Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sir John the Scrapper

One may not think of John A. Macdonald as the type of man to resort to blows, but there were times when the red Scottish temper would boil over and get the better of him.  In a session of the parliament of the Province of Canada in 1861, Macdonald's future rival and former legal pupil, Oliver Mowat, was the target of a violent outburst from the future Prime Minister Sir John.

Oliver Mowat  H104-09
Macdonald had taken his seat after a speech which argued for a powerful central government.  The breakout of the American Civil War, with the cannons firing at Fort Sumter only a week before lent a credence to his suggestion for the federal government to hold robust overarching powers. In Macdonald's speech he had chastised Mowat for supporting representation by population, but Mowat took offence to being misrepresented.  Donald Creighton describes the ensuing furor in The Young Politician (1956):

"There must have been some provocation in his remarks - some charge that Macdonald had wilfully falsified his views.  Macdonald gasped.  These impertinences were actually coming from the fat boy who had been his inky junior at school and his respectful apprentice at law!  Suddenly, as the plump bespectacled, rather self-important little man finished his statement, Macdonald's brittle temper was shattered into splinters as at a blow.  In a minute - as soon as the Speaker had left the chair - he walked quickly across the gangway.  Blind rage in his heart, he confronted Mowat.

'You damned pup,' he roared, 'I'll slap your chops!' 
Pete DeCourcy gives Sir John a hard left.  Drawn by Leonard Kirk.  ComicBookDaily

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