William Lyon Mackenzie King

By Robert Macgregor Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
EARLY LIFE

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING was born in Ontario, at Berlin, now known as Kitchener, on December 17, 1874. His four grandparents had been born in Scotland and had come to Canada within the period 1820-34, forming a part of the great surge of immigration which was to last until the middle of the century. All belonged to the same sturdy, industrious, Presbyterian stock, and in one of them, at least, the intellectual vigour and independence characteristic of the Scot had begun to assert themselves. The notable contribution made by Scotland to Canada is in no way disparaged by the reflection that this little group of four and their issue have probably left a deeper imprint on Canadian life than any similar group in her history.

Mackenzie King's paternal grandfather, John King, was the son of an Englishman who had married a Scottish girl of some substance and come to live near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. Here John King was born in April, 1814. At the age of 19 he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Artillery and in 1834, following a period of training at Woolwich, he was sent to Canada. He was stationed at Kingston at the time of the 1837 Rebellion, and after some years was made a bombardier and placed in charge of a small detachment at Prescott. He was later moved to Grosse Isle, Quebec. In 1840 he became engaged to Christina Macdougall, who had come from Scotland with her family ten years earlier. Her father and especially her brother were opposed to her marriage with a soldier despite the fact that he bore an excellent reputation certified by his minister and his commanding officer. Two letters written by John to Alexander Macdougall asking for the hand of his daughter show not only a good education but also both firmness and dignity and suggest that the suitor was by no means a poor match. The marriage was performed in April, 1841, at

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