Some Excerpts on his life from various sources
For Glengarry, the election marked the rise of a remarkable business and political family The county now had only one member to elect (instead of two, as under the old system), and the lucky candidate, who easily defeated Dr. Grant, was a promising 28-year old Cornwall lawyer, John Sandfield MacDonald John Sandfield was born at St Raphael's, the son of an emigrant from Knoydart He attended the Eastern District Grammar School at Cornwall, qualified as a lawyer, and set up his practice in Cornwall He represented Glengarry in the Legislative Assembly till 1857; he was then succeeded by his brother Donald Alexander, commonly known in Glengarry as Donald Sandfield, who represented Glengarry till 1875.
The circumstances were these. Under pressure from home, administered through the new. Governor-General, the Ministry had brought forward measures of defence. They proposed to raise and equip, at the cost of Canada, 50,000 men. They proceeded, if my memory serves me, by the introduction of a Bill, and that Bill was rejected by a very small majority (61 to 54), composed of Sandfield Macdonald and a few others, described as "Ishmaelites." Upon that vote Mr. Cartier at once resigned, as I thought in too much haste. I met him as he walked away from the Parliament House in the afternoon, and expressed regret. He said, with set teeth, clenched fist, and sparkling eyes, "Ah! Well, I have saved the honour of my country against those 'Grits' and 'Rouges;' traitres, traitres." Mr. J. A. Macdonald, afterwards, took the matter very quietly, merely remarking that the slightest tact might have prevented the occurrence.So I thought. Canada and the States
Macdonald, John Sandfield(1812-1872), prime minister of Canada (1862-64) and [p.441] prime minister of Ontario (1867-71), was born at St. Raphael, Upper Canada, on December 12, 1812, the son of Alexander Macdonald. He was educated at the grammar school in Cornwall, Upper Canada; and in 1840 he was called to the bar of Upper Canada. In 1841 he was elected to represent Glengarry in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and he sat for this constituency continuously until 1857, and from 1857 to 1867 he sat for Cornwall. His course in politics was independent and somewhat erratic.
He leaned at first toward Conservatism, but in 1844 he sided with the Reform leaders against Sir Charles Metcalfe (q.v.), and he was henceforth rated as a Reformer. From 1849 to 1851 he was solicitor-general in the second Baldwin-Lafontaine administration; but he was not included in the Hincks-Morin government, and was relegated in 1852-54 to the position of speaker of the Assembly. He opposed the MacNab-Tache and succeeding Liberal-Conservative governments; but, being a Roman Catholic and an advocate of the ?double-majority? principle, he was not in harmony with the wing of the Reform party led by George Brown (q.v.).
He was included in 1858 in the short-lived Brown-Dorion administration as attorney-general west; but this was merely a temporary rapprochement, and when Sandfield Macdonald was invited to form a government in 1862, George Brown was not a member of it. As first minister in the Macdonald-Sicotte government (1862-63), and in the Macdonald-Dorion government (1863-64), he carried on the administration with considerable adroitness under difficult circumstances; but his defeat in March, 1864, and the subsequent defeat of the Tach?-Macdonald ministry in June, 1864, brought about the deadlock from which issued Confederation. Sandfield Macdonald opposed Confederation, and fought against it vigorously; but once it had become an accomplished fact, he accepted it, and in 1867 he was persuaded by Sir John Macdonald (q.v.) to undertake the prime ministry of Ontario. He formed in Ontario a coalition government, known as ?the Patent Combination?; and for over four years he administered the affairs of the province with great prudence and economy. At the end of 1871, however, he was defeated in the House by the Liberals under Edward Blake (q.v.), and resigned. His health, never robust, had given way; and he died soon afterwards at Cornwall, Ontario, on June 1, 1872. In 1840 he married a daughter of the Hon. George Waggoman (Waggaman -eg), United States senator from Louisiana; and had three sons and four daughters.
Sandfield had seen Christine whenever he could act as a royal messenger. Passing through Baltimore he would pose as a relative and thereby obtain time with her. In the fall of 1840 they eloped and were married in New York. Proud Waggaman, who was then in economic difficulties on the plantation, was deeply offended by his daughter's disobedience. Her mother quickly adjusted to the happy match but reconciliation with her father was never complete. In March 1843, a leading Louisiana Democrat killed Waggaman in a duel.
Yet as for Sandfield Macdonald, in the Ontario that William Davis spoke for, "we have never been afraid to be Canadians first ... the ultimate priority is to ensure the existence of a stable and unified Canada." As the constitutional debate progressed, this implied fundamental co-operation between the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada. From 1976 to 1981, William Davis and Pierre Trudeau went "hunting in pairs", not unlike John Sandfield Macdonald and John A. Macdonald from 1867 to 1871.
There is (or was) a painting of John Sandfield at Cornwall, showing him standing with a hand in a trowser pocket. J. S. brought a friend to see his picture. The friend commented, "Aye, John Sandfield 'tis the vera first time I ever saw a lawyer with his hand in his own pocket."
Descended from the ancient Highland family that settled in Glengarry in 1786. B. at St. Raphael, Ont., 20 Dec., 1812. Ed. under Dr. Urquhart at Cornwall. Called to the Bar of U. C. in Trinity Term, 1840. Created Q.C., 1849. Is a Bencher of the Law Society, U. C. and Lieut. Col. commanding Cornwall Reserve.
John Sandfield Macdonald was nicknamed Old Rosin the Bow, was a fiddler and one of most popular ways to keep in touch with constituents was to play at family weddings, etc He would play Scotch selections on his Cremona.
If the remarkable decision in 1797 to endow a provincial university had proven to be ahead of its time, and in conflict with the denominational proclivities of the colonial society, the bold decision by Premier Sandfield Macdonald's government in 1868 to terminate all grants for denominational colleges offered the province an opportunity to make a second start in shaping a workable public policy framework for post secondary education in Ontario.
Neighbours of the McGregors of St. Raphaels were the John Sandfield Macdonald family; the Honourable John Sandfield Macdonald was born in December, 1812 within sight of the Bishop's house and the church. On one occasion, the fire at the Macdonell cabin went out during the night and the boy was sent across the fields for coals.The home still stands but is no longer used as a dwelling. John Sandfield was a restless youth. He attended the school at St. Raphaels but, as he matured, developed the habit of running away in search of adventure. His energy and ambition, even then, asserted themselves, making him dissatisfied with his farm duties-
When his family, deeply concerned, appealed to "Little Sandy" McGregor, for help in the problem, Sandy set out to locate the boy, and to bring him home. He found him, and gave him a sound talking to, emphasizing his duty to his parents and the virtues of settling down to study and getting an education then put a dollar in the youth's hand, and wished him luck When John Sandfield was at the peak of his success and popularity, he took pleasure in telling how the lecture, and the dollar given him by Little Sandy McGregor, had marked the turning-point in his behaviour and had made him realize his responsibilities. From a Book by Dorothy Dumbrille
John Sandfield Macdonald 1837 Journal at the National Archives, transcribed from original be Evelyn Goulet