John Abbott

Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott was born on March 12, 1821 and died October 30, 1893. He was the third Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the office for seventeen months, from June 16, 1891 to November 24, 1892.When John A MacDonald died, the conventional party looked for a new leader and although Sir John Abbott was not enthusiastic about taking the position, he was convinced to take the wheel of power.


During his time as Prime Minister, one of John Abbott’s major accomplishments was the signing of a reciprocity treaty with the United States. He was the first Prime Minister to lead the country from the Senate.


Mr. Abbott first sat as a Member of Parliament in 1867. Prior to entering national political life, he was a lawyer and Mayor of Montreal from 1887 to 1889.


Abbott was educated by his father, an Anglican missionary. At age 17, he went to work in the dry-goods business, where he learned accounting and bookkeeping.


In 1843, he started law school at the University Of McGill College, and joined the law firm William Badgley when he was called to the bar in 1847. He became the dean of law in 1855 and taught at McGill until 1876.


In his personal life, he supported the Art Association of Montreal and helped establish an institution for the handicapped. His hobbies included raising orchids, and his collection was presumed as one of Canada’s best.


He married Mary Bethune in 1849 and they had eight children. The actor Christopher Plummer counts among the many Abbott descendants.


In addition to his career as a teacher and commercial lawyer, Abbott established himself as an able businessman, owning shares and holding directorships in a number of successful Montréal businesses.


His greatest commercial endeavour was railways. As company president and engineer respectively, Abbott and his brother, Henry, built the Canada Central Railway, a key link in the transcontinental line.


Abbott lost his seat in Parliament in 1874 as a result of the scandal, but was re-elected in a by-election in 1881. He continued his work on the CPR, but abstained from all discussions or votes on the subject of railways in the House of Commons.


In 1887, Abbott was appointed to the Senate, from which he served as a Cabinet minister and later as prime minister. In addition to his associations with the Pacific Scandal, Abbott had another embarrassment that his opponents never let him forget.


He signed the Annexation Manifesto in 1849. This was a document drawn up by a group of Montréal businessmen, advocating that the Canadian colonies relinquish their ties with Britain and join the United States.


A college was accredited in 1970 and opened the next year. It is housed in early 20th-century buildings on a 1,600 acres (650 ha) campus shared with McGill University’s Macdonald College.


The college is named after John Abbott, prime minister, and former Mayor of Montreal who owned a country estate in nearby Senneville. He is most remembered for his role in the Pacific Scandal, the political corruption case which brought down the government of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1873.


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