History Byte – Who was Who in the Brewing Business – Sir John A. Macdonald

John Dougall and Sir John A. Macdonald by John Henry Walker. Copyright McCord Museum.

Who was Who in the Brewing Business takes a brief look at some of the personalities active in the business in Ontario in the mid-1800s.  These mini biographies were prepared by the Historical Programming department at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Sir John A. Macdonald

Canada’s first Prime Minister was infamously known for his love of a stiff drink.  During his second term in office (1878 – 1891) he inherited legislation known as the Scott Act from Alexander Mackenzie.  The Scott Act allowed retailers to prohibit the sale of alcohol and was proving to be a divisive subject in the late 19th century.  Macdonald did not repeal the act for fear of dividing his government.

The image features John Dougall, a noted temperance advocate and newpaper publisher in Montreal sharing a drink with Sir John A. Macdonald.  Likely intended as a spin on the no-so-jovial relationship between the two men, the cartoon suggests John A. began celebrating early with his reddened nose and empty bottle at his feet.  As the McCord Museum notes “Macdonald would go on drinking binges for weeks on end, often appearing inebriated in public.  Once, during an election campaign, he vomited on stage as he got up to answer an opponent.  He is reported to have won back the crowd by saying, “I don’t know how it is, but every time I hear Mr. Jones speak it turns my stomach.””  Despite his well-known affinity for the bottle, John A. MacDonald served six terms as Prime Minister of Canada, passing away in 1891 while still in office.

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