Alexander Mackenzie

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Alexander Mackenzie, PC (January 28, 1822 – April 17, 1892), a building contractor and newspaper editor, was the second Prime Minister of Canada from November 7, 1873 to October 9, 1878.



He was born in Logierait, Perthshire, Scotland to Alexander Mackenzie Sr. and Mary Stewart Fleming. He was the third of ten children. At the age of 13, Mackenzie's father died, and he was forced to end his formal education in order to help support his family. At the age of 16 he apprenticed as a stone mason and by the age of 20 he had reached journeyman status in this field. Mackenzie immigrated to Canada in 1842 in order to seek a better life as well as to follow his sweetheart, Helen Neil. Shortly thereafter, he converted from Presbyterianism to Baptist beliefs. Mackenzie's faith was to link him to the increasingly influential temperance cause, particularly strong in Ontario where he lived, a constituency of which he was to represent in the Parliament of Canada.

Mackenzie married Helen Neil (1826–1852) in 1845 and with her had three children, with only one girl surviving infancy. In 1853, he married Jane Sym (1825–1893).

In Canada, Mackenzie continued his career as a stone mason, building many structures that still stand today. He began working as a general contractor, earning a reputation for being a hard working, honest man as well as having a working man's view on fiscal policy.

Mackenzie involved himself in politics almost from the moment he arrived in Canada. He campaigned relentlessly for George Brown, owner of the Reformist paper The Globe in the 1851 election, helping him to win a seat in the assembly. In 1852 Mackenzie became editor of another reformist paper, the Lambton Shield (now the Sarnia Observer). As editor, Mackenzie was perhaps a little too vocal, leading the paper to a suit of law for libel against the local conservative candidate. The paper lost the suit and was forced to fold due to financial hardship. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly as a supporter of George Brown in 1861.

When the Macdonald government fell due to the Pacific scandal in 1873, the Governor General, Lord Dufferin, called upon Mackenzie, who had been chosen as the leader of the Liberal Party a few months earlier, to form a new government. Mackenzie formed a government and then asked the Governor General to call an election for January 1874. The Liberals won, and Mackenzie remained prime minister until the 1878 election when Macdonald's Conservatives returned to power with a majority government.

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