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Famous Foreign Masons

 

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Welcome to Continental Lodge #287's Home Page. We Fraternally invite you to view our Communication and visit us on our regular meeting night.  We meet on the first Wednesday of the month at Grand Lodge, 71 West 23rd Street in the Renaissance Room on the 6th Floor at 7:30PM.  Our Brothers meet for dinner prior to the meetings. Check the Communication for location and feel free to join us..... Dutch of course!!
Be Well, God Bless and let our Brotherly Love Spread Around the World!!!

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If you are not already a member of our ancient & honorable fraternity, and would like additional information, please contact this Lodg or any  of our fraternity. Although we cannot directly solicit members, we will be pleased to respond to your interest by answering your questions and will gladly provide a petition at your request.

 

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Sir John Abbot Viscount Bennet Simon Bolivar Sir Robert Borden
Jean Sibelius Sir Mackenzie Bowell Robert Burns Francisco Calvo
Casanova Andre Citroen John Diefenbaker Edward VII
Edward VIII Winston Churchill Giuseppe Garabaldi George VI
Joseph Guillotin Sir John MacDonald Aleksander Pushkin Piet Retief
  Grock  

 

 

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, the family seat of his ancestors, the Dukes of Malborough. He was educated at Harrow and Sandherst. He served as a cavalry officer and war correspondent before entering Parliament in 1900karsh.jpg (27223 bytes). With only one short interval he continued to be a Member of Parliament until 1964. Churchill made his mark on British politics at an early age. In the 1930's his warnings of the dangers of war which lay ahead and Britain's state of unpreparedness, fell largely on deaf ears, but it was the period 1940 to 1945 which brought him to his full stature as a charismatic leader of a nation at war. As both Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, his indomitable resolution and his inspiring and memorable oratory proved a rallying point for the national sprit of resistance, especially during the dark days of the Blitz. He was a key figure, not only in Britain's conduct of the war but in the co-ordination of strategy between the Allies which lead to final victory.

While leader of the Opposition between 1945 and 1956, Churchill actively pursued the aims of Anglo-American unity and European co-operation which were always close to his heart. He again became Prime Minister in 1951. Four years later at the age of 80, he resigned office.

He is commemorated on Westminster Abbey by an inscribed stone, set in the floor next to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior."  Return To Last Page

 

 

Piet Retief

General Piet Retief Viljoen

Born in Pretoria, he was descended, on his mother's side, from the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief. As a young man he fought in several native campaigns and in 1887 became Mining Commissioner in Heidelburg, Transvaal. During the War he displayed considerable daring and skill in the Orange Free State and in the Western Transvaal. Badly wounded in action near Lake Chrissie, he became a member of the Executive Council of the Republic and, upon the death of General Spruyt, was appointed to take his place. He died in Heidelburg. Return To Last Page

 

 

Aleksander Pushkin

The poet, novelist, and dramatist Aleksander Pushkin is often considered Russia's greatest poet. His works express Russianwpe1.gif (6077 bytes) national consciousness, and they are seen as the first works of modern Russian literature.

Aleksander Sergeevich Pushkin was born in Moscow on June 6, 1799 (May 26, according to the calendar in use at the time). At home he learned to speak French, but he also learned Russian from his grandmother and heard Russian folktales from his nurse. In 1811 he entered the Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo, where he was trained to enter the civil service. While there Pushkin began work on his first major poem. `Ruslan and Lyudmila', published in 1820, was his first work to break with the literary tradition of the day. The poem is written in the accepted style of the Romantic writers, but it has an old Russian setting and draws upon Russian folktales.

In 1817 Pushkin took a post in the foreign office in St. Petersburg. He became involved with several literary societies, one of which became a branch of a secret society called the Union of Welfare. He became the spokesman for those who later participated in the failed Decembrist uprising of 1825. Because of these activities he was exiled in 1820 to a remote southern province.

During his exile Pushkin traveled in the northern Caucasus and the Crimea. These travels provided the material for his "southern cycle" of Romantic narrative poems, which established his reputation.

In 1826 Pushkin was allowed to return to Moscow. Although his work was censored and he was put under secret observation by the police, it was here that he wrote his most mature works. In 1831 Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova, and they settled in St. Petersburg, where he again took up government service. His desire to continue writing came into conflict with his court position, and his petitions to be allowed to resign were all refused. He died on Feb. 10, 1837 (January 29, according to the old calendar), in St. Petersburg from wounds suffered in a duel.

Pushkin's major works are an expression of his interest in the common people of Russia, their folklore, and their way of life. As such they broke with forms of the day and established a new tradition. In both `Eugene Onegin' (1833) and ` Boris Godunov ' (1831), Pushkin writes in a realistic, objective style about typically Russian themes in Russian settings.
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"Grock"

Swiss born Karl Adrian Wettach became the toast of European entertainment as "Grock" the clown. The auguste-type clownKarl Adrian "Grock" Wettach appeared with a series of partners in circuses, theatres and variety halls for nearly 60 years. The talented musician, who could play 24 instruments and speak many languages, baecame the king of clowns in the early 1900's. Grock performed for some of Europe's royalty. He also started a successful music publishing business for his popular songs. The highest-paid artist at one time in Europe, was broke after buying a circus tent for his variety show after World War II, but recovered financially through successful tours. His final performance at age 74 was in Hamburg, Germany, on October 30, 1954. He retired to the castle he had built in the 1920's on the French Riviera.  Return To Last Page

 

 

Joseph Ignace Guillotin

Joseph Ignace Guillotin spent a large part of his life trying to shake off credit for his one invention.

Right up until his death -- a peaceful one, at age 76 -- Guillotin proclaimed it wasn't really his idea to slice off people's heads with a sharp steel blade released from an impressive height onto a butcher's chopping block. But the good doctor (as he is invariably referred to in France) was doomed from the start. Eighteenth-century songwriters in search of easy rhymes fell in love with his name, feminized with an "e" to make it agree with "machine." Try doing that with "Schmidt," the name of the drunken German carpenter who turned Guillotin's blueprints into a reality.

Accounts differ, but some say Guillotin and Schmidt experimented in a small courtyard called Cour de Rohan, in the middle of what is now one of Paris's most heavily touristed Left Bank neighborhoods. The first victims were sheep; cadavers went under the blade next.

According to one apocryphal tale, Guillotin actually sought advice from Louis XVI on how to perfect his killing machine. Louis, an inveterate tinkerer, suggested the blade come down at an angle -- which is exactly what it did on January 21, 1793, when it came down on Louis' own neck.

By then the guillotine's nickname was the "national razor," and the notion of making capital punishment less barbaric and more humane had been lost in the tidal wave of blood pouring out of Parisian public execution places.

Nonetheless, Dr. Guillotin's machine was unquestionably an improvement over earlier techniques.

In contrast to today's sanitary executions, which take place behind closed doors, yesteryear's were held in the center of town, right where families and friends could gather for the 18th-century equivalent of mass entertainment. The death penalty didn't count for much unless it could be stretched out, subjecting all but upper-class convicts to excruciating hours of torture. In earlier days, quartering was popular (simply tie the victim's limbs to four horses and send the beasts galloping in four directions); and then there were the rack and the wheel, both designed for drawn-out death. Luckier victims were simply gutted, then hanged.

All this turned the good doctor's stomach, inspiring him to join a small reform movement that rose up several years before the French Revolution. Radicals talked about doing away with the death penalty altogether, but it would take another two centuries for that notion to take hold in France. More of an enlightened centrist, Guillotin argued for a nice, quick, clean kind of capital punishment, one that would free convicts from pointless pain and render greater respect to the human body -- not to mention the sensibilities of the victim's immediate family.

Guillotine-like killing devices had already been used in some countries as a favor to criminals with aristocratic bloodlines. But never had such a device been adopted on an institutional scale, which helps explain the time it took for Guillotin to get his proposal implemented.

First the penal code had to be rewritten, leveling the killing field in 1790 so that all classes were treated to the same punishment. The government meanwhile called in a second doctor, Antoine Louis -- for a time they called the new machine the "Louisette" -- to invest the project with some additional "scientific" principles. Specs had to be written, then the thing had to be funded and produced. Almost immediately it ran into budget resistance: Sharp blades don't come cheap. To get the price down, a bidding process followed. All this delayed the guillotine's release until 1792 -- just in time for the French Revolution.

Guillotin had wanted to change execution from a public spectacle to a more private affair. But here he was ahead of his time. A guillotine was up and running at the Place de GrŤve on Paris' Right Bank by April 1792, when the first petty criminal, one Nicolas Jacques Pelletier, lost his head before a large crowd of curious onlookers.

Critics say the guillotine mechanized and dehumanized death -- hardly Guillotin's objective -- and made killing less shocking; though, in fact, it wasn't unusual to spear the decapitated head and hold it up for all to see.

Much to Guillotin's chagrin, and history's horror, literally thousands of heads rolled.

"Some men are unfortunate," Victor Hugo later observed. "Christopher Columbus couldn't get his name attached to his discovery. Guillotin couldn't detach his from his invention." Return To Last Page

 

 

Giuseppe Garabaldi

Italian nationalist revolutionary, a leader in the struggle for Italian unification and independence. Garibaldi was born in Nice, France. In 1833 he joined Young Italy, the movement organized by Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini to unify the country as a self-governing republic. Garibaldi had to flee the country after a plot to seize a warship was discovered by the police. He lived in South America for 12 years.

When the revolutionary tide that swept over Europe in 1848 engulfed Italy, Garibaldi returned and again took part in the movement for Italian freedom and unification, thereafter known as the Risorgimento. He eventually fled and traveled to the United States. In 1854 he returned to Italy, but he separated politically from Mazzini, who was an undeviating republican; Garibaldi believed that the road to freedom and unity for Italy lay in alliance with the liberal ruler Victor Emmanuel II, king of Sardinia. Thousands of Italian patriots and revolutionaries were influenced by Garibaldi's position.

Garibaldi was deeply involved in the complicated military and political struggles that took place in the following years. During this time he conquered Sicily and Naples and gave the kingdom of Naples to Victor Emmanuel. A united Italy was established in 1861 with Victor Emmanuel as king, although Rome was still a papal possession and Venice was controlled by the Austrians. To secure Rome for the Italian kingdom, Garibaldi raised a force of volunteers. He was opposed and defeated by Victor Emmanuel, who did not want to risk war with France, which was guarding Rome. The government appealed to Garibaldi again in 1866 when the country allied itself with Prussia to defeat Austria. Italy was promised Venice if the alliance was victorious. Garibaldi successfully invaded Tyrol with a volunteer force, and Venice became part of Italy in 1866. Rome was annexed to Italy in 1870, and Garibaldi was elected to Italy's parliament in 1874. Return To Last Page

 

 

Andre Citroen

In 1906, he is appointed managing director of Automobiles Mors, a company that made its name by beating a number ofAndrť CitroŽn speed records at the turn of the century. Andrť CitroŽn reorganizes the workshops and becomes involved in the design of the new models. In ten years, he doubles Mors's annual production.
 
In 1912, the Engrenages CitroŽn-Hinstin partnership changes its name to Sociťtť Anonyme des Engrenages CitroŽn, a limited company, and moves to 31 Quai de Grenelle in Paris.
At the same time, Andrť CitroŽn becomes Chairman of the Automobile Employers' Federation. That same year he makes a trip to the United States, where he visits Henry Ford's factories, taking careful note of the way the workshops are organized.
 
On 27 May 1914, he marries Georgina Bingen, the daughter of a Genoese banker.
Two months later, war breaks out. Andrť is named captain of the 2nd heavy artillery regiment of the 4th Army. Observing the shortage of shells, Andrť CitroŽn goes to the Ministry of War and offers to set up a factory capable of manufacturing between 5,000 and 10,000 shrapnel shells per day in the space of three to four months. He opens an ultra-modern factory on a 15-hectare site in the area of Javel and applies Frederick Taylor's production methods. By 11 November 1918, the CitroŽn factory has produced more than 24 million shells.

The government frequently calls upon Andrť CitroŽn, who is greatly appreciated for his remarkable leadership and organizational skills. In 1917, he reorganizes supplies to munitions plants and sets up a military postal service. In 1918, he organizes the distribution of bread ration cards across the whole Paris area in the space of just twenty-four hours.
 
After the war, the Javel factory is reconverted to automotive production. The single model manufactured by the plant will be mass-produced - a first in Europe - to reduce the price and bring it within reach of as many people as possible. A model of organization, the factory is equipped with a range of innovative employee facilities.
Andrť CitroŽn's love of children – he has four of his own – leads him to create the first factory making miniature cars. Soon the first CitroŽn toy catalogue is issued.

And yet, other than his factories, Andrť CitroŽn has nothing to his name. He rents his flat, just as he rents the villa les Abeilles for holidays in Deauville from 1923. He has no personal interest in money; it is merely a means to an end.
 
By the early thirties, he has achieved most of his dreams of industrial success, but the Depression strikes. By 1934, he is finding it difficult to meet his financial commitments and the banks refuse to provide more money. The Michelin brothers buy a stake in the CitroŽn factories and then, at the request of the banks, take over the management. Andrť CitroŽn's next challenge, the launch of the Traction Avant, is not enough to save him from bankruptcy.
 
Andrť CitroŽn dies of cancer on 3 July 1935 and is laid to rest in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.
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Father Francisco Calvo

The original idea of founding of Freemasonry in Costa Rica, came from a trip made by Dr. Father Francisco Calvo to Peru., Where he met some priests who were Masons, and through the instigation of these priests he was initiated into the Order. On his return to Costa Rica, together with other Masons already residents, he established Lodge Caridad No. 26, which was granted a Charter on June 28,1865, by the Grand Orient of New Granada. Since its foundation until the present day, Freemasonry has numbered among its members many conspicuous personages of the country and priests of irreproachable character; among the latter may be mentioned the illustrious, charitable and much beloved Rev. Dr. Carlos M. Ulloa and Father Francisco Calvo, 33".

The Supreme Council of Central America, which is located in San Jose, Costa Rica, was founded on January 9, 1871, under a Charter granted by the Supreme Council of New Granada, to the Ill. Bro. Rev. Dr. Francisco Calvo,33", dated November 27,1870, which empowered him to created the Grand Orient and the Supreme Council of Central America, in the city of
San Jose.

This Supreme Council was allowed to be taken temporally to the City of Guatemala, under the condition that it be returned seven years later.
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Casanova

Adventurer, born in Venice, Italy. By 1750 he had worked as a clergyman, secretary, soldier, and violinist in variousGiovanni Casanova countries, and in 1755 was imprisoned for being a magician. He escaped in 1756, and for nearly 20 years wandered through Europe, visiting most of its capitals, and meeting the greatest men and women of the day. Alchemist, cabalist, and spy, he was everywhere introduced to the best society, and had always to "vanish' after a brief period of felicity. In 1785 he established himself as librarian with the Count of Waldstein, in a small Bohemian town, Duchcov, where he died. His main work is his autobiography, first published in complete form in 1960. His seductions are the first things many think of in connection with his name. His famous Histoire de ma vie (History of My Life) and a great number of other literary and scientific works, which are known only to specialized experts today, were written in Bohemia. Only few reports on Casanova's life concerning his stay in Duchcov are at our disposal - especially if we compare their amount with the number of reports of his previous nomadic life. These affairs are depicted in his History in detail, but unfortunately the last piece of news comes from the year 1774.

We could suppose that after an erratic and adventurous life Casanova would find in Duchcov, adequate conditions for spending the rest of his life as a scientist,t in a carefree and content manner. He had regular wages and all of his necessities were seen to. He had a library of over 40,000 volumes at his disposal. However, his life in Duchcov was intolerable to him. He felt isolated, unappreciated, and so utterly wretched that he often contemplated suicide. Many times he announced his ultimate departure from Bohemia, but was unable to realize it, due to his financial situation and maybe even more to his worsening health.

It is striking that Casanova does not mention the environment in which he lived more, considering the vast amount of papers he penned during his last years in Duchcov. If he writes abut Duchcov, which is very rare, he uses only critical, ironical and often derogatory expressions. Casanova was not one who cared much about his surroundings. He was mainly interested in people, and only by buildings and landscape if they were connected with persons he was fond of.

Casanova never thought highly of most people in Duchcov, and the castle lord, count Joseph Charles Emmanuel of Waldstein, is spoken about with obvious irony and hidden criticism. He sees him to be an immature hulking great fellow ; although he pays gratitude to him for his extended hospitality, he does not acknowledge his authority and flaunts at his horses and his passion for hunting. He concedes some acknowledgment only to his younger brother, botanist Francis de Paul Adam of Waldstein. As to members of the staff, Casanova lives in enmity towards his fellow associates, which constantly became sharper and sharper. All the time, he feels to be unjustly criticized and left out - even physically endangered by castle staff of peasant descent, whose temper and speech he does not understand. We know his satire of the castle caretaker George Feltkirchner and his narrow-minded friend Charles Wiederholt. The only person who Casanova befriended was the worldly minded Prince de Ligne, who used to take a house for the summer in nearby Teplice. The two friends have an intensive exchange of thoughts and views and Casanova even writes a little commentary on a new edition of "Theory of Gardening".

It is easy to understand how Casanova felt during his last years, discarded by the society that he loved so. Instead of putting up with the small-town society after their first clashes, he insists upon his own life-style, obstinately and ostentatiously. So in "isolation" Casanova retreated within the dreamed-up and happier past and devoted his time to his writings.
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Robert Burns

Robert Burn's grandfather, a Robert Burness, had been a farmer in Kincardineshire but had lost his farm after the 1745Robert Burns Jacobite rebellion, possibly as a result of showing sympathies for that cause. Robert's father, William moved via Edinburgh to Alloway, obtained a small piece of land and built a cottage. He married a local tenant farmer's daughter, Agnes Brown, and there first son Robert was born. Six other children followed. William worked as a gardener and supplimented this with his own small market garden.

Robert's mother, Agnes, could only barely read but an elderly relative named Betty Davidson amused the children with rich traditional tales and songs of fairies, witches, warlocks and much more. Young Robert's imagination was fuelled by these renditions.

A John Murdoch was employed by five families of Alloway to educate their children in the little school there. He lodged with each of the families in turn and received a modest salary. When Robert Burns was around seven years old his teacher was only 18. John's strict methods of teaching resulted in much being added to Scottish Culture in the years to come. In later life, after Burns fame had spread, John Murdoch is said to have failed to see the full potential of the young Robert!

In 1766, the family moved to take up tenancy of Mount Oliphant farm, just outside Alloway. This was a big mistake but Robert's father wanted to be a farmer. The land was poor and they could not afford the farm labourers and servants needed to operate the concern. The young Burns children had to take on heavy farm work themselves. Times were hard, food scarce and butcher meat unknown. When young growing bodies need nutrition, Robert was denied it. His later death at only 37 can be attributed to heart damage done toiling at Mount Oliphant. Despite hardship, Robert's education continued in an on and off fashion - grammar, French and mathematics.

By his twenties, Robert Burns had become an accomplished poet in his own right and a collector of traditional songs. His father died in 1784 and he inherited the farm which was still a virtual failure. In 1786 he was about to leave Scotland for the West Indies and published Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect in Kilmarnock. In was an instant success. Robert traveled to Edinburgh, thrilled society there and published another lucrative volume in 1787. This financed tours of Scotland from which he drew inspiration for further works.

In 1788 he married Jean Armour although he had had previous relationships and others after his marriage. Robert had children by several women and had courted many more. But these were very promiscuous times in rural Scotland with illegitimacy common, as anyone who has tried to trace their ancestry through this period must know.

Robert then returned to south west Scotland to become part time farmer / part time excise officer. Modern research suggests that he may have been effectively exiled to Dumfries for political reasons. He was a republican, champion of the rights of the poor and he supported the French revolution in1789. He may have expressed too many revolutionary thoughts in Edinburgh for the authorities. Since he was a popular individual he have been spared prosecution if he moved away to a government job and kept quiet. One possibility is that a series of revolutionary letters anonymously published in Edinburgh newspapers during the early 1790's were actually written by Burns from Dumfries.

His health was never good and he died prematurely, aged only 37, in 1796. Return To Last Page

 

 

Jean Sibelius

sib jpgFinland's greatest composer, Jean Sibelius, was born in 1865. His Kullervo Symphony, completed in 1892, started the period when much Finnish music was based on the legends of the national epic, The Kalevala. As a composer Sibelius gradually turned to more international themes and greater internalization. The core of his musical output, which was diverse and stylistically original, were his orchestral works, notably his seven symphonies written between 1899 and 1924, and symphonic poems such as the four-part Lemminkšinen series, Pohjola's Daughter and Tapiola. His violin concerto of 1904 is one of the most demanding and one of the most popular of its genre. The pearl of his small output of chamber music is the profound Voces Intimae, written for string quartet in 1909.

His symphonic poem, Finlandia, completed in 1899, became a symbol of Finland's bid for independence. Other national treasures left by the great composer include the music Sibelius based on well known works of the theatre, such as King Kristian II, Death, Pelleas and Melisande and The Tempest as well as his numerous works for the piano and violin, his musical settings of poetry, his choral works and songs. Sibelius died in 1957. The house where he was born, in the southern Finnish town of Hšmeenlinna, is now a museum as is his former home, named Ainola, in the town of Jšrvenpšš. Return To Last Page

 

 

Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar y Palacios joined the social life in Spain while he was traveling there.   Bolivar was born into a well-to-do Creole family in Caracas, and finished his education on the road in Spain, other parts of Europe, and even America.   
      Bolivar helped with the revolution in Venezuala and influenced much of Latin American politics as a military leader, politician, and as a man.   He was defeated a few times and went into retirement in Jamaica.  However, the retirement was not a withdrawal from the struggle for independence. 
      Bolivar was defeated again by Spanish general Morillo in Caracas, but rose from that victory to conduct one of the most famous campaigns of military history.  Bolivar took 2,500 men up the Orinoco river and over the Raya pass of the Andes.  There he overcame the outlying Spanish outposts and defeated the main body of royalist forces at Bayaca.  The capital was quickly occupied and the republic of Colombia was proclaimed. 
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George VI

George VI, born December 14, 1895, was the second son of George V and Mary of Teck. He was an unassuming, shy boy who greatly admired his brother Edward, Prince of Wales. From childhood to the age of thirty, George suffered with a bad stammer in his speech, which exacerbated his shyness; Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, was instrumental in helping George overcome the speech defect. George married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, who bore him two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. He died from cancer on February 6, 1952.

Due to the controversy surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII, popular opinion of the throne was at its lowest point since the latter half of Victoria's reign. The abdication, however, was soon overshadowed by continental developments, as Europe inched closer to yet another World War. After several years of pursuing "appeasement" policies with Germany, Great Britain (and France) declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. George, following in his father's footsteps, visited troops, munitions factories, supply docks and bomb-damaged areas to support the war effort. As the Nazi's bombed London, the royal family remained at Buckingham Palace; George went so far as to practice firing his revolver, vowing that he would defend Buckingham to the death. Fortunately, such defense was never necessary. The actions of the King and Queen during the war years greatly added to the prestige of the monarchy.

George predicted the hardships following the end of the war as early as 1941. From 1945-50, Great Britain underwent marked transitions. The Bank of England, as well as most facets of industry, transportation, energy production and health care, were brought to some degree of public ownership. The birth pangs of the Welfare State and the change from Empire to multiracial Commonwealth troubled the high-strung king. The political turmoil and economic hardships of the post-war years left the king physically and emotionally drained by the time of his death.

In the context of royal history, George VI was one of only five monarchs who succeeded the throne in the lifetime of his predecessor; Henry IV, Edward IV, Richard III, and William III were the other four. George, upon his ascension, wrote to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin concerning the state of the monarchy: "I am new to the job but I hope that time will be allowed to me to make amends for what has happened." His brother Edward continued to advise George on matters of the day, but such advice was a hindrance, as it was contradictory to policies pursued by George's ministers. The "slim, quiet man with tired eyes" (as described by Logue) had a troubled reign, but he did much to leave the monarchy in better condition than he found it. Return To Last Page

 

 

Edward VIII

Edward VIII, eldest son of George V and Mary of Teck, was born June 23, 1894. He married an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, abdicating the throne after reigning a scant eleven months. The couple failed to produce children; Edward died in 1972.

Rumors concerning Edward's attachment to Mrs. Simpson circulated before the death of George V. The situation came to the brink of constitutional crisis with Edward's accession: The Church of England (of which he was the head) censured divorce, Parliament refused to grant Wallis any title, the populace was opposed to having a twice-divorced woman as the King's consort and English law had no precedent for a wife of the king with no title or official capacity. Had Edward pressed the issue, the constitutional monarchy would be irrepreparably damaged; he chose to abdicate rather than mar the image of the monarchy. He was created Duke of Windsor, married Wallis and relished in social life. There is speculation and circumstantial evidence that he was a liaison to Hitler's Germany, but hard proof of the link has yet to surface.

Edward's situation had similarities with several different monarchs. He had the second shortest reign in English history, the shortest being that of his namesake, Edward V. The only other adult bachelor to succeed the throne was William II. The precedent of marrying a divorced woman was set by Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. He left the throne in the same manner as James II, abdication in face of popular opposition.

Edward was immensely popular when he came to throne; his widow, the Duchess of Windsor, lamented his abdication after his death: "He might have been a great King; the people loved him."  Return To Last Page

 

 

Edward VII

Edward VII, born November 9, 1841, was the eldest son of Queen Victoria. He took the family name of his father, Prince Consort Albert, hence the change in lineage, although he was still Hanoverian on his mother's side. He married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, who bore him three sons and three daughters. Edward died on May 6, 1910, after a series of heart attacks.

Victoria, true to the Hanoverian name, saw the worst in Edward. She and Albert imposed a strict regime upon Edward, who proved resistant and resentful throughout his youth. His marriage at age twenty-two to Alexandra afforded him some relief from his mother's domination, but even after Albert's death in 1863, Victoria consistently denied her son any official governmental role. Edward rebelled by completely indulging himself in women, food, drink, gambling, sport and travel. Alexandra turned a blind eye to his extramarital activities, which continued well into his sixties and found him implicated in several divorce cases.

Edward succeeded the throne upon Victoria's death; despite his risquť reputation, Edward threw himself into his role of king with vitality. His extensive European travels gave him a solid foundation as an ambassador in foreign relations. Quite a few of the royal houses of Europe were his relatives, allowing him to actively assist in foreign policy negotiations. He also maintained an active social life, and his penchant for flamboyant accouterments set trends among the fashionable. Victoria's fears proved wrong: Edward's forays into foreign policy had direct bearing on the alliances between Great Britain and both France and Russia, and aside from his sexual indiscretions, his manner and style endeared him to the English populace.

Social legislation was the focus of Parliament during Edward's reign. The 1902 Education Act provided subsidized secondary education, and the Liberal government passed a series of acts benefiting children after 1906; old age pensions were established in 1908. The 1909 Labour Exchanges Act laid the groundwork for national health insurance, which led to a constitutional crisis over the means of budgeting such social legislation. The budget set forth by David Lloyd-George proposed major tax increases on wealthy landowners and was defeated in Parliament. Prime Minister Asquith appealed to Edward to create several new peerages to swing the vote, but Edward steadfastly refused. Edward died amidst the budgetary crisis at age sixty-eight, which was resolved the following year by the Liberal government's passage of the act.

Despite Edward's colorful personal life and Victoria's perceptions of him as profligate, Edward ruled peacefully (aside from the Boer War of 1899-1902) and successfully during his short reign, which is remarkable considering the shifts in European power that occurred in the first decade of the twentieth century.  Return To Last Page

 

 

Sir John A. Macdonald

"When fortunes empties her chamberpot on your head, smile - and say we are going to have a summer shower'." Sir John A. Macdonald,ca.1875

Fortune emptied her chamberpot on Sir John A. Macdonald's head more than once, and his comment is indicative of the humor of which he met life's set- backs. Canada's first prime minister probably had more obstacles to encounter than any other.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, John A. Macdonald emigrated to Canada with his parents when he was five years old. He articled with a Kingston lawyer at the age of fifteen; by nineteen, Macdonald had his own legal practice. His introductions to politics came in 1843 when he served as a city alderman. The following year, he was elected Conservative representative for Kingston in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, first with Etienne-Paschal Tache and then with George-Etienne Cartier.

Throughout the 1860's, Macdonald worked in support of the Confederation movement. There had been for several years a movement to unite the Maritime provinces. When the Province of Canada showed interest in Confederation, a conference was held in Charlottetown, September 1, 1864. Each province was contending with its own "anti-Confederation" forces, and Newfoundland would reject union outright. The more prosperous Maritime provinces felt Confederation would weaken their autonomy. In Canada East (Quebec), there were fears that Confederation would dilute French-Canadian interests.

Finally, external events hastened the acceptance of Confederation. The American Civil War, the Fenian Raids of 1866 and a generally aggressive American foreign policy caused concern about the defense of the British North American colonies.

Macdonald played a leading role in promoting Confederation, to the point of making alliance with his staunch political rival and Opposition leader, George Brown. With his wide-ranging personal vision and constitutional expertise, Macdonald drafted the British North American Act, which defined the federal system by which the four provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. were united on July 1, 1867. Prince Edward Island, the third "maritime" province, and ironically the host of the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, did not join until 1873. As for Newfoundlan, the other "Atlantic" provvince, it didn't join until 1949.

Macdonald was appointed Prime Minister of Canada and won the federal election the following month. In his first administration, his primary purpose was to build a nation. Communications between the provinces were essential and to this end, Macdonald began the Intercolonial Railway. It would run from Halifax to the pacific coast and include Canada's two new provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia, an the North-West Territories. Under Macdonald's leadership, Canada achieved a certain degree of autonomy from Britain in foreign affairs. He also brought in a system of tariffs to protect Canadian products from foreign imports, especially those from the United States, in order to boost economic growth.

While Macdonald's administration accomplished great things, it also fraught with difficulties. Revelations of the shady dealings between the Conservatives and and the railway syndicate lead to the Pacific Scandal in 1873. Macdonald's government was forced to resign and lost the election in 1874. He regained power in 1878, but political troubles continued. Macdonald's handling of the North-West Rebellion in 1885 and execution of Louis Riel outraged French-Canadians, sparking an antagonism between them and English- Canadians that would continue for years. The federal powers envisioned by Macdonald were weakened by legal challenges launched by the provinces.

In his personal life, Macdonald had his fair share of troubles. At stressful times, he frequently drank to excess. His first wife, Isabella, was an invalid and died in 1856. Of the two boys born to her, only one survived to adulthood. Macdonald married a second time, to Susan Agnes Bernard in 1867. Their joy over a birth of a daughter in 1869 was mitigated by the fact that she suffered from from hydrocephalus, which caused both mental and physical handicaps.

In March 1891, Macdonald won a forth consecutive electoral victory. He died three months later while still prime minister, having forged a nation of geographic size, two European colonial origins and a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds and political views. Grieving Canadians turned out in thousands to pay their respects while he lay in state Parliament and they lined the tracks to watch the train that returned his body to Kingston.  Return To Last Page    As Corrected by Vincent Durant, 3/04  with thanks from Continental Lodge #287

 

 

John George Diefenbaker

"I am the first prime minister of this country of neither altogether English or French origin. So I determined to bring about a

Canadian citizenship that knew no hyphenated consideration....I'm very happy to be able to say that in the House of Commons today in my party we have members of Italian, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Chinese and Ukrainian origin - and they are all Canadians." John Diefenbaker,March 29,1958

While previous prime ministers had concerned themselves with the reconciliation of French and English culture in Canada, John Diefenbaker aspired to include those of other ethnic extractions in the national identity. Furthermore, he drew attention to the rights of Canada's indigenous population, who had also been left out of the "two founding nations" equation. Under his prime ministership, Canada's Aboriginal peoples were allowed to vote federally for the first time, and James Gladstone, a member of the Blood tribe was the first native person appointed to the Senate.

Diefenbaker's political career is a lesson in determination and tenacity. He met with failure and opposition many times in his life, but never let it prevent him from pursuing his goals. John George Diefenbaker was born in Neustadt, Ontario in 1895; his parents were of German and Scottish decent. His family moved to Fort Carlton, north of Saskatoon in 1903 where the Diefenbakers homesteaded. John's father taught school and encouraged his sons to read. At a young age Diefenbaker read a book about Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier and decided that someday he too would lead Canada.

Diefenbaker attended the University of Saskatchewan, graduating with a general B.A. in 1915 and an M.A. in political science and economics in 1916. He enlisted in the army in 1916 and served briefly in Britain, before being invalidated home the following year.

Returning to the university to study law, he graduated with an LL.B. in 1919. He set up a law practice in Wakaw, near Prince Albert. Diefenbaker quickly established himself as a successful criminal lawyer. Over his 20-year career, he defended 18 men of the death penalty.

Diefenbaker had not forgotten his political ambitions. However his attempts to enter politics at any level initially met with failure. He ran for a seat in the House of Commons in 1925 and 1926, but lost. He tried the provincial legislature in 1929 and 1938, with no luck. His attempt to run for mayor of Prince Albert in 1933 also failed. Diefenbaker was elected leader of the Conservative party of Saskatchewan in 1936, but the party won no seats in the 1938 election. Finally in the 1940 election, he won a Commons seat in the Opposition.

The Conservatives remained in opposition throughout the King and St. Laurent governments. It was here that Diefenbaker began his campaign for the average Canadian and ethnic minorities. In 1942, he criticized the government's treatment of Japanese-Canadians. He even opposed his own parties in his crusades; in 1948 he blocked a Conservative campaign to outlaw the Communist party.

Diefenbaker stood as a candidate for leadership of the party in 1942 and in 1948, but lost both times. He finally succeeded in 1956. As Opposition leader, he harried the Liberals throughout the Pipeline Debate and discredited them in the eyes of electorate. In the 1957 election, Canadians saw for the first time Diefenbaker's remarkable campaign style. Part circus barker, part vaudeville actor, Diefenbakers theatrical delivery entertained Canadians, and his appeal to the farmer, store-owner and factory-worker won their hearts and their votes. He became "Dief, the Chief."

The Conservatives won a minority government in 1957 and the following year were returned with, at that time the greatest majority of seats in Canadian history. But Diefenbaker's policies were radical and often contrary to traditional Conservative values. The fact that the party had been out of office for twenty-two years added to their problems. Nevertheless, Diefenbaker introduced legislation that improved social programs. His Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act helped many farmers across Canada and he found a new market in China for their wheat. Diefenbaker initiated projects to revive the Maritimes. The first woman federal Cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough, was appointed by Diefenbaker. He championed human rights outside of Canada by supporting the independence of many non-white Commonwealth countries. His anti-apartheid statement in 1961 contributed to the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth. Diefenbaker antagonized the Americans by refusing to support their hostilities against Cuba.

But high unemployment, the devaluation of the dollar and the cancellation of the Avro Arrow project eroded the Tories' popularity. They were reduced to a minority government in 1962 and lost to the Liberals in the election the following year. Diefenbaker's radical policies eventually alienated his party. A leadership review was called and he lost to Robert Stanfield in 1967. Neverless, he continued to represent his riding in the Commons. He won his last election in 1979, three months before his death on August 16.

Sir John A. Macdonald was Diefenbaker's hero, and he was determined to have a state funeral as grand as that which had honoured Canada's first prime minister. A special train bore the Chief's body back to Sasktoon where he was buried.
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Sir Mackenzie Bowell

"I am quite convinced from the utterances made by most of the Brethren in the press and on the platform, that they do not understand the question, nor draw the distinction which exists between this matter and the Jesuits' Estates Act." Mackenzie Bowell, on Protestant sentiments regarding the Manitoba Schools Question, March 1895.

As all prime ministers do at some point in their careers, Mackenzie Bowell found himself promoting a policy that was completely contrary to his personal opinions and public platform. Such is the nature of governing Canada. The Manitoba Schools Question was one of the most divisive issues in Canadian history, pitting Catholics against Protestants, English against French, West against East, provincial government against federal, Liberals against Conservatives, church against state. Since each of these groups overlapped the other, the shifting loyalties of all involved in the Manitoba Schools Question created a quagmire in which Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell floundered. He bears the unfortunate stigma of being the only prime minister in Canadian history who was forced to resign by his Cabinet. Mackenzie Bowell was born in Rickinghall, England in 1823 and emigrated with his family in 1832. The Bowells settled in Belleville and young Mackenzie apprenticed with the printer of the local newspaper, The Intelligencer. By 1848, Bowell had become the newspaper's owner and editor, with a brief interlude for schooling at Sydney Normal School in Hastings County. In 1858, Bowell joined the Belleville Rifle Company, a militia company of 65 men and served with them, guarding the border of Upper Canada during the American Civil War.

At the age of nineteen, Bowell joined the Orange order, a Protestant fraternal society, of which he eventually became Grand Master for British North America in 1870. Nevertheless, his association with extreme Protestantism did not always color Bowell's politics. In 1863, he ran as a Conservative in Hastings County. The Liberals were campaigning against Roman Catholic rights, a position Bowell refused to take, and he subsequently lost the election. He won in 1867 and held his House of Commons seat in 1874, when the Conservatives lost as a result of the Pacific Scandal. In 1878, Bowell became Minister of Customs, charged with imposing the protective tariffs of the new National Policy. He was Minister of Militia in 1892 and under Prime Minister Thompson, he was Minister of the newly-created portfolio of Trade and Commerce. During this time he led a trade mission to Australia and organized a colonial conference. By all accounts, Bowell served well in his ministerial duties, but with his elevation to prime minister upon the death of John Thompson, he was promoted beyond his level of competence. Certainly, the Manitoba Schools Question was more than he could handle.

A system of Protestant and Catholic Schools had been established in Manitoba upon its creation as a province in 1870, based on a provision in the BNA Act ensuring minority education rights. In 1890, the Manitoba government abolished public funding for Catholic schools. The law was challenged and overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the decision was reversed again by the Privy Council in England. By 1895, passions in Canada were inflamed over the issue and parliament had to decide whether or not to override Manitoba's law. Quebec staunchly supported Roman Catholic rights, Manitoba defied the federal government to interfere with its laws and Protestant Ontario supported Manitoba. These divisions prevailed within Bowell's Cabinet, making decisions impossible. As a Senator, Bowell was further hindered because he could not take part in House of Commons debates, and had no reliable minister to represent him there. The day-to-day business of government ground to a halt.

Despite his own religious beliefs, Bowell supported legislation drafted in June 1895 to force Manitoba to reinstate Catholic schools, acknowledging their rights under the BNA Act. However, opposition within Cabinet and his own indecisiveness caused him to postpone the issue for six months. By January 1896, the Cabinet felt Bowell was not competent to lead. Seven ministers resigned in order to force the prime minister to step down. They prevented Bowell from appointing replacements and a government crisis ensued. Ten days later, the situation appeared resolved when six ministers were reinstated and Charles Tupper joined the Cabinet. The Governor General had intervened on Bowell's behalf, but Tupper assumed virtual control of the party. At the end of the session, Bowell resigned in favor of Tupper.

Despite his ignominious defeat as prime minister, Bowell remained a Senator, serving as the Senate Leader of the Opposition after the Conservatives lost the 1896 election. He continued in this position until 1906 and remained in the Senate until his death in 1917. Return To Last Page

 

 

Sir Robert Laird Borden

"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

Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden began his political career as a staunch Imperialist, and during his years as leader of the opposition he frequently criticized Sir Wilfrid Laurier's policies concerning Britain. But once in power, Borden saw the necessity of an independent position for Canada within the Empire. With the advent of the First World War and the sacrifice of Canadian lives in Europe, Borden insisted on an autonomous voice for the nation in Imperial and international affairs. Through his efforts during the nine years he was prime minister, Canada won greater independence from Britain and launched her reputation as a neutral entity in international affairs.

Robert Laird Borden was born in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia in 1854. His father owned a farm and worked as the local stationmaster. Young Borden was educated at the local school, Acacia Villa Academy. So promising were his intellectual abilities, that he became an assistant school master at the Academy at the age of fourteen. At nineteen, Borden was offered a teaching position in Matawan, New Jersey. He returned to Nova Scotia two years later and began articling with a Halifax law firm, not having the means to study law at university. Borden was called to the Bar in 1878, and proceeded to establish himself as a successful lawyer in partnership with Charles Hibbert Tupper, son of the future Conservative Prime Minister, Charles Tupper.

It was through the Tupper family that Borden was drawn into politics. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1896 and succeeded Tupper as leader of the Conservatives in 1901. The Tories had been in disarray since the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and were badly beaten in the elections of 1896 and 1900. Borden spent his ten years as leader of the opposition rebuilding the party. He had none of Laurier's oratorical mastery or charisma. His talents included a methodical efficiency and a remarkable capacity for work. But even within his own party, Borden's skills were sometimes overlooked; his attempts to reconcile the varying opinions of his colleagues were often interpreted as indecisiveness.

Borden's leadership ability was most thoroughly tested during the First World War. The demands made on the workings of government, as well as the economy and social structure of the nation were acute. When war was declared in August 1914, just three years into Borden's term as prime minister, he realized the nature of the crisis that had been so suddenly imposed. Not only was there to be an army enlisted, trained and armed, but also a whole nation to be reorganized in order to procure equipment and manpower, to regulate industry, agriculture and transportation, to raise funds and safeguard currency, all essential to the war effort.

Borden was in Europe in 1915 and visited Canadian soldiers at the front and in hospitals in Britain. He was horrified at the suffering they had endured. He was even more appalled to learn of the incompetence of the British High Command and, as a result, demanded that Canada have more say in the Allied planning. Borden was also determined that the efforts of Canadian soldiers in France would be supported by adequate reinforcements. In the face of dwindling enlistment, he proposed conscription.

The issue of conscription instantly divided the nation and Borden's Cabinet. His Quebec ministers refused to support it. Borden proposed a coalition government of Liberals and Conservatives for the duration of the war. The Liberal party was split over conscription; some accepted Borden's invitation to join his Cabinet. The Union government won the election of 1917, but not without a cost. The province of Quebec was completely alienated and without representation in Cabinet. Borden had also imposed the Wartime Elections Act which unjustly deprived many Canadians of Germanic descent and other foreign backgrounds of their right to vote.

In addition to the demands of wartime governing, Borden had to fire his Minister of Militia and Defense, and deal with scandals involving graft and wartime profiteering. When the centre block of Parliament burned in February 1916, Borden escaped, singed and in his shirtsleeves; his office and its contents completely destroyed by the fire.

Although the war ended in 1918, Borden's work continued in the aftermath. He insisted that Canada have an independent delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and he participated in the establishment of the League of Nations. By 1920, after so many years of relentless work, Borden's health was suffering and he resigned as prime minister. His retirement proved restorative and he was active with his business concerns, lecturing and writing until his death in 1937.
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Richard Bedford Bennett

"I propose that any government of which I am the head will at the first session of parliament initiate whatever action is necessary to that end, or perish in the attempt." R.B. Bennett, June 9, 1930, on the elimination of unemployment.

The severe economic conditions of the Depression brought the downfall of more than one government and Canada was no exception. In his campaign speech of 1930, Bennett had little idea of the disasters to come, nor were his Conservative policies capable of dealing with them. By 1935, he realized that only radical political and social reform would have any effect in alleviating Canada's economic misfortunes. But it was too little, too late. Not only did the government "perish in the attempt", but the fortunes of the Conservatives and Bennett's leadership as well.

Richard Bedford Bennett was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick in 1870, the son of a shipbuilder. After finishing Grade 8, he went to Normal School and trained as a teacher. By the age of 16 he was teaching near Moncton and two years later, became school principal in Douglastown. At the same time, he began articling part-time in a law office. By 1890, Bennett had saved enough money to study law at Dalhousie University. He graduated in 1893, and joined a local law firm. In 1897, he moved to Calgary and the Law Partner of Conservative senator James A. Lougheed.

His first foray into politics had been as alderman in Chatham, N.B. in 1896. In 1898, he won a seat in Alberta's new Provincial Assembly for Northwest Territories. An attempt to enter federal politics in 1900 failed, as did efforts to win a seat in Alberta's new Provincial Assembly in 1905. Nevertheless, his legal business prospered, which with wise investment, made him a wealthy man.

In 1909, Bennett won a Conservative seat in the Provincial Legislature. Two years later, he was elected to the House of Commons. Disappointed at not being made a Cabinet minister, Bennett did not run in the 1917 election. In 1921, Prime Minister Arthur Meighen asked Bennett to be minister of justice. His return to politics was short-lived however; Bennett lost in the 1921 election.

He won in 1925 and served as minister of finance in Arthur Meighen's very brief government in 1926. In 1927, the Conservative party held its first leadership convention and Bennett was elected leader. The first signs of the Depression were evident by the 1930 election, when he campaigned on a platform of aggressive measures to combat it. Upon winning the election, Bennett was true to his promise and immediately allocated $20 million towards helping the unemployed.

Unfortunately, the Depression brought hardship that neither he nor any other politician was equipped to handle. Conservative politics did not condone government interference in business practices or social welfare. Bennett did attempt to strengthen Canadian trade by initiating preferential tariffs, but this did nothing to help declining exports. By 1932, unemployment was so high that Bennett brought in the Relief Act which established camps to provide unemployed single men with a subsistence living. Relief for unemployed families was administered on a municipal level. Attempts by Bennett to coordinate welfare on a federal and provincial level were rejected by the provinces.

By 1933, the Depression was at its worst and Bennett's government appeared indecisive and ineffectual. He became the butt of jokes such as "Bennett buggies," cars pulled by horses or oxen because the owners could no longer afford gasoline. Dissension was widespread throughout the party and Cabinet due to Bennett's inability to delegate authority. He held the portfolios for finance and for external affairs, and his failure to consult with Cabinet angered his ministers. One in particular, Henry Stevens, openly rebelled. His insistence that the Conservatives adopt a radical platform of political and social reform caused a rift in the party. Stevens eventually resigned and formed a new, but short-lived political entity, the Reconstruction party.

Influenced by American President Roosevelt's "New Deal," Bennett proposed a new platform of government policy in 1935, announced to the nation in a series of radio broadcasts. Abandoning his previous policies, Bennett advocated minimum wage, health and unemployment insurance, government regulation of banking and trade, and other social reforms. But it was too late; Bennett and his party were too closely associated with the hardships of the Depression. In the October 1935 election, the Liberal party won under the leadership of Mackenzie King.

Bennett remained leader of the opposition until 1938. Despondent over his rejection by voters and the conflicts in the Conservative party, he emigrated to Britain where he was made Viscount in 1941 and sat in the House of Lords. He died in Britain in 1947 and was buried near his estate at Mickleham, Surrey.

Bennett was a generous man; he gave $25,000 a year to numerous charities. Throughout the Depression, many of the hundreds of letters he received requesting help were answered with aid and money from his own pocket. 
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Sir John Abbott

"I hate politics, and what are considered their appropriate methods. I hate notoriety, public meetings, public speeches, caucuses, and everything that I know of that is apparently the necessary incident of politics- except doing public work to the best of my ability" Sir John J.C Abbott, June4, 1891

Unusual sentiments for a man who was to become prime minister twelve days later. Sir John A. Macdonald died June 6, 1891, just three months after the Conservatives had won an election. Although it would be five years before they had to face the electorate again, replacing the old chieftain was no easy task. The Conservative party was in shambles, corrupt after so many years in power and rife with personal, religious and ethnic divisions. John Joseph Caldwell Abbott took over as prime minister with great reluctance, acknowledging that he was there "because I am not particularly obnoxious to anybody."

Abbott was born in St, Andrews, Quebec, in 1821, and educated by his father, an Anglican missionary. At seventeen he went to work in the dry-goods business, where he learned accounting and bookkeeping. In 1843, he started law school at the University of McGill College, and joined the law firm William Badgley when he was called to the Bar in 1847. He became the dean of law in 1855 and taught at McGill until 1876. Wilfrid Laurier, the future prime minister, was one of Abbott students.

In addition to his career as a teacher and commercial lawyer, Abbott established himself as an able businessman, owning shares and holding directorship in a number of successful Montreal businesses. His greatest commercial endeavor was railways. As a company president and engineer respectively, Abbott and his brother, Henry, built the Canada Central Railway, a keylink in the transcontinental line.

Abbott was a legal advisor to Sir Hugh Allan, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and helped him secure the contract and funding for Macdonald's ambitious railway construction. By this time, Abbott was the M.P for Argenteuil, and his involvement with both the CPR and the government led to a conflict of interest. He was at the centre of the Pacific Scandal: it was from Abbott office that the incriminating documents were stolen and handed over to the Liberals.

Abbott lost his seat in parliament in 1874 as a result of the scandal, but was re-elected in a by-election in 1881. He continued his work on the CPR, but abstained from all discussions or votes on the subject of railways in the House of Commons. In 1887, Abbott was appointed to the Senate, from which he served as a Cabinet minister and later as prime minister. From 1887 to 1888, he was also Mayor of Montreal.

In addition to his associations with the Pacific Scandal, Abbott had another embarrassment that his opponents never let him forget. He signed the Annexation Manifesto in 1849. This was a document drawn up by a group of Monteal businessman, advocating that the Canadian colonies relinquish their ties with Britain and join the United States. The manifesto was prompted by an economic recession, and Britain's removal of tariffs preferential to colonial products. The threat of annexation on the part of the Canadians was used more for the purpose of extracting concessions from Britain than for seriously proposing to merge with the U.S. In this case, the annexation movement had little support beyond the Montreal business community, and waned as the economy recovered. As a young entrepreneur, Abbott had supported annexation, along with other prominent figured, all of whom soon regretted their actions. Abbott himself later confessed that they had "no more serious idea of seeking annexation with the Unites States than a petulant child who strikes his nurse has of deliberately murdering her." But to atone for his youthful error, he raised 300 militia recruits in response to the Trent Affair of 1861 and maintained the regiment at his own expense.

Though reluctant to accept the office of prime minister, Abbott proved himself to be a capable leader, despite the Langevin scandal exposed during his term. He dealt with the backlog of government business awaiting him after Macdonald's death. Reform of the civil service, revisions of the criminal code, and a reciprocity treaty with the U.S were just a few of the issues initiated by Abbott. During his 17 month term, there were 52 by-elections, 42 of which were won by the Conservatives, increasing their majority by 13 seats- an indisputable acknowledgement of Abbott's abilities as prime minister.

Failing health forced him to resign in November 1892, handing his position over to John Thompson, the young Cabinet minister whom Abbott had always felt should have succeeded Macdonald. He died in Montreal the following year.

In his private life, Abbott supported the Art Association of Montreal and helped establish an institution for the handicapped. His hobbies included raising orchids, and his collection was reputed as one of the best in Canada . He married Mary Bethune in 1849 and they had eight children. The actor Christopher Plummer counts among the many Abbott descendants.
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