Sir John Alexander Macdonald GCB KCMG PC PC QC (11 January 1815 – 6 June 1891) was the first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891). The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, he had a political career which spanned almost half a century. He drank heavily, and in 1873 was voted out during the Pacific Scandal, in which his party took bribes from businessmen seeking the contract to build the Pacific Railway. Macdonald's greatest achievements were building and guiding a successful national government for the new Dominion, using patronage to forge a strong Conservative Party, promoting the protective tariff of the National Policy, and building the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. Economic growth was slow during his years in office, as Canada verged on stagnation; many residents migrated to the fast-growing United States. He fought to block provincial efforts to take power back from Ottawa. His most controversial move was to approve the execution of Métis leader Louis Riel for treason in 1885; it alienated many Francophones. Macdonald was born in Scotland; when he was a boy his family immigrated to Kingston in the colony of Upper Canada (today in eastern Ontario). As a lawyer he was involved in several high-profile cases and quickly became prominent in Kingston, which elected him in 1844 to the legislature of the colonial United Province of Canada. By 1857 had become premier under the colony's unstable political system. When in 1864 no party proved capable of governing for long, Macdonald agreed to a proposal from his political rival, George Brown, that the parties unite in a Great Coalition to seek federation and political reform. Macdonald was the leading figure in the subsequent discussions and conferences, which resulted in the British North America Act and the birth of Canada as a nation on 1 July 1867. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of the new nation, and served 19 years; only William Lyon Mackenzie King served longer.