Sir John A. Macdonald is Canada’s first Prime Minister
and a grand and colourful character whose accomplishments
helped forged a nation from sea to sea.
Over the course of the next three weeks, we will focus on providing quotes from our country’s Prime Ministers.
We begin with the quotes and quips of perhaps our greatest leader, Sir John A. Macdonald:
- Politics is a game requiring great coolness.
- Anybody may support me when I am right. What I want is someone that will support me when I am wrong.
- An election is like a horse-race, in that you can tell more about it the next day.
- There were, unfortunately, no great principles on which parties were divided – politics became a mere struggle for office.
- If you would know the depth of meanness of human nature, you have got to be a Prime Minister running a general election.
- Politics is a game requiring great coolness and an utter abnegation of prejudice and personal feeling.
- Give me better wood and I will make you a better cabinet.
- The time has come, I think, when we must choose men for their qualifications rather than for their locality.
- We are all mere petty provincial politicians at present; perhaps by and by some of us will rise to the level of national statesmen.
- The Government are merely trustees for the public.
- I don’t care for office for the sake of money, but for the sake of power, and for the safe of carrying out my own views of what is best for the country.
- Even if all the territory Mr. Mowat asks for were awarded to Ontario, there is not one stick of timber, one acre of land, or one lump of lead, iron or gold that does not belong to the Dominion, or to the people who purchased from the Dominion Government.
- Had I but consented to take the popular side in Upper Canada, I could have ridden the Protestant horse much better than George Brown, and could have had an overwhelming majority. But I willingly sacrificed my own popularity for the good of the country, and did equal justice to all men.
- He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour. [referring to Louis Riel]
- I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or to render it inferior to the other – I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible.
- I would be quite willing, personally, to leave that whole country a wilderness for the next half-century but I fear if Englishmen do not go there, Yankees will.
- But if it should happen that we should be absorbed in the United States, the name of Canada would be literally forgotten; we should have the State of Ontario, the State of Quebec, the State of Nova Scotia and State of New Brunswick. Every one of the provinces would be a state, but where is the grand, the glorious name of Canada? All I can say is that not with me, or not by the action of my friends, or not by the action of the people of Canada, will such a disaster come upon us.
- If Canada is to remain a country separate from the United States it is of great importance to her that they (the United States) should not get behind us by right or by force, and intercept the route to the Pacific. But in any other point of view, it seems to me that the country is of no present value to Canada. We have unoccupied land enough to absorb immigration for many years, and the opening up of the Saskatchewan would do to Canada what the Prairie lands of Illinois are doing now – drain away our youth and our strength.
- The word ‘protection’ itself must be taboo, but we can ring the changes on National Policy, paying the U.S. in their own coin.
- There is no maxim which experience teaches more clearly than this, that you must yield to the times. Resistance may be protracted until it produces revolution. Resistance was protracted in this country until it produced rebellion.
- When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head, smile and say, ‘We are going to have a summer shower.’
- I am afraid I shall have to give you the answer of the Irish servant who got into a place where the food was not as it should be – ‘there’s too much to swallow and too little to eat’.
- A compliment is the statement of an agreeable truth; flattery is the statement of an agreeable untruth.
- Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one.
- A sweet smile from the teeth outwards. [referring to John Abbott]
- When a man has done me an evil turn once, I don’t like to give him the opportunity to do so twice.
- [Macdonald was well known for his wit and also for his alcoholism. He is known to have been drunk for many of his debates in parliament. Here is a story from an election debate in which Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting while on stage.] His opponent quickly pointed this out and said: “Is this the man you want running your country? A drunk!” Collecting himself, Macdonald replied “I get sick … not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent.”
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