Return to Famous Masons

Sir John A. MacDonald, Freemason

Sir John A. MacDonald, Freemason
W.Bro. Dr. Lewis F. Riggs

One of the greatest men in Canadian history, Sir John MacDonald, more than any other person was responsible for the Confederation of the provinces in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada, as the nation’s first Prime Minister. He served in that high office from July 1st, 1867 to November 6th, 1873 and again from October 17, 1878 until his death on June 6, 1891.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, on January 10, 1815, he migrated with his parents to Canada when but five years of age. He was called to the Bar of Upper Canada in 1836, at the age of 21 years. At 28 he had acquired a large practice and was an Alderman of the City of Kingston.

In 1844 he was elected to the Legislature of (old) Canada, served as Attorney General from 1854 to 1857, and as Premier from 1857 to 1867.

In 1867 he became Prime Minister of the new Dominion of Canada, for the creation of which he had worked through many years.

During his long career of 47 years as leader, legislator and prime Minister, he was influential in promoting the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the acquisition of the great Western country, the formation of the Province of Manitoba, and the union of it, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island with the rest of Canada to round out the Dominion from sea to sea.

MacDonald did what his opponents said was an impossibility. He lived to see his dreams of Empire accomplished.

His eminent services to Canada and the Empire were recognized by his soverign in 1867 when he was created a K.C.B., in 1872 by being made a member of the Privy Council of the Empire, the first colonial subject to be so honoured, and in 1884, a G.C.B. was conferred on him. On his death, the Queen conferred on his widow the title of Baroness MacDonald of Earnscliffe.

As a Mason he was initiated in Ancient St. John’s Lodge No. 3, at Kingston, Upper Canada, on MArch 14th, 1844, passed April 22, 1844 and raised June 27, 1844. He does not seem ever to have served as Master of any Lodge, but remained a member of the Lodge until his death.

On July 23, 1875, he affiliated with Zetland Lodge No. 326, Toronto, on the proposal of James Norris and J.G. Burns. He demitted from the Lodge on May 9th, 1884. He was made a life member of Ottawa Lodge in 1888. He was exalted as a Royal Arch Mason in Victoria Chapter (St Paul’s) in Montreal in 1847, and later became a member of Cataraqui Chapter No. 12, Kingston. Hon. Life Member Lafayete R.A. Chapter No. 5, Washington, D.C.

His R.A. Jewel bears the date 1847; it later passed to Robert Spence 1859; John Lash, 1868; Kenneth J. Dunstan 1898; and to Dr. Lewis F. Riggs 1946. The Jewel is now on display in the Masonic Temple, Davenport and Yonge Sts, Toronto, along with his apron and sash.

The minutes of St. Paul’s Chapter, Toronto, for December 14th, 1898, read as follows:

Sir John A. Macdonald’s Regalia:

“With fitting comment, Comp. John F. Lash presented the R.A. apron and sash, M.M.M.’s and R.A.M.’s Jewels, all of which had historical interest, being the former property of, and worn by, our late Companion the Rt. Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald, of St. Paul’s R.A. Chapter in Montreal. In making this presentation, Comp. Lash referred to the personal friendship exisitng between Comp. Dunstan and himself and expressed his assurance that Comp. Dunstan’s Masonic career would justify passing these valuable relics into his keeping. Comp. Dunstan offered his grateful thanks for the honour thus conferred upon him by this legacy.

He assured Comp. Lash this honour carried with it the obligation to so wear this regalia that no spot or stain of dishonour could ever be placed on it.”

Knight Templar Order
His petition for the Knight Templar Order was received by Hugh de Paens Preceptory, Kingston, on January 14, 1854, and the degree was conferred the same evening.

In 1855 he was elected as 1st Captain. He demitted May 9, 1884.

On December 6, 1868, he was named by the United Grand Lodge of England as its Grand Representative near the Grand Lodge of Canada (in Ontario) and the rank of Past Grand Senior Warden conferred upon him. He continued to represent the Grand Lodge of England until his death in 1891. His commission, together with his apron and gauntlets, are in the Masonic Temple at Kingston, along with his regalia as Past Grand Senior Warden.

Among the books in his library was a very rare copy of the first Masonic book published in Canada, “A History of Freemasonry in Nova Scotia,” (1786).