John A. Macdonald has long been regarded as one of the most important and damaging figures in Canadian history, but do his negative aspects really outweigh the positives? No matter which side you are on, it is undeniable that Macdonald has had a profound impact on Canada. Although he has contributed greatly to the creation of Canada, some say Macdonald has done more harm than good because of his contribution to the creation of residential schools. However, due to his achievement of forming Canada peacefully and his accordance with the common values of the time, John A. Macdonald’s name and likeness should remain in the public sphere.
Unlike the United States’ independence, Canada’s separation from Britain was far more peaceful. A big part of this peaceful independence was John A. Macdonald. With so many different needs among Canada’s population, it was a difficult task to try to get the provinces of Canada to come together. As the leader of the independence movement, Macdonald did a great job of “[getting] Canadians to co-operate” (Hopper). If Canada remained divided on the issue of confederation, it could have led to more tension and possible conflict between provinces. Macdonald was so important that “had there been no Macdonald there would today be no Canada” (Gwyn). Macdonald’s willingness to compromise was one of the main reasons why the provinces were willing to co-operate. The co-operation and unity of Canadians made it easier to present Britain with a plan for peaceful Canadian independence. Macdonald’s integral contributions to the peaceful formation of Canada is cause for him to be remembered and celebrated.
Nevertheless, many of John A. Macdonald’s fiercest critics say his views and policies were racist and he was the reason that residential schools exist. In fact, Macdonald’s views and policies were “pervasive and unchallenged” at the time and pinning all the blame on him is inaccurate (Ballingall). In fact, to look again the United States, Abraham “Lincoln believed that America ‘was and always should be a white man’s country’” (Foner). Yet, Lincoln is still considered an American hero for his positive contributions to the country. Macdonald and Lincoln, as well as most people of their time, “didn’t know the things we know” now about equality between races (Hopper). As the world becomes more connected, we are able to learn more about other types of people and not be left to our unchanging prejudices, like those in the 19th century. John A. Macdonald’s lack of knowledge about racial equality was actually common among most Canadians of the time. Putting all the blame of Canada’s racist past on Macdonald is doing him a disservice.
In short, John A. Macdonald was a big part of the formation of Canada, but many people have a problem with some of the views he held. Even though he led the Canadian confederation, some say his racist views are the reason to remove him from the public eye. Yet, because of his contribution to Canadian history and conformity to society’s values at the time, John A. Macdonald should remain in the public sphere. After all, the leader of Canada’s independence movement should be celebrated, and not left among the thousands of other names in history textbooks.
1) Foner, Eric. “Why Did Lincoln Move So Slowly to Abolish Slavery? Because He Was a Racist, This Book Argues.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/books/review/lincoln-and-the-abolitionists-fred-kaplan.html.
2) Gwyn, Richard J. “Canada’s Father Figure” Canada’s History, 6 January 2015, file:///Users/JD2003/Downloads/Academic%20Controversy%20-%20JAM%20Articles.pdf
3) Ballingall, Alex. “Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Genocide or Canada’s Founding Father?” The Toronto Star, 25 August 2017, file:///Users/JD2003/Downloads/Academic%20Controversy%20-%20JAM%20Articles.pdf
4) Hopper, Tristain. “Sure, John A. Macdonald was a racist, colonizer and misogynist – but so were most Canadians back then” National Post, 10 January 2015 file:///Users/JD2003/Downloads/Academic%20Controversy%20-%20JAM%20Articles.pdf