Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: June 2013

"Gwyn has done full justice to the man whose own story is inextricably interwoven with that of Canada". This quote from historian Margaret MacMillan, says it all. What a wonderful book! I took Nation Maker with me on our White House Sandals Hotel holiday in Jamaica this February, and loved it.

I knew that Sir John A. Macdonald, from Glasgow, Scotland, had been the first Canadian Prime Minister, but I didn't really know too much beyond that. Now I have had this gap in my knowledge filled in by Richard Gwyn. And in such a pleasant, enjoyable way. Gwyn is a veteran journalist, and it shows in his beautiful use of the English language. The book is a delightful read, apart from being full of historical detail.

Nation Maker is a follow up to the first volume, John A.: The Man Who Made Us, and picks up the story just after Confederation Day 1867. Macdonald went on to create a secure foundation for the new nation, Canada, in the face of indifference from Britain, and annexation sentiment in the United States.

Among the many actions he took were the foundation he set for Canadian Law in that of Britain. This established precedent and made it much easier for a fledgling country. He protected the early industries in Canada, such as the steel industry in Hamilton, Ontario, and gave them time to grow strong. But most important of all, he supported the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Sir John could see that the railway running between Canada and the United States would delineate the border between the two countries, and establish Canada as a separate country.

Nation Maker indeed! Fascinating, this book is a "must read" for all those who would like to learn more about Canadian early history the easy way. I couldn't put it down, and was sorry when I had finished it.  

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