Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Canadian lawyer and Prime Minister (1891-1892). Abbott was born in St. Andrews, Quebec, and educated at McGill University; called to the bar in 1847, he was dean of the faculty of law at McGill from 1855 to 1880. Like others who later became prominent in the building of Canada, Abbott signed the Annexation Manifesto (1849) urging Canada to join United States. A leading authority on commercial law in Lower Canada (Quebec), he preferred the practice of law to involvement in politics; he played his significant political role reluctantly. His active political career began when he became solicitor general, for a short time, in 1862. Gradually he became involved in conservative party politics serving as a trusted adviser of the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. As legal counsel to Sir Hugh Allan, head of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Abbott gained dubious fame in 1873 when one of his confidential clerks rifled his files and sold to the Liberal opposition the information that was used to precipitate the Canadian Pacific scandal and bring about Macdonald's fall.

From 1880 to 1887 Abbott was legal counsel to the second, successful, Canadian Pacific Railway Company, taking a leading part in the direction of this enterprise on which much of Canada's future depended. By the time he was appointed to the Senate in 1887, Abbott had represented Argenteuil, Quebec, for 24 years, first in the Legislative Assembly, then in the House of Commons. Macdonald employed him on many delicate diplomatic and financial missions. When Macdonald died in the 1891, the Conservative party faced a dilemma an choosing his successor. Abbott emerged as the favored compromise candidate, around whom stronger men in the party could rally. He resigned the premiership in Nov., 1892.


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