John A. Macdonald begins practicing law

On today’s date in 1835, John A. Macdonald began practicing law in Kingston, Ont.

Earlier this year, Canada Post released a stamp marking Macdonald’s 200th birthday. He was, of course, Canada’s first prime minister and a Father of Confederation.

Designed by Montreal-based Paprika, the predominantly earth-toned stamp featured a portrait of “Sir John A.” with the dates 1815-2015.

Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company using five-colour lithography on Tullis-Russell coated paper, the self-adhesive stamps had simulated perforations. The date 2015 and copy mark are microprinted on Macdonald’s shirt to the left of his tie.

There were 150,000 booklets of 10 stamps printed, with an additional 11,000 official first-day covers, each cancelled in Kingston, the community Macdonald was most associated with.

Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on Jan. 11, 1815. He was the third of five children.

His father Hugh moved to Canada five years later, following the failure of his business. He settled in Kingston, where he operated a store. When that business failed, the family then moved to the nearby community of Hay Bay to operate a third store, which also failed.

Things finally began to improve in 1829, when Hugh was appointed a magistrate. Several years later, he became a bank clerk in Kingston.

At the age of 10, the young Macdonald was sent to school in Kingston but left at the age of 15 to article at the Kingston law firm of George Mackenzie. He started his own practice in 1835 and was called to the bar in 1836.

He specialized in corporate law, although he also took criminal cases and became active in the Kingston community. His practice prospered and he was appointed to the board of directors of several businesses, including the Commercial Bank of the Midland District.

Macdonald was a firm believer in the union of the various colonies of what was then British North America and was a delegate at the Charlottetown and Quebec City conferences of 1864. Those meetings and subsequent negations led to the creation of Canada in 1867.

After a stroke in May, Macdonald died on June 6, 1891.

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