Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times

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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 Richard Gwyn.

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

RICHARD GWYN is an award-winning author and political columnist. He is widely known as a commentator for the Toronto Star on national and international affairs and as a frequent contributor to television and radio programs. His books include two highly praised biographies, Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary on Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood, and The Northern Magus on Pierre Elliott Trudeau. His book, Nationalism Without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian, was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 100 most important books published in Canada. The first volume of Gwyn's biography of Macdonald was published in 2007, became a national bestseller and won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House Canada
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Published on
Sep 27, 2011
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Pages
736
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ISBN
9780307366870
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Political
History / Canada / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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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.


“Macdonald hadn’t so much created a nation as manipulated and seduced and connived and bullied it into existence against the wishes of most of its own citizens. Now that Confederation was done, Macdonald would have to do it all over again: having conjured up a child-nation he would have to nurture it through adolescence towards adulthood. How he did this is, however, another story.”

“He never made the least attempt to hide his “vice,” unlike, say, his contemporary, William Gladstone, with his sallies across London to save prostitutes, or Mackenzie King with his crystal-ball gazing. Not only was Macdonald entirely unashamed of his behaviour, he often actually drew attention to it, as in his famous response to a heckler who accused him of being drunk at a public meeting: “Yes, but the people would prefer John A. drunk to George Brown sober.” There was no hypocrisy in Macdonald’s make-up, nor any fear.
—from John A. Macdonald


From the Hardcover edition.
The True Story Behind the Events on 9/11 that Inspired Broadway’s Smash Hit Musical Come from Away

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.


Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill.

Perfect for fans of Making a Murderer and The People v. O. J. Simpson, Invisible Darkness is the story of one of the more bizarre cases in recent memory—killings so sensational that they prompted the Canadian government, in the interests of justice, to silence its national press and to lock foreign journalists out of the courts.

To all appearances, Paul and Karla Bernardo had a fairytale marriage: beautiful working-class girl weds bright upper-middle-class guy and they buy a fashionable dream house in the suburbs. But, bored with his straight, prestigious accounting job, Paul soon went freelance as an international smuggler. He also revealed his boredom with conventional sex—enough so that, one Christmas Eve, he persuaded his wife to drug her own sister and engage in a menage a trois, during which the sister died (a bungling coroner ruled her death accidental). The couple then upped the ante, kidnapping and imprisoning several high school girls for sexual marathons, which they videotaped before savagely murdering their captives. When the girls’ bodies were found, the police were stymied (although Paul had been accused of rape and given a DNA test that vanished for two years and only recently was linked to some fifty sexual-assault cases) until Karla tried to have her husband arrested for wife beating. During questioning, she confessed to the crimes and is now serving two concurrent twelve-year sentences for manslaughter in exchange for testifying against her husband, who was jailed for life.


From the Paperback edition.
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.


“Macdonald hadn’t so much created a nation as manipulated and seduced and connived and bullied it into existence against the wishes of most of its own citizens. Now that Confederation was done, Macdonald would have to do it all over again: having conjured up a child-nation he would have to nurture it through adolescence towards adulthood. How he did this is, however, another story.”

“He never made the least attempt to hide his “vice,” unlike, say, his contemporary, William Gladstone, with his sallies across London to save prostitutes, or Mackenzie King with his crystal-ball gazing. Not only was Macdonald entirely unashamed of his behaviour, he often actually drew attention to it, as in his famous response to a heckler who accused him of being drunk at a public meeting: “Yes, but the people would prefer John A. drunk to George Brown sober.” There was no hypocrisy in Macdonald’s make-up, nor any fear.
—from John A. Macdonald


From the Hardcover edition.
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