John Abbott

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Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, PC, KCMG, QC (March 12, 1821 – October 30, 1893) was the third Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the office for seventeen months, from June 16, 1891 to November 24, 1892.

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Life and work

Born in St. Andrews, Lower Canada (now Saint-André-d'Argenteuil, Quebec) to Rev. Joseph Abbott (an Anglican missionary) and Harriet Bradford, he became Canada's first native-born prime minister. Abbott married Mary Bethune (1823–1898), a relative of Dr. Norman Bethune, in 1849. The couple had five sons and four daughters, many of whom died without descendants. Their eldest surviving son, William Abbott, married the daughter of Colonel John Hamilton Gray, a Father of Confederation and Premier of Prince Edward Island. The direct descendants of Abbott and Hamilton Gray include John Kimble Hamilton ("Kim") Abbott, a political commentator and lobbyist and a WWII Royal Canadian Airforce pilot in the infamous "Demon Squadron". Abbott was also the great-grandfather of Canadian actor Christopher Plummer and the first cousin (once removed) of Maude Abbott, one of Canada's earliest female medical graduates and an expert on congenital heart disease.

Abbott was a successful Montreal corporate lawyer and businessman and a practising Freemason.[1] In 1849, he signed the Montreal Annexation Manifesto calling for Canada to join the United States, an action which later in life, he regretted as a youthful error. He eventually joined the Loyal Orange Lodge of British North America, well known as a pro-British organization. He was involved in the promotion of several railway projects, including the Canadian Pacific Railway (of which he served as President). He worked to incorporate and arrange financing for the first Canadian Pacific Railway syndicate. As legal advisor to its main financier, Sir Hugh Allan, Abbott was the recipient of the infamous telegram from Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald during the 1872 Canadian federal election campaign which read "I must have another ten thousand; will be the last time of calling; do not fail me; answer today." This telegram was stolen from Abbott's office and published, breaking the 1873 Pacific Scandal which brought down Macdonald's government. Abbott was subsequently a key organizer of a second syndicate which eventually completed the construction of Canada's first transcontinental railway in 1885, serving as its solicitor from 1880 to 1887 and as a director from 1885 to 1891.

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