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Allan MacNab

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Allan MacNab

Sir Allan Napier MacNab
The Hon. Allan Napier MacNab by Théophile Hamel
Premier of Canada West
In office
Preceded by Francis Hincks
Succeeded by John A. Macdonald
Personal details
Born (1798-02-19)19 February 1798
Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Upper Canada
Died 8 August 1862(1862-08-08) (aged 64)
Hamilton, Canada West
Political party Tory[1][2]
Profession businessman, soldier, lawyer
Religion Anglican, Catholic

Sir Allan Napier MacNab, 1st Baronet (19 February 1798 – 8 August 1862) was a Canadian political leader and Premier of the Province of Canada before Canadian Confederation (1854–1856).


Allan Napier MacNab was born in Niagara, Upper Canada[1] (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) to Allan MacNab and Anne Napier; daughter of Capt. Peter William Napier, R.N., the commissioner of the port and harbour of Quebec. When MacNab was a one year old, he was baptized in the Anglican church in St. Mark's Parish of Newark.[1] His father was a lieutenant in the 71st Regiment and the Queen's Rangers under Lt-Col. John Graves Simcoe. After the Queen’s Rangers were disbanded, the family moved around the country in search of work and eventually settled in York (Toronto) where MacNab was educated at the Home District Grammar School.

As a fourteen-year-old boy he fought in the War of 1812. He probably served at York and also certainly as the point man in the Canadian forlorn hope that headed the Anglo-Canadian assault on Fort Niagara. The 20 local men eliminated two American pickets of 20 men each with the bayonet before taking part in the final assault (Captain Kerby of the Incorporated Militia Battalion was reportedly the first man into the fort).[3]

After the war he studied law in Toronto and was admitted to the bar in 1824.[4] In 1826 MacNab moved from York (Toronto) to Hamilton, Ontario where he established a successful law office, though it was chiefly through land speculation that he made his fortune. There was no Anglican church in Hamilton in those early days, so MacNab attended a Presbyterian church until Christ Church was established in 1835.[5] In 1830 he was elected to represent the city in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, a position he held for some 27 years.[6]

As a member of the legislature, MacNab opposed the reform movement in Upper Canada led by William Lyon Mackenzie. When Mackenzie led the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837, MacNab was part of the British militia that moved against Mackenzie at Montgomery's Tavern in Toronto on 7 December, dispersing Mackenzie's rebels in less than an hour. On 29 December, MacNab and Captain Andrew Drew of the Royal Navy commanding a party of militia, acting on information and guidance from Alexander McLeod, attacked Mackenzie's supply ship at Navy Island. The sinking of the SS Caroline became known as the Caroline affair.

MacNab then led a militia of his own against the rebels marching towards Toronto from London, led by Charles Duncombe. Duncombe's men also dispersed when they learned MacNab was waiting for them. In 1838 he was knighted for his zeal in suppressing the rebellion. He served in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, leading the province from 1854 to 1856. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1860 representing Western division and served until his death. When Parliament met at Montreal, MacNab took apartments at Donegana's Hotel.

Bust of MacNab
Bust of Sir Allan MacNab, sculpted by Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook.

A successful entrepreneur as well as politician, MacNab, with Glasgow merchant Peter Buchanan, was responsible for the construction of the Great Western Railway (Ontario).

MacNab was married twice, first to Elizabeth Brooke, who died 5 November 1826, possibly of complications following childbirth. Together they had two children. His second marriage was to Mary Stuart, who died 8 May 1846. Mary was a Catholic, and the couple's two daughters, named Sophia Mary and Minnie, were raised as Catholics.[1]

MacNab died on 8 Aug 1862 at his home, Dundurn Castle, in Hamilton. His deathbed conversion to Catholicism caused a furor in the press in the following days. The Toronto Globe and the Hamilton Spectator expressed strong doubts about the conversion, and the Anglican rector of Christ Church declared that MacNab died a Protestant.[5] MacNab's Catholic baptism is recorded at St. Mary's Cathedral in Hamilton, at the hands of John Farrell, Bishop of Hamilton, on 7 August 1862.[1]

When the 12th Chief of Clan Macnab died, he bequeathed all his heirlooms to Sir Allan MacNab, Bart., Prime Minister of the Province of Canada, whom he considered the next Chief. When Sir Allan’s son was killed in a shooting accident in the Dominion, the chieftain ship of Clan Macnab passed to the Macnabs of Arthurstone.


Allan MacNab married his second wife, Mary, daughter of Mr. Sheriff Stuart, of the Johnstown District, Ontario. The couple's eldest daughter Sophia, Countess of Albemarle was born at Hamilton, Ont. Sophia married, at Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, 15 November 1855, the Right Honourable William Coutts Keppel, Viscount Bury, afterwards The Duke of York after 1893, and was in Canada with His Royal Highness, in 1901. Residence: 53 Lowndes Square, London, S. W., England.[7]


Sir Allan is a direct ancestor of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.[8]

Plaque at Dundurn Castle
Plaque at Dundurn Castle.

MacNab Street and Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario were both named after him.[9]

Dundurn Castle, his stately Italianate style home in Hamilton, is open to the public.

A ship named Sir Allan MacNab. Sturdily built in Canada but not altogether designed for speed. The master in 1855 was Captain Cherry, tonnage of ship 840, for those days, quite a large vessel. The ship was named after the Canadian hero and statesman (prime minister of Canada 1854–56) Sir Allan Napier MacNab (1798–1862) who received a knighthood for services to the crown after putting down the rebellions of 1837 in Canada.


  1. ^ a b c d e Dooner, Alfred (1942–1943), "The Conversion of Sir Allan MacNab, Baronet (1798–1862)", Canadian Catholic Historical Association Report 10: 47–64 
  2. ^ Baskerville, Peter (1861–1870), "Sir ALLAN NAPIER MacNAB", Dictionary of Canadian Biography ( 
  3. ^ Dalby, Paul (29 June 2006). "MacNab's 'castle' home makes a grand statement".  
  4. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 566. 
  5. ^ a b King, Nelson (5 August 2009). "Alan Napier MacNab". Soldier, Statesman, and Freemason Part 3. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  6. ^ Dictionary of Hamilton Biography (Vol I, 1791–1875); Thomas Melville Bailey (W.L. Griffin Ltd), 1981, Page 143
  7. ^ Morgan, Henry James Types of Canadian women and of women who are or have been connected with Canada : (Toronto, 1903) [1]
  8. ^ The ancestry of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall compiled by William Addams Reitwiesner.
  9. ^ Manson, Bill (2003). Footsteps In Time: Exploring Hamilton's heritage neighbourhoods. North Shore Publishing Inc.  


  • Donald R. Beer, Sir Allan Napier MacNab (Hamilton, Ontario, 1984)

External links

  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography OnlineBiography at the
  • Photograph: Sir Allan McNab in 1861. McCord Museum
Preceded by
Archibald McLean
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada
Succeeded by
Henry Ruttan
Preceded by
Henry Ruttan
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada
Succeeded by
Archibald McLean
Preceded by
Austin Cuvillier
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces of Canada
Succeeded by
Augustin-Norbert Morin
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