The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Laired Borden

1911-1917 (Conservative)
1917-1920 (Unionist)

"It can hardly be expected that we shall put 400,000 or 500,000 men in the field and willingly accept the position of having no more voice and receiving no more consideration than if we were toy automata." Sir Robert Borden, January 4, 1916


Private Life
  • Born: June 26, 1854, Grand Pré, Nova Scotia.
  • Education: Acacia Villa Academy, Horton, Nova Scotia.
    • His intellectual abilities prompted the Academy to designate Borden as Assistant School Master at age 14.
    • Taught at Horton, Nova Scotia, 1868-1872.
  • Taught at Matawan, New Jersey, 1872-1874.
  • Called to the Nova Scotia Bar, 1878.
    • Set up successful partnership with Charles Hibbert Tupper, son of future Conservative Prime Minister, Charles Tupper.
    • His association with the Tupper family sparked his interest in politics.

    Did You Know?

    Borden, Australia (about 400 km south of Perth) is the only Australian community named for a Canadian prime minister.

    (Thanks to Helen A., Borden, Australia, for this tidbit.)

  • Marriage: Laura Bond (1863-1940) in 1889.
  • Chancellor of Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, 1924-1930.
  • President of Crown Life Insurance, 1928.
  • President of Barclay's Band (Canada), 1929.
  • President of the Canadian Historical Association, 1930.
  • Died: June 10, 1937, Ottawa, Ontario, of heart failure. Buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario.

Political Career

Did You Know?

Borden was working in his office in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1916 when the Centre Block caught fire. The fire spread rapidly and Borden just managed to escape the flames with only minor burns, but his offices and all their contents were completely destroyed.

  • Elected to the House of Commons, 1896.
  • Succeeded Charles Tupper as Conservative Party Leader, 1901-1920.
    • Leader of the 'Union Government', 1917-1920 (a coalition of Conservatives and pro-conscription Liberals during WWI).
  • Constituencies: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1896-1904, 1908-1917; Carleton, Ontario, 1905-1908; King's County, Nova Scotia, 1917-1920.
  • Leader of the Opposition, 1901-1911.
  • President of the Privy Council, 1911-1917.
  • Minister of External Affairs, 1912-1920.
  • Prime Minister of Canada throughout World War I, 1914-1918.
    • War was declared in August, 1914.
      • Borden realized that an army had to be enlisted, armed and trained.
      • Also realized that Canada had to be reorganized. Equipment and manpower were needed. Industry, agriculture and transportation had to be regulated.
      • Funds had to be raised without damaging the value of Canadian currency.
      • Borden imposed the War Measures Act in 1914.
    • Borden travelled to Europe in 1915. He spoke with Canadian soldiers at the front and in hospitals.
    • He became aware and appalled of the incompetence shown by the British High Command and demanded that Canada be allowed more input in planning Allied actions.
    • Borden was determined that Canadian troops in France would have adequate reinforcements and proposed conscription.
    • The conscription issue divided Canada and Borden's Cabinet. Quebec refused to support it.
    • Borden proposed a coalition government of Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals were split over the conscription issue and some joined Borden's Cabinet to create the Union Party.
    • The Union government won the 1917 election but Quebec was completely alienated and had no representation in Cabinet. Also, the War Measures Act denied Canadians of German descent and other foreign backgrounds of their right to vote.
    • Draft and wartime profiteering scandals forced Borden to fire his Minister of Militia and Defence.
    • Borden still managed to enact the Income Tax Act, the Military Service Act, and the Wartime Elections Act in 1917.

    Did You Know?

    During the Imperial War Conference in 1917, Borden was the principal author of Resolution IX, affirming "the right of the Dominions to an adequate voice in foreign policy and foreign relations." Canadian sovereignty is claimed to be the Canada's largest victory of World War I.

  • Principal author of Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference, 1917.
  • Franchise extended to women, 1918.
  • Following the war, Borden worked to instate Canada as in independent delegation in the Paris Peace Conference and was the leader of the Canadian delegation, 1919, and participated in the establishment of the League of Nations.
  • Borden resigned as Prime Minister due to health concerns resulting from the War, 1920.
  • Continued with his business concerns, lectures and writing until his death in 1937.

*(Progressive) Conservative *Liberal *Unionist/Conservative

* Macdonald * Mackenzie * Abbott * Thompson * Bowell
* Tupper * Laurier * Borden * Meighen * King
* Bennett * St. Laurent * Diefenbaker * Pearson * Trudeau
* Clark * Turner * Mulroney * Campbell * Chrétien

Canadiana