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Canadian History
John Macdonald of Glenaladale


Laird of Glenaladale and Glenfinnan, philanthropist, colonizer, soldier, born in Glenaladale, Scotland, about 1742; died at Tracadie, Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1811; he was the son of Alexander and Margaret (MacDonnell of Scotus). He entered the Scots College, Ratisbon, Bavaria, in 1756, and there completed his education. Returning to Scotland, his high personal character and distinguished mentality were quickly recognized. The MacDonalds of Glenaladale are the senior cadet branch of the MacDonalds of Clanranald, and Captain MacDonald was chosen "Tanister" or second in command to, and representative of, his chief. It was an evil time for Jacobite Scotland, especially for Catholic Jacobite Scotland. The Catholic Jacobite was cruelly persecuted, and Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale, South Uist, a former Catholic, outdid others in severity by compelling his tenants either to renounce their faith or lose their land and homes. They chose to emigrate to America, but, being utterly destitute, found this impossible. Hearing of their pitiable condition, Captain MacDonald went to investigate. What he saw moved him to an act of heroic abnegation. It is said: "As a nursery for the priesthood, no old Highland house can rival that of Glenaladale, from the time Laird Angus became a priest in 1676, to Archbishop Angus, Metropolitan of Scotland, in 1892". Captain MacDonald proved himself a worthy son of his house, when he decided to mortgage his estates to his cousin in order to aid his distressed compatriots. With the money thus obtained he purchased (1771) a tract of land in Prince Edward Island. The following year the South Uist tenants with other Catholics from the mainland of Scotland embarked for Canada. Glenaladale, who had from the first resolved to exile himself with them, came a year later. In the Revolutionary War he and General Small raised the 84th (Royal Highland Emigrant) Regiment. Captain MacDonald and his men fought so well for the king that he was offered the governorship of Prince Edward Island, but the Test Act being still in force, he could not, as a Catholic comply with the statutory conditions. From this time until his death he was actively engaged in the service of the new colonists, both in regard to their temporal and spiritual affairs. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds and, extending to those of other faiths, did much to create a feeling, rare enough in those days, of mutual toleration and esteem. He himself never became wealthy, and his Scotch estates eventually passed to the cousin to whom they had been mortgaged. His people, however, increased richly in numbers and in fortune. He gave his tenants nine hundred and ninety-nine year leases at a trifling rental, and from this came much of their prosperity.


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