Alexander Mackenzie

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Alexander Mackenzie, PC (January 28, 1822April 17, 1892), was a building contractor and newspaper editor, and was the second Prime Minister of Canada, from November 7, 1873 to October 8, 1878.


Alexander Mackenzie
  • We shall all respect the principles of each other and do nothing that would be regarded as an act of oppression to any portion of the people.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (March 10, 1875)
  • How I wished for manhood and the opportunity to wreak my vengeance on my country's oppressors
    • his lecture Sarnia April 1858 "Anglo-Saxon race" reflecting on his youthhood readings of Bruce and Wallace - Buckingham page 137
  • Loyalty to the Queen does not require a man to bow down to her manservant, her maidservant, her ox... or her ass!
    • responding to McDougall who claimed he was disloyal for not supporting the Government - Lambton debates 1867 - Buckingham page 229
  • Walk into my parlour said the spider to the fly
    • August 1872 debate Sarnia - to Macdonald in declining Macdonald's offer for Mackenzie to join the Coalition Cabinet in 1865 upon George Brown's resignation in protest - Buckingham page 324
  • I have always held those political opinions which point to the universal brotherhood of man, no matter in what rank of life he may have taken his origin
    • Speech to Working Men of Dundee July 14, 1875 - Speeches of Alexander Mackenzie during his recent 43
  • We shall all respect the principles of each other and do nothing that would be regarded as an act of oppression to any portion of the people
    • Speech to the House of Commons, March 10, 1875
  • To the working men of Dundee...I press upon them the absolute necessity, as the very foundation of success in life, that they shall assume an erect position; that they shall respect their own manhood; and they will soon compel all other people to respect them
    • Speech to Working Men of Dundee July 14, 1875 Evoking Burn's A Man's A Man For A' That - Speeches of Alexander Mackenzie during his recent 44
  • No Canadian government, whatever political party, will attempt to hinder the extension of the true principle of free trade all over the world
    • Speech The Banquet in Dundee July 13, 1875 - Speeches of Alexander Mackenzie during his recent 34
  • ...the Reformers of this country will remember... with gratitude, that it was the great leaders of the Reform Party who first gave perfect civil and religious rights to the people of Canada
    • Speech 1877
  • On all questions of principle, the party is not only Liberal, but clear grit in the real sense of the word.... pure sand without a particle of dirt in it!
    • on campaign trail for Ontario provincial election in Strathroy 1871 Thomson
  • Civil servants should keep out of politics and politics should be kept out of the civil service
    • House of Commons speech 1875 Thomson page 233
  • I would rather sacrifice political position tomorrow than do an unworthy act which would subject me to the censure of an honest man
  • And yet they say there is no God!
    • to Chief Justice Sir Louis Davies gazing up at the stars on a clear, crisp night overlooking the Ottawa River behind Parliament - story related by Davies in newspaper article during banquet - Library and Archives Canada
  • I determined to rule in broad daylight or not at all
    • letter a friend September 21, 1878 reflecting on his election loss Buckingham page 518
  • I repent it
    • having not spoken in the last two parliamentary sessions; his last words in Parliament 1891 - relating to a high spender that he regretted having appointed to the Senate 1875 Buckingham page 632

His Character

  • W.L. Mackenzie (Canada West/Ontario Leader of 1837 Rebellion) – “He is every whit a self-made, self-educated man. Has large mental capacity and indomitable energy.” (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 120)
  • Lord Dufferin (Governor General) – “as pure as crystal, and as true as steel, with lots of common sense.” (Thomson 1960, p.211)
  • Chief Justice Sir Louis Davies – “the best debater the House of Commons has ever known.” (Mackenzie's newspaper scrapbook "Days of Giants", Library and Archives Canada)
  • Sir Wilfred Laurier (Prime Minister) – “one of the truest and strongest characters to be met within Canadian history. He was endowed with a warm heart and a copious and rich fancy, though veiled by a somewhat reticent exterior, and he was of friends the most tender and true.” (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p.633)
  • Sir George Ross (Federal Cabinet, Premier of Ontario)– “Mackenzie was sui generis a debater. His humorous sallies blistered like a blast from a flaming smelter. His sterling honesty is a great heritage, and will keep his memory green to all future generations.” (Ross 1913, p. 31)
  • S.H. Blake (prominent Ontario Lawyer, Judge)– “God give us more such as he was, honest and true.” (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 639)
  • Rev. Dr. Thomas (delivered Mackenzie's eulogy) – “stood four square, to all the winds that blow.” (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 643, Tennyson's Ode to the Death of the Duke of Wellington)
  • London times – the untiring energy, the business-like accuracy, the keen perception and reliable judgment, and above all the inflexible integrity which marked his private life, he carried without abatement of one jot into his public career. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 663)
  • Westminster Review – a man, who although, through failing health and failing voice, he had virtually passed out of public life, yet retained to the last the affectionate veneration of the Canadian people as no other man of the time can be said to have done. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 651, The Westminster Review Volume 137)
  • Charlottetown Patriot – in all that constitutes the real man, the honest statesman, the true patriot, the warm friend, and sincere Christian, he had few equals. Possessed of a clear intellect, a retentive memory, and a ready command of appropriate words, he was one of the most logical and powerful speakers we have ever heard. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 662)
  • St. John Telegraph – he was loved by the people and his political opponents were compelled to respect him even above their own chosen leader. As a statesman, he has had few equals. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 660)
  • Montreal Star – it is one of the very foremost architects of the Canadian nationality that we mourn. In the dark days of ’73 Canadians were in a state of panic, distrusting the stability of their newly-built Dominion; no one can tell what would have happened had not the stalwart form of Alexander Mackenzie lifted itself above the screaming, vociferating and denying mass of politicians, and all Canada felt at once, there was a man who could be trusted. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 661)
  • Toronto Globe – he was a man who loved the people and fought for their rights against privilege and monopoly in every form. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 661)
  • Philadelphia Record – Like Caesar, who twice refused a knightly crown, Alexander Mackenzie refused knighthood three times. Unlike Caesar, he owed his political overthrow to his incorruptible honesty and unswerving integrity. (Buckingham and Ross 1892, p. 660)
  • “He was, and ever will remain, the Sir Galahad of Canadian politics” (Marquis 1903, p. 418)


  • Dale C. Thomson Alexander Mackenzie, Clear Grit, 1960. 14960, Macmillan of Canada, 436 pages
  • William Buckingham, George William Ross "The Honourable Alexander Mackenzie: His Life and Times". 1892. Toronto: Rose Publishing Company Limited, 678 pages
  • Sir George W. Ross "Getting into Parliament and After", 1913. Toronto: William Briggs, 343 pages
  • T.G. Marquis "Builders of Canada from Cartier to Laurier", 1903. Toronto: John C. Winston and Co., 570 pages
  • Speeches Of The Hon. Alexander Mackenzie During His Recent Visit To Scotland: With His Principal Speeches In Canada Since The Session Of 1875, accompanied by portrait and sketch of his life and public services. 1876, 226 pages
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