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Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

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A Rising Lawyer

John A. MACDONALD built a successful legal career and, from 1843, he practised with various partners, including Alexander CAMPBELL. Macdonald’s reputation as a defence lawyer grew as a result of some famous cases, such as that of William BRASS, who in 1837 was accused of raping an eight-year old girl, and who was unsuccessfully defended by Macdonald and another Kingston lawyer. The biography of the accused provides a glimpse into this period of Macdonald’s life:

“The trial, which took place on 7 October before judge Jonas Jones, was a major sensation. Solicitor General William Henry Draper* prosecuted. He called the alleged victim to the stand and she described the incident. Two medical practitioners and a midwife gave evidence which established the probability of the child’s having been violated. John Caswell, the last witness for the crown, claimed to have seen the rape but not to have interfered, because, he said, the defendant was armed. The ‘very able defence’ was led by the 22-year old Macdonald, who impressed the British Whig as a rapidly rising young lawyer.”

For more information on Macdonald’s legal career, please consult the following biographies.

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