(1798–1862), lawyer, land speculator, railway promoter, politician. MacNab is usually associated with Upper Canada's Tories. He tried repeatedly to expel William Lyon Mackenzie from the assembly in the early 1830s, resisted Mackenzie government, supported the clergy reserves, led the military campaign against the rebellion, rejected union with Lower Canada, and was horrified by the Rebellion Losses Bill. Yet, based at Hamilton and heavily involved in regional banking, railway, and land schemes, MacNab was never considered part of the ‘Family Compact’. He sought to restrict institutions based in the capital and closely tied to its leading families, lacked the anti-American and anti-Catholic sentiments of some fellow conservatives, was elected speaker of the assembly in 1837 as a non-partisan, and was critical of the composition of the legislative council. Nonetheless, after the rebellion, MacNab was isolated politically, too closely identified with discredited Toryism. Despite campaigning in Britain against the Rebellion Losses Bill, he opposed the mob protests, the Annexation Manifesto, and conservative republicanism that ensued. Emerging as a moderate conservative leader in the early 1850s, when he claimed that ‘all my politics are railroads’, MacNab helped form the coalition of 1854 with moderate reformers. He led it fitfully until 1856.
From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: History of the Americas.