#78 – Crime Ministers, Part One: See What Johnny Did?

Today we shall hear Macdonald’s case on the charges of bribery and corruption. English Canada, as his attorney, how does your client plead?

“Who cares? He *saved* us from AMERIKKKA!”

That isn’t a correct answer, but thanks for playing. Now on to the madness.

We covered how John Macdonald was first elected in an environment where who you voted for was publically-known. This non-secret ballot was of course an open invitation to corruption and vote-buying, which Canadian political parties did with aplomb. The political parties, of course, held the money to actually do the bribing (thereby controlling their candidates) and thus hearkened the creation of the political machine in Canada. Political machinery and the legendary squander that comes from it was the order of the day out West even during the days of Diefenbaker’s youth. Armed with such knowledge, Johnny immediately rose to the challenge by rampant and flippant use of political patronage.

Oh, the patronage of Macdonald was legendary. Uninterested in such foolish ideas as getting the most able person a job, John knew that the party’s well-being mattered far more than the fledgling Canada’s. During his rule, the typically highly-unpleasant fusion of party to state began to run rampant in Canada. In 1877, a select committee identified the entire civil service as a “way to reward friends”. Obviously though, these people were Canadian and therefore there was no risk at all that the party would dominate – oh, wait. It did.

The patterns of patronage continue to this day. Canadians tend to complain about patronage appointments but ultimately do nothing about them. Bribery and nepotism was a part of Canadian politics, affirmed by “Sir” John and replicated by Laurier and beyond. Merely starting and confirming a tradition of corruption that plagues Canada to this day doesn’t mean that John was a criminal, though! Something something context feels!

You got me there, English-Canadian friend. No – to find corruption you need to look at the construction of the trans-Canada railroad. A small, trivial event in Canadian history called the Pacific Scandal brought John’s government down, allowing for a man with a soul to at least have a crack at righting Canada’s listing ways. John A., who was always pissing some part of the country off, wandered about looking for donations for his campaign. A kindly rail magnate, Hugh Allen, agreed to shove $350,000 of American-backed money to Macdonald. John proceeded to find the perfect contractor – Sir Hugh Allen’s company! Now, this had all been negotiated out, but the whole “American money” bit was lost on John, who then told Allen to expunge American influence on the railroad.


But of course, only a true titan of politics could write in a telegram to the lawyer of a massive industrial concern: “I must have another ten-thousand; will be last time of calling; do not fail me; answer today”. My hero!

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