William Lyon Mackenzie (March 12, 1795 - August 28, 1861)

William Lyon Mackenzie's political impact is important in studying Upper Canada's reform movement and the significance of the reformers in the years before Confederation in 1867.

Born in Dundee, Scotland, Mackenzie left his homeland for Canada in 1820. He arrived in Montréal, and after working on the Lachine Canal and as a journalist for the Montreal Herald, he settled in York (now Toronto).

Mackenzie began his public life in 1824 when he founded the Colonial Advocate, a reform paper that openly criticized the Family Compact. The same year, he moved his paper to Toronto, where his popularity soared. Mackenzie was elected to the legislature for the first time in 1828, representing York. There, he demanded reforms in the areas of agriculture, commerce and the post. His meeting with President Andrew Jackson during a trip to the United States in 1829 was a defining moment in Mackenzie's ideological development. He returned to Upper Canada filled with admiration for the American government, and became increasingly wary of British colonialism.

W. L. Mackenzie led the Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, fighting the oligarchy of the Family Compact. His involvement forced him into exile in the United States until 1849, when the government of United Canada offered the rebels amnesty. He resigned his seat in Parliament in 1858.


  • Armstrong, Frederick H. ; Stagg, Ronald J. "Mackenzie, William Lyon." Dictionnaire biographique du Canada. Vol. IX. Québec : Presses de l'Université Laval, 1977. P. 546-562.

  • Russell, Victor L. "Mackenzie, William Lyon." The 1999 Canadian encyclopedia : world edition. Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1998.

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