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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
James Alexander Macdonald, LL.D


DR. JAMES ALEXANDER MACDONALD, orator and publicist, for many years editor of the Toronto Globe, one of the most influential newspapers of Canada, was born in Middlesex County, Ontario, January 22, 1862, the son of John A. Macdonald. His father was descended from a member of one of the Royal Highland Regiments, which were disbanded at the close of the American Revolution and settled largely in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. He is also descended from the Grants of Speyside and Glenurquhart and the Camerons of Lochiel. His ancestor, John Macdonald, fought at Culloden and was one of the survivors of the massacre of Gleneoe. This John Macdonald settled in the great Gaelic-speaking community of the Cape Fear district of North Carolina some time previous to 1776. He, with his three sons, fought, and he was taken prisoner, at the battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, February 27, 1776, with the Loyalists that assembled at the call of their heroine, Flora Macdonald.

Dr. Macdonald studied at Hamilton, Ontario, and the University of Toronto, and was graduated from Knox College, Toronto, in 1887; and afterward took up special studies in the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. He was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church and was pastor of Knox Church, St. Thomas, Ontario, 1891-1896. In the latter year he resigned to enter the field of religious journalism, becoming the first editor of the Westminster, Toronto. Under his able and forceful direction the publication grew and prospered until it absorbed four other papers. It was while editor of the Westminster that he brought to public attention his classmate at Knox, Rev. Charles W. Gordon, "Ralph Connor," whose stories of Canadian life have become world-famous. Dr. Macdonald is still President of the Westminster Company.

In 1902 Dr. Macdonald was made managing editor of The Globe, Toronto, a chief supporter of the Liberal party of the Dominion of Canada, a position as powerful politically as it is in the field of journalism, and served with such distinction that the name of the paper and of its fearless and able editor are inseparably synonymous. In 1915 he relinquished the duties of managing editor to give himself more wholly to editorial writing.

Dr. Macdonald is tall, big-framed, and of forceful and militant personality. Through his writings and speeches he has won an enviable reputation as a publicist and orator of uncommon power, honoured on two continents. Democracy and international good-will are his passion, and the larger patriotism of peace and humanity resound throughout his message. He speaks philosophically and illuminatingly, imbibing his inspiration from generations of Scottish ancestors inoculated with this spirit through training in the Presbyterian church. Probably no one ever heard him make a long speech without noting that he points his finest passages and phrases with deft and original allusions to and quotations from the Scriptures. For years he has been considered the greatest interpreter of Canadian feelings and ideals to the United States, and of the like feelings and ideals of the United States to Canada; and the best interpreter of Canada to Great Britain. He has repeatedly been called upon to refuse public office.

Dr. Macdonald has been a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Toronto since 1906; he is Vice-President of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and a member of the Board of Directors of the World Peace Federation, Boston. He is a past President of the Scottish Society of America (North Carolina), was the first to propose a memorial college to Flora Macdonald, 1914, and has taken great interest in securing funds for the institution at Red Springs, N. C. He is a member of the National, Ontario, American, and Toronto clubs (Toronto).

Dr. Macdonald was a member of the first Imperial Press Conference, London, England, 1910, and on that occasion was the bearer of a personal message of greeting from President Taft to the two Presbyterian Assemblies of Scotland. The deep feeling with which the two great speeches he delivered were received, and the spirit and inspiration that attended them, Dr. Macdonald considers the greatest honors of his life. He has also addressed on several occasions the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

In addition to the many articles that have come from his pen in the line of his duties as an editor, he has published From Far Formosa, a volume on the life-work of the late Rev. Dr. G. L. Mackay; and Democracy and the Nations, 1915, a volume of essays and papers on Canadian-American relations.

Dr. Macdonald married, in 1890, Grace Lumsden Christian. They have two sons and one daughter. Dr. Macdonald’s business address is The Globe, Toronto, Canada.


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