OTD: Canada’s third prime minister born in present-day Quebec

On today’s date in 1820, former prime minister Sir John Abbott was born in St. Andrews East, Lower Canada (present-day Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, Qué.).

The country’s first Canadian-born prime minister, Abbott was “a leading authority on commercial law, a strong advocate of English Quebec’s business elite and an influential figure in many corporate and social organizations,” according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

In 1843, at the age of 23, Abbott moved 75 kilometres east to Montréal, where he attended McGill University. After graduating, he was called to the bar in 1847 before returning to the Montréal-based school in 1853 to teach law as a lecturer. He also served as dean of the school’s law faculty from 1855-80, at which time he was named emeritus professor.

“Throughout his teaching career, he had many prominent students, including Adolphe-Philippe Caron and Wilfrid Laurier,” notes The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Abbott also sat in the House of Commons intermittently between 1857 and 1887, when he was appointed to the Senate by prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald. The same year, he became the mayor of Montréal, where he would serve until 1889.

PM FROM 1892-92

Two years later, upon Macdonald’s death, Abbott became Canada’s third prime minister. He served for seventeen months between June 1891 and November 1892.

“I hate politics, and what are considered their appropriate methods,” he wrote only 12 days before becoming prime minister. “I hate notoriety, public meetings, public speeches, caucuses and everything that I know of that is apparently the necessary incident of politics, except doing public work to the best of my ability.”

Throughout his term, Abbott “worked diligently and diplomatically to tackle” his party’s “internal strife, including ethnic, linguistic and religious division. Corruption and personal squabbles embattled the Conservative Party,” notes The Canadian Encyclopedia.

A year after finishing his term, Abbott died in Montréal at the age of 72.


During the 1970s, Shell Canada featured Diefenbaker in its medallion set, “The Prime Ministers of Canada 1867-1970,” which included 15 medals featuring each Canadian prime minister between 1867 and 1970.

The set was issued for distribution from Shell dealers across Canada.

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