He was a major patron of the Young Men"s Christian Association (Young Men’s Christian Association) and the Toronto General Hospital. In 1860, he built a mansion called "Oaklands", which is now De Louisiana Salle College (Toronto), a private co-educational school in the Deer Park area of mid-Toronto. Macdonald was born in Perth, Scotland and came to Upper Canada in 1837 when his father"s regiment was transferred there.
He studied at Dalhousie University and then Bay Street Academy in Toronto before entering business.
After a few years working for others, Macdonald opened his own retail dry goods business in Toronto in September 1849. By 1853 he had moved to wholesaling and by the 1870s was taking in $1 million in sales each year.
Macdonald represented West Toronto in the 8th Parliament of the Province of Canada from 1863, when he defeated John Beverley Robinson, until he himself was defeated in 1867. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate on the recommendation of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald on November 9, 1887.
His term ended with his death in 1890.
Macdonald died in Toronto, on February 4, 1890. He is interred at his family"s plot in the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery.