Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of John A. Macdonald

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McClelland & Stewart, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 328 pages
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The first book to expose the turbulent personal life of this fascinating Father of Confederation.

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald once remarked, “I had no boyhood,” an understatement if there ever was one. Indeed, John A.’s Dickensian childhood, filled with poverty, alcoholism, and the beating death of his five-year-old brother at the hands of a drunken babysitter (a friend of his father, Hugh’s), set the stage for a political power grab that has seen no equal in Canadian history.

In Private Demons, bestselling author Patricia Phenix explores through Macdonald’s family journals, diaries, and never-before-seen letters the troubled man behind Canada’s most successful politician. Phenix describes a man of myriad contradictions: patient, yet prone to settle fights with his fists; ethical, yet capable of pilfering corporate profits to pay private debts; shy, yet wildly flirtatious; sociable, yet so desirous of solitude he built escape hatches into the walls of his homes. She also examines reports that Macdonald’s depression became so deep that he once attempted suicide. Ultimately, in an obsessive need to escape his childhood demons, he sacrificed friends, family members, and financial security to achieve his single greatest ambition — to design and control the destiny of Canada.

Private Demons paints a vivid portrait of nineteenth-century society while exploring the amazingly tumultuous domestic life of our most famous prime minister.


From the Hardcover edition.

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About the author (2007)

Patricia Phenix is the author of the bestselling Olga Romanov: Russia’s Last Grand Duchess and Eatonians: The Story of the Family Behind the Family. She lives in Toronto.


From the Hardcover edition.

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