Andrew Bonar Law

(1858—1923) businessman and prime minister

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British statesman and Conservative prime minister (1922–23).

Born in Canada and brought up in Scotland, Bonar Law entered parliament as a Conservative member in 1900 and became party leader in 1911. He supported Ulster opposition to home rule (his father had been of Ulster descent), and in Asquith's wartime coalition government served as colonial secretary (1915–16). Under the influence of Sir Max Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook), he supported the efforts of Lloyd George to remove Asquith and in Lloyd George's coalition became leader of the House of Commons (1916–21). As chancellor of the exchequer (1916–19) he introduced National Savings, his only innovation. In 1919 he became lord privy seal, retaining the post until ill health forced his retirement in 1921. In the following year he returned to the fray to help manoeuvre the resignation of Lloyd George. Many leading Conservatives opposed the action, and Bonar Law became prime minister in what Churchill described as a ‘second eleven’ Conservative government. In 1923 he resigned, again because of illness, and died shortly afterwards. When his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey, Asquith commented: ‘It is fitting that we should have buried the Unknown Prime Minister by the side of the Unknown Soldier.’

Subjects: British History.

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