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Aside from being for many years a prominent public character, and one who has filled many offices of trust and emolument, with honor and credit to himself and his native province, the subject of this sketch is deserving of a conspicuous place in this volume, as an eminent example of a man who has successfully fought his way from a comparatively small beginning, to his present high position, by the employment of his own resources, and almost wholly relying upon integrity of purpose and the indomitable energy bequeathed him from his Highland forefathers.
The Hon. Donald Alexander Macdonald, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, as intimated above, is a native Canadian, and son of Alexander Macdonald, a Scottish Highlander and Roman Catholic, who settled at St. Raphael’s, in the County of Glengarry, Ontario, as early as 178G. Here our subject was born on the 17th of February, 1817. He is a younger brother of the late Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume. Mr. Macdonald received his education partly at St. Raphael’s College, under the late Hon. and Right Reverend Alexander Macdonell, D.D., afterwards Bishop of Kingston. After completing his studies at Williamstown Grammar School, he turned his attention first to mercantile pursuits, and subsequently to the construction of canals and railways, in all of which branches of business he was successful.
Mr. Macdonald was possessed of good executive abilities and an irreproachable character, and soon had imposed upon him duties of a public nature: for many years he filled acceptably the office of Warden of Stormont, Pandas, and Glengarry Counties, and in 1859 acted as Vice-President of the Constitutional Reform Convention at Toronto. His labors have not been confined to any one thing, but his usefulness has been as varied as his ability to serve the many interests which received his attention: is Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Glengarry Reserve Militia; President of the Montreal and City of Ottawa Junction Railway, and Director of the Ontario Bank of Toronto.
In 1857, Mr. Macdonald began an active political career, contesting the constituency of Glengarry successfully for the old Canadian Parliament, a seat which he retained until the Confederation of the North American Provinces, when he was returned to the House of Commons, where he continued to sit until his elevation to the Lieutenant-Governorship in 1875. In December, 1871, he was tendered the Treasurer ship of Ontario, an honor which he respectfully declined; November, 1873, was sworn of the Privy Council, and became Postmaster-General, a position which he continued to hold until May 18, 1875, when he was appointed to his present office. During his long Parliamentary career Mr. Macdonald was diligent in the discharge of his duties, and guarded the interests of his constituents with zeal and faithfulness; and, we might add, with eminent satisfaction, if repeated election to the same seat be any criterion. While a member of the Government, Mr. Macdonald succeeded in establishing free delivery of mails in cities and towns; prepayment of postage on all mailable matter in the Dominion, and. a Postal Convention with the United States, whereby a reciprocal reduction in postal rates between that country and Canada, as well as a system of money orders between the two countries was established; by securing these important changes in postal facilities affecting the whole Dominion, he brought about a reform which reflects great credit on his short ministerial service: The surviving Militia Veterans of 1812 owe him a debt of gratitude for taking the initiative in securing, with others, a grant of $50,000 from the Government, as a slight acknowledgement for their services.
In politics Mr. Macdonald has always been. a Liberal, and in religious belief, adheres to the faith of his fathers.
He has been twice married; first in 1843, to Margaret Josephine (eldest daughter of the late Duncan Macdonell, Esq., of “St. Andrews,” Cornwall), who died in 1844. Second, to Catharine, second daughter of the late Hon. Colonel Alexander Fraser, of Fraserfield, Glengarry; she died in 1869. He has five surviving children.
Mr. Macdonald has made an excellent Lieutenant-Governor, performing the onerous duties of his office in an able and satisfactory manner. And when the term of his office shall expire, he can retire there from with a consciousness of having acquitted himself to the best of his ability, and discharged the trusts imposed upon him with equal satisfaction to the public and himself.