As a biography, this book delivers on all fronts -- erudition, authenticity, context, humor, story line; but above all, the personality, character, motivation, passion of John Thompson the man shines through. Moreover, it's the best historical account that I've yet encountered of the political life of Canada in that particular era from about 1865 to 1894. Most remarkable of all is that the book is so eminently readable that it flows like a good novel. There is so much richness of detail that I've decorated dozens of pages with post-it notes flags highlighting especially noteworthy, memorable and insightful observations.
It's regrettable that a man who worked so hard and selflessly for his country and accomplished so much is almost forgotten today. He arrived in Ottawa in 1885 at the urging of the aging, troubled MacDonald government, took on all of the most difficult tasks and kept that government from floundering and tearing itself apart through the rest of MacDonald's time as well as that of Abbott. This at a time when political life in Canada was constantly troubled by conflict between Protestant and Catholic interests and widespread bigotry. He became Prime Minister in 1892 and by 1894 he was dead at only 49. During that time he mastered a formidable agenda of problems including the aftermath of the Riel uprising, the long running fisheries dispute with the USA, the language and schools questions in Manitoba and the Northwest, the dispute over copyright with the USA and Britain, and one political battle after another. He established Nova Scotia's first law school at Dalhousie, leading the way to the development of a properly educated and competent body of lawyers and judges in Canada; delivered the first real Criminal Code in the British Empire; advanced the state of labor regulations and laws protecting the safety and rights of women and children, actively promoting the establishment of the National Council of Women. His integrity, patience and wisdom earned the respect and admiration of everyone including his political adversaries. In a time when corruption and chicanery in public office was widespread, he remained scrupulously honest as evidenced by the fact that when he suddenly died during a visit to England, he literally had no money; the British navy brought his body back to Canada, the Canadian government paid for his funeral and a subscription was raised to provide his wife and family with a modest living.
A remarkable book about an outstanding man!
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