In 1873 Mackenzie formed the first Liberal administration in Canada after Sir John A. MACDONALD's government was brought down by the PACIFIC SCANDAL. A hardworking man of exceptional integrity but little imagination, Mackenzie served as his own minister of public works, and his attempt to build a transcontinental railway on a self-financing basis met with some success but little public approbation. Many felt his diligence in his portfolio detracted from his leadership in the Commons. Nevertheless, in his short tenure the Supreme Court and the Auditor General's office were created, and the groundwork for the modern electoral system was laid. Macdonald's party defeated Mackenzie's in the 1878 elections, which were fought on the issue of the NATIONAL POLICY proposed by the Tories.
Mackenzie remained leader of his party for only 2 more years when failing health or a threatened party revolt led him to step down in favour of Edward BLAKE. He refused several offers of a knighthood, and wrote several books in his retirement, including The Life and Speeches of George Brown (1882).
Author J.M. BUMSTED
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