(1820–1903), lawyer, Ontario premier 1872–96, noted for his successful defence of Ontario's constitutional powers and territorial claims against John A. Macdonald's centralizing policies. Nationalist historians condemned him as small-minded or even perfidious, since, as a delegate to the Quebec Conference, he had helped to design the supposedly centralist scheme of Confederation. Even less openly nationalist writers have dismissed his arguments as retrospective rationalizations, if not outright lies. In reality, though, Mowat was throughout his career a leading exponent of that strand of the Upper Canadian reform tradition that exalted responsible government as a means to local autonomy, and he was a loyal follower of George Brown, who led the Reform Party into Confederation to secure Upper Canada's autonomy. These political credentials, a reputation for probity, and his remarkable political finesse enabled him to retain power through six general elections despite the steady weakening of his party's agrarian political base. His success rested on a knack for alliance building that embraced trade unionists, Ontario's Catholic hierarchy, and ultimately even his party's favourite whipping boy, the province of Quebec. This alliance building helped to launch the Liberal Party's rise to federal electoral dominance in 20th-century Canada.
From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: History of the Americas.