Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Sir John Eh?

Jan 6, 2015

Next Sunday (January 11) is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, and the festivities have commenced.

First out of the gate is journalist Stephen Marche who has written a rather incoherent assault on Macdonald's memory for the most recent issue of The Walrus. I say incoherent because, firstly, Marche claims he is going to avoid the kind of historical revisionism that criticizes the past for not being the present -- "Like all idols, the man had clay feet. Who cares?" --and then proceeds to do just that. And secondly, because Marche seems to blame Macdonald for the fact that 124 years after his death Canada still lacks "the vision thing."

For a more nuanced assessment of the Old Chieftain you might want to check out a series of articles that ActiveHistory will be posting over the next few days. As Thomas Peace, the moderator of the series, points out, Macdonald tends to bring out the simplistic in us. "Macdonald was either responsible for creating 'Canada-the-good' or, he was the root of everything that is wrong with this country."

I'm looking forward to having Big Mac's legacy given some complexity.

UPDATE: Canada's History magazine is also commemorating the bicentennial.