The Double Shuffle

John A. Macdonald, June 1, 1858. Source: Library and Archives Canada.Pinterest
John A. Macdonald, June 1, 1858. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

1858 was an arduous year for John A. He was mourning the death of Isabella and his mother was in very poor health. The sessions in Parliament at this time, including the infamous “double shuffle,” were some of the nastiest and most vitriolic on record. As an escape, Macdonald took to going on drunken benders that lasted for days. While his drinking problem was neither new nor secret, it was becoming increasingly problematic and attracted scathing mockery from The Globe (the precursor of The Globe and Mail).

Following the forced resignation of the Cartier-Macdonald ministry on July 29, 1858, George Brown and A.A. Dorion formed a Reform ministry which subsequently fell on August 4 of the same year at which point Cartier and Macdonald were called upon to, again, form the government. Parliamentary rules dictated that ministers from the original Cartier-Macdonald government had to resign their seats and face a by-election though this rule did not apply to any minister who resigned from one office and took another within a month – which is exactly what the second Cartier-Macdonald government did. On August 6, each minister took on a new portfolio and then on August 7 each minister resumed his former office. This became known as the “double shuffle.”