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Sir John A. Macdonald has been portrayed as a political conniver, an alcoholic, a near rogue, a lonely man, a gifted orator, a wit, an idealist and father of the Canadian nation.

He was all these things - and more.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on Jan. 11, 1815 and brought to Canada as a child by his father, Hugh. The family eventually settled in Kingston, where at the age of 21, young John A. was a practicing lawyer.

In 1844 he started Canada's most influential and famous political career by gaining election as Kingston's member in the Canadian Parliament. From that moment-and to this day-he remained Kingston's favourite "son". Three years later he joined the cabinet and by 1857 he had become prime minister of United Canada (Ontario and Quebec). It was he who dominated all three Confederation conferences and he was the man who brought about - by sheer political skill - the compromises that resulted in the union of the separate provinces. With Confederation a fact, he was knighted and became the new Canada's first prime minister, even though he almost backed out at the last moment in favour of his long time political adversary, George Brown. Following the 1872 election he was involved in a scandal relating to campaign contributions form one of the backers of the Canadian Pacific Railway and had to resign. He was returned to office in 1878 and he remained prime minister until his death in Ottawa, June 6, 1891.