Allan Napier MacNab
Portrait in 1853 by Théophile Hamel
Joint Premier of the Province of Canada
In office
11 September 1854 – 24 May 1856
Governor GeneralSir Edmund Walker Head
Preceded byFrancis Hincks
Succeeded byJohn A. Macdonald
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for Wentworth County
In office
MonarchWilliam IV
Lieutenant GovernorSir John Colborne
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for Hamilton
In office
MonarchWilliam IV (1830–1837)
Victoria (1837–1901)
Lieutenant GovernorSir John Colborne (1828–1836)
Sir Francis Bond Head (1836–1838)
Sir George Arthur (1838–1839)
Lord Sydenham (1839-1841)
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada for Hamilton
In office
Governor GeneralLord Sydenham (1841)
Sir Charles Bagot (1842–1843)
Sir Charles Metcalfe (1843–1845)
Lord Cathcart (1845–1847)
Lord Elgin (1847–1854)
Sir Edmund Walker Head (1854–1861)
Preceded byNew position
Succeeded byIsaac Buchanan
Personal details
Born(1798-02-19)19 February 1798
Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), Upper Canada
Died8 August 1862(1862-08-08) (aged 64)
Hamilton, Canada West
Political partyTory
ProfessionLawyer and businessman

Sir Allan Napier MacNab, 1st Baronet (19 February 1798 – 8 August 1862) was a Canadian political leader who served as joint Premier of the Province of Canada from 1854 to 1856.

Early life

He was born in Newark[1] (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to Allan MacNab and Anne Napier (daughter of Captain 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 (now Toronto), where MacNab was educated at the Home District Grammar School.

Military career

War of 1812

As a fourteen-year-old boy, he fought in the War of 1812. He probably served at the Battle of York and 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.[2]

Upper Canada Rebellion, 1837

MacNab opposed the reform movement in Upper Canada that was led by William Lyon Mackenzie. When Mackenzie led the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837, MacNab was part of the force of British regular troops and Upper Canada 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 that MacNab was waiting for them.

In 1838, Macnab was knighted for his zeal in suppressing the rebellion.

Legal and business career

After his service in the War of 1812, MacNab studied law in Toronto and was admitted to the bar in 1824.[3] In 1826, MacNab moved from York to Hamilton, where he established a successful law office, but it was chiefly by land speculation that he made his fortune. There was no Anglican church in Hamilton yet, so MacNab attended a Presbyterian church until Christ Church was established in 1835.[4]

A successful entrepreneur as well as politician, MacNab, with Glasgow merchant Peter Buchanan, was responsible for the construction of the Great Western Railway of Ontario.[5]

Political career

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

MacNab represented Hamilton in Parliament from 1830 until his death in 1862, first in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (1830–1840), then in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1841–1860), and finally in the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada representing the Western Division (1860–1862).[6] He was joint Premier of the province from 1854 to 1856.

MacNab committed a breach of privilege and was arrested by the sergeant-of-arms during the 10th Parliament of Upper Canada after a motion by the legislative assembly. MacNab retaliated by accusing William Lyon Mackenzie of breach of privilege and motioned for him to be expelled from the house. The motion failed after Tory legislators feared the political backlash of supporting an obscure parliamentary privilege.[7]

MacNab was a "Compact Tory" - a supporter of the Family Compact which had controlled Upper Canada prior to the union of the Canadas.[1][8] In the first Parliament of the new Province of Canada, he supported the principle of union, but was an opponent of the Governor General, Sydenham, and his policy of creating a government with a broad base of moderate supporters in the Assembly. He opposed the policy of the "Ultra Reformers" to implement responsible government.[9]

When Parliament met at Montreal, MacNab took apartments there at Donegana's Hotel.[citation needed]


MacNab was married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Brooke, who died 5 November 1826, possibly of complications following childbirth. Together, they had two children.

He married his second wife, Mary, who died 8 May 1846 and was a Catholic; she was the daughter of John Stuart, Sheriff of the Johnstown District, Ontario. The couple's two daughters, Sophia and Minnie, were raised as Catholics.[1]

The couple's elder daughter, Sophia, was born at Hamilton. She married at Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, on 15 November 1855, William Keppel, Viscount Bury, afterwards the 7th Earl of Albemarle, who died in 1894. Sophia was the mother of Arnold Keppel, 8th Earl of Albemarle (born in London, England, 1 June 1858), and of eight other children. One of her sons, the Honourable Derek Keppel, served as Equerry to The Duke of York after 1893 and was in Canada with His Royal Highness, in 1901 at 53 Lowndes Square, London, S. W., England.[10]


MacNab died 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.[4]

However, 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 MacNab, whom he considered the next Chief. When the latter's son was killed in a shooting accident in Canada, the position of Chief of Clan Macnab passed to the Macnabs of Arthurstone.

Plaque at Dundurn Castle.
Plaque at Dundurn Castle.


MacNab Street and Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario are both named after him.[11]

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

A ship was named Sir Allan MacNab and was sturdily built in Canada but was not altogether designed for speed. The master in 1855 was Captain Cherry, and the tonnage of the ship was 840, then quite large.


  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. ^ Dalby, Paul (29 June 2006). "MacNab's 'castle' home makes a grand statement". Toronto Star (Canada). Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. p. H06. Retrieved 19 December 2006.
  3. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 566.
  4. ^ a b King, Nelson (5 August 2009). "Alan Napier MacNab". Soldier, Statesman, and Freemason Part 3. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  5. ^ Smith, Edward (2007). ""All My Politics Are Railroads"". Dundurn Castle: Sir Allan MacNab and his Hamilton Home. James Lorimer & Company Ltd. pp. 75–84. ISBN 978-1-55028-988-6. The result was that Canadian directors like MacNab had control over the day-to-day work of the railroad and seeing to political backing in Canada, while overall financial control resided in England.
  6. ^ Dictionary of Hamilton Biography (Vol I, 1791–1875); Thomas Melville Bailey (W.L. Griffin Ltd), 1981, Page 143
  7. ^ Kilbourn, William (30 June 2008). "The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada". Dundurn. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-1-77070-324-7. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  8. ^ Baskerville, Peter (1976). "MacNab, Sir Allan Napier". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. IX (1861–1870) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  9. ^ Paul G. Cornell, Alignment of Political Groups in Canada, 1841-67 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962; reprinted in paperback 2015), pp. 6, 7, 10, 93–97.
  10. ^ Morgan, Henry James, ed. (1903). Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada. Toronto: Williams Briggs. p. 224.
  11. ^ Manson, Bill (2003). Footsteps in Time: Exploring Hamilton's heritage neighbourhoods. North Shore Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-896899-22-6.


Preceded byArchibald McLean Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada 1837 Succeeded byHenry Ruttan Preceded byHenry Ruttan Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada 1837–1840 Succeeded byArchibald McLean Preceded byAustin Cuvillier Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces of Canada 1844–1847 Succeeded byAugustin-Norbert Morin Baronetage of the United Kingdom New creation Baronet(of Dundurn Castle) 1858–1862 Extinct