Canada Post has released a new stamp marking the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and a Father of Confederation.
Designed by Montreal-based Paprika, the predominantly earth-toned stamp features a portrait of “Sir John A.” with the dates 1815-2015.
The self-adhesive stamps with simulated perforations were printed by Canadian Bank Note Company using five-colour lithography on Tullis-Russell paper. The date 2015 and copy mark are microprinted on Macdonald’s shirt, to the left of the tie.
According to Canada Post’s Jim Phillips, the firm produced 150,000 booklets of 10 stamps. There are a further 11,000 official first-day covers, all cancelled Kingston, Ont., the community most associated with Macdonald.
Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on Jan. 11, 1815, the third of five children.
His father, Hugh Macdonald, moved to Canada five years later, after his business failed. He settled in Kingston, where he operated a store. When that business failed, the family moved to the nearby community of Hay Bay to operate a third store, which also failed. Things began to improve in 1829, when Hugh was appointed a magistrate, and several years later 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.
As a member of the sedentary militia, he was called to active duty in 1837, but never left the Kingston area.
In 1843 he married Isabella Clark, a first cousin he had met while vacationing in Britain. She died in 1857. The same year he married, he became active in local politics. In 1844, he was elected to the legislative assembly of the Province of Canada, and was appointed attorney general.
In 1856, when the assembly voted to move the capital to Quebec City, Macdonald blocked the move and brokered a deal that would see the government located in Quebec for three years, while Queen Victoria selected a capital. In 1858 she announced that the new capital would be a small town on the border of present-day Ontario and Quebec: Ottawa.
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.
Governor General Charles Stanley Monck appointed Macdonald as prime minister; he was knighted on July 1, 1867, the same day Canada came into being. Earlier in the year he had married for a second time, to Agnes Bernard, the sister of his private secretary.
Macdonald stayed at the head of Canada for most of his remaining years, despite being out of power for five years following the Pacific Scandal, when it was discovered his party had received donations from railway promoters. His government fell and he spent five years in Opposition, returning to power from 1878-91.
During campaigning for the federal election in the spring of 1891, Macdonald collapsed, but continued his bid to return as political leader of the country. He lost that election to Sir Wilfrid Laurier. After a stroke in May, he died on June 6, 1891.
The stamps were unveiled Jan. 11, at a ceremony in Kingston.
At the same event, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a circulating toonie, with the Susanna Blunt effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and a portrait of Macdonald with the inscription of “Sir John A. Macdonald” and the dates 1815 and 2015 on the reverse. A map of Canada appears in the background.
In addition to the toonie, a number of non-circulating legal tender commemoratives were also planned. Details were not available at press time.