MacKINNON, DONALD ALEXANDER, teacher, lawyer, politician, and author; b. 22 Feb. 1863 in Uigg, P.E.I., son of William MacKinnon and Catherine Nicholson; m. 17 Oct. 1892, in Charlottetown, Adelaide Beatrice Louise Owen (d. 1912) of Georgetown, P.E.I., and they had two sons and one daughter; d. 20 April 1928 in Charlottetown.
Donald A. MacKinnon was of Scots stock: his father had been born in Scotland and his mother was a descendant of settlers who had come to Prince Edward Island in 1803 with the Earl of Selkirk [Douglas*]. Donald attended the Uigg grammar school and, on completing his education there, taught in rural districts, beginning at the age of 14 if not earlier. By 1880 he had enrolled at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. After his graduation he received a first-class teaching licence and worked in several locations until 1882 when he began articles with Charlottetown barrister Malcolm McLeod. Taking advantage of changes to legislation which allowed time spent at approved law schools to count as part of the articling period, he attended Dalhousie law school in Halifax from 1885 to 1887 and received an llb. He was called to the Island bar as an attorney in 1887 and as a barrister the following year.
MacKinnon opened a legal practice in Georgetown in 1887 and remained there until 1897, when he moved back to Charlottetown and began a partnership with Alexander Bannerman Warburton. The firm, which had offices in Summerside and Montague Bridge (Montague) as well, was short-lived because Warburton was called to the bench in 1898. Later law partners were Edward Bayfield Williams and Robert Neil McNeill. Named a qc in 1899, MacKinnon became president of the Law Society of Prince Edward Island the following year. He was also law agent for the dominion minister of justice in the province.
MacKinnon’s political career had begun in 1893 when he was elected as a Liberal for 4th Kings in the newly constituted Legislative Assembly [see Neil McLeod*]. Re-elected in 1897, he was named attorney general in the government of Donald Farquharson* in 1899, but when he returned to the electorate that year as a consequence of taking office he was, unusually, opposed and defeated. In 1900 he entered dominion politics and ran in Queens East. Although he received the majority of the votes, the result was declared void for “corrupt practices” and a new election ordered which took place in March 1901 and which MacKinnon won by a larger majority. He sat until the dissolution but was not a candidate in the 1904 election. In June of that year he had complained to Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier* that his finances were not sufficient for politics and had indicated his desire to be made lieutenant governor of Prince Edward Island. In October 1904 the appointment came to him at the comparatively young age of 41. He held the position until May 1910. MacKinnon was again elected to the dominion parliament in 1921, representing Queens, and he sat until 1925. He did not contest the 1925 election.
In addition to his legal practice MacKinnon was involved in a number of business ventures, among them the Three Rivers Steamship Company and the Prince Edward Island Electric Company, of which he was president. His interests included the Boy Scouts, an organization he served as provincial commissioner, and writing. He was a contributor to the Prince Edward Island Magazine and in 1906, in partnership with Warburton, he edited Past and present of Prince Edward Island, an encyclopedic volume containing historical essays and biographical sketches. MacKinnon’s contributions included articles on the fisheries, Queens County, geology, and the constitution. The volume continues to be useful for research. It was not, however, mentioned in obituaries, which concentrated on MacKinnon’s political service, specifically mentioning his success in obtaining a branch line of the Prince Edward Island Railway that had benefited his district.
The PARO holds a large collection of records (currently unprocessed) relating to Donald Alexander MacKinnon’s law firm, at Acc. 2947, including papers concerning the Three Rivers Steamship Company, as well as some material from his term as lieutenant governor.
MacKinnon’s contributions to the Prince Edward Island Magazine (Charlottetown) include “Industrial progress in Prince Edward Island,” 4 (1902–3): 342–46. In addition he prepared several articles for Past and present of Prince Edward Island . . . , the volume which he co-edited with Alexander Bannerman Warburton (Charlottetown, ). MacKinnon’s biography, which he probably wrote himself, appears on p.397a.
NA, MG 26, G, MacKinnon to Laurier, 3 June 1904.
PARO, Montague United Church (Montague, P.E.I.), Reg. of baptisms; RG 6.1, ser.3, subser.1, vol.6, 11 Oct. 1899; RG 19, ser.3, subser.1, 17 Oct. 1892.
Morning Guardian (Charlottetown), 11 Oct., 14 Dec. 1899; continued as Charlottetown Guardian, 21 April 1928.
Patriot (Charlottetown), 20 April 1928.
Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson).
Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912).
Newspaper reference book.
P.E.I., Board of Education, Annual report (Charlottetown), 1878–80.
Prominent people of the Maritime provinces (Montreal, 1922)