William McDougall (politician)

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The Honourable
William McDougall
William McDougall.jpg
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Lanark North
In office
Succeeded by Daniel Galbraith
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Lanark North
In office
Preceded by William McCraney
Succeeded by William McCraney
Lieutenant-Governor of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory
In office
Monarch Victoria
Succeeded by Adams George Archibald
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for Simcoe South
In office
Personal details
Born (1822-01-25)January 25, 1822
York (Toronto), Upper Canada
Died May 29, 1905(1905-05-29) (aged 83)
Ottawa, Ontario
Political party Liberal-Conservative
Cabinet Minister of Public Works (1867–1869)

Sir William McDougall PC CB (January 25, 1822 – May 29, 1905) was a Canadian lawyer, politician, and one of the Fathers of Confederation.


William McDougall was born near York, Upper Canada (now Toronto, Ontario) to Daniel McDougall and Hannah Matthews. William was the third generation of United Empire Loyalists to settle in York. In 1793, his paternal great-great grandparents were among the first twelve families to move to York along with 450 British troops. Those soldiers then built Fort York to protect against American invasion.

McDougall received his education at Victoria College in Cobourg, Upper Canada, and in 1847, began practising law as an attorney and solicitor in Upper Canada. In 1862, he was called to the Upper Canada Bar.

In 1849, William McDougall's office in Toronto was the meeting place for the Clear Grit political movement. Other Clear Grit supporters included Peter Perry, David Christie, Charles Clarke, Charles Lindsay, and Malcolm Cameron. In 1850, he started The North American, a liberal newspaper.[1]

He was elected as a member of the legislative assembly in 1858 and served as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Provincial Secretary.

Gettysburg Address[edit]

In 1863, Along with Alexander Tilloch Galt, McDougall went to Washington D.C. to meet with President Abraham Lincoln in order to renegotiate the Reciprocity Treaty. During the visit, Lincoln explained that he had an important event to attend and had to travel to Pennsylvania. The President had then invited McDougall to accompany him on his trip by train and coach. They stayed the night at the private home of David Wills, a wealthy 32-year-old Gettysburg attorney.

On the following day, November 19, an opening ceremony took place at the new Gettysburg cemetery, built for fallen soldiers of the American Civil War. While many orators spoke for hours, Lincoln spoke briefly, presenting the Gettysburg Address. Even though the Canadian and British press wrote positively about Lincoln's speech, the American press condemned it for its lack of length.

In the 1950s, then United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when addressing a joint session of the Parliament of Canada, recounted the tale of the friendship between McDougall and Lincoln as an example of the long history of friendship between Canada and the United States. It can be found in "The Hansard", the official publication containing the transcripts of the Parliament of Canada. A copy of "The Hansard" containing President Eisenhower's speech was autographed and commented by then-Prime Minister of Canada John G. Diefenbaker. It can be found in the Baldwin Room - a secured archives area - of the Main Library of the City of Toronto.

Confederation Canada[edit]

McDougall is considered a father of Canadian confederation as he attended all three Confederation conferences. Once the country formed, he served as Minister of Public Works in the Macdonald government. As he had begun as Liberal and now served under Macdonald's Conservatives, he earned the nickname 'Wandering Willy'.[2]

In the federal election of 1867 he was elected in the district of Lanark North, for the Liberal-Conservative party.

McDougall was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory in 1869. The only travel route at the time was through the United States with the permission of U.S. President Grant. However, when he tried to enter that jurisdiction from the Dakota Territory up the Red River, he was turned back near the border by Louis Riel's insurgents before he could establish his authority at Fort Garry (now Winnipeg, Manitoba). Dispatches on microfiche at the Main Library of the City of Toronto include his request for 1,000 British troops to be sent on the authority of Queen Victoria. She responded that she would prefer a more amicable settlement of the jurisdiction issue. He returned to Ottawa, and campaigned against Manitoba becoming a province because of its very few inhabitants at that time. The area of Fort Garry was about 50 square miles (130 km2). He also continued to serve as an interim leader of the North-West provisional government from Ottawa until Adams George Archibald took over on May 10, 1870.

In the federal election of 1872, he ran again for the Liberal-Conservative party in Lanark North but was defeated. In 1875, he was elected to the Parliament of the Province of Ontario. He served as an Independent-Liberal from June 1, 1875, until September 9, 1878, for the electoral district of Simcoe South.

Second marriage and family[edit]

Mrs. William McDougall

In the November of 1872, McDougall married his second wife, Mary Adelaide Beatty. She was the daughter of Eleanor and Dr. John Beatty, a professor in Victoria University. She was born and educated at Cobourg, Ontario. Mary was involved in various philanthropic organizations including the Ottawa Humane Society. The couple lived at 407 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa. The couple had three sons, two of three - Harold and Gladwyn - served with the Canadian contingent during the Boer War in South Africa.[3]

His sister Emily married Liberal Senator David Reesor in 1847.[4]

Later life and death[edit]

In the federal election of 1878, he ran in Halton and was re-elected in the election of 1882 in Algoma and Grenville South in the election of 1887 he was defeated.

In 1890, he was promised a Senate seat, but did not pursue an appointment because his health was failing. During the conferences preceding Confederation, McDougall was personally in favour of electing members to the Senate of Canada. He was also offered a federal judgeship in British Columbia, which he turned down.

He died on May 29, 1905.

Political views[edit]

McDougall was a Canada First nationalist.[2] He espoused deep anti-Catholic and anti-Aboriginal views.[2] He has also been called "vain, erratic and irredeemably pigheaded".[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hopkins, J. Castell (1898). An historical sketch of Canadian literature and journalism. Toronto: Lincott. p. 227. ISBN 0665080484. 
  2. ^ a b c d Richard Gwyn, Nation Maker, Vol. II:pp. 100-101. Vintage Canada, 2012. Print.
  3. ^ Morgan, Henry James Types of Canadian women and of women who are or have been connected with Canada : (Toronto, 1903) [1]
  4. ^ http://www.reesorranch.com/ranchhistory.html