Sir Robert Laird Borden

(1854—1937) lawyer and prime minister of Canada

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(b. 26 June 1854, d. 10 June 1937).

Prime Minister of Canada 1911–20 Born at Grand Pré (Nova Scotia), he was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1878 and became a prominent lawyer in Halifax. In 1896, he was elected to parliament as a Conservative. As Conservative Party leader from 1901 he successfully rebuilt his party. In 1911 he engineered a broad alliance between various enemies of Laurier to bring down his government. Remembered particularly for his leadership during World War I, he introduced national direct taxation (1916) and nationalized some of the railways (1917). Most controversially, when voluntary enlistment for service in the war proved insufficient, he introduced conscription through the Military Service Act (1917). In return for the Canadian contribution to the war effort, he insisted in 1917 that Canada become more independent of British sovereignty, as an ‘autonomous nation of an Imperial Commonwealth’. He pressed this claim also as the leader of the Canadian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, where the autonomous status of Canada and the other Dominions was internationally recognized. He remained a respected international figure after his retirement in 1920, and was a strong advocate of the League of Nations.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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