Alexander Mackenzie, builder, newspaper editor, 2nd prime minister of Canada, 1873-78 (b near Dunkeld, Scot 28 Jan 1822; d at Toronto 17 Apr 1892).
Alexander Mackenzie, builder, newspaper editor, 2nd prime minister of Canada, 1873-78 (b near Dunkeld, Scot 28 Jan 1822; d at Toronto 17 Apr 1892). Immigrating to Canada in 1842, Mackenzie eventually settled in the Sarnia area, working in the building trade with his brother. In the early 1850s he became editor of a Reform newspaper, the Lambton Shield, and a supporter of George Brown. He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1861. He backed Confederation but refused the presidency of the Council when Brown left the coalition in 1865. Mackenzie was elected to the House of Commons, and subsequently to the Ontario legislature in 1867. He sat in the Ontario legislature until dual representation was abolished and sat in the Commons until his death.
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).