyn judges that Macdonald, if operating on a small stage, possessed political skills–of manipulation and deception as well as an extraordinary grasp of human nature–of the same calibre as the greats of his time, such as Disraeli and Lincoln. Confederation is the centerpiece here, and Gywn’s commentary on Macdonald’s pivotal role is original and provocative. But his most striking analysis is that the greatest accomplishment of nineteenth-century Canadians was not Confederation, but rather to decide not to become Americans. Macdonald saw Confederation as a means to an end, its purpose being to serve as a loud and clear demonstration of the existence of a national will to survive. The two threats Macdonald had to contend with were those of annexation by the United States, perhaps by force, perhaps by osmosis, and equally that Britain just might let that annexation happen to avoid a conflict with the continent’s new and unbeatable power.
Gwyn describes Macdonald as “Canada’s first anti-American.” And in pages brimming with anecdote, insight, detail and originality, he has created an indelible portrait of “the irreplaceable man,”–the man who made us.