This Week in History
The Politician Who Hated Politics
For the week of Monday October 30, 2006
On October 30, 1893, Canada’s third Prime Minister, Sir John J. C. Abbott, passed away in Montréal after having been ill for many months. Though overlooked in Canadian history, Sir John Abbott was the first Canadian-born Prime Minister, as well as the first Prime Minister to lead the government from the Senate.
Abbott was also an important businessman. He invested in the developing railway system and purchased many shares in several rail companies, including the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). This interest in railways forced Abbott into politics, a profession he actually despised! He began in provincial politics but was elected to the House of Commons in 1867, the year of Confederation. He soon became embroiled with Sir John A. Macdonald in a conflict of interest that resulted in the Pacific Scandal of 1873. This led Abbott to lose his seat in the following election. He was, however, re-elected in 1881 and, in 1887, he was appointed to the Senate as the Leader of the Government in the Senate. That same year, Abbott was also elected Mayor of Montréal for a one-year term. For someone who despised politics, he managed to represent every level of government!
Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott was designated a National Historic Person in 1938. His rural home, Boisbriant, is located in the Senneville Historic District, in Quebec, designated of national significance in 2002.
For more information on the Pacific Scandal, please visit This Week In History’s Archives.
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