Who's Who - Sir Robert Borden

Sir Robert Borden Sir Robert Borden (1854-1937) served as Canada's wartime Prime Minister from 1911-20.

Born on 26 June 1854 in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, Borden gave up his studies at age 14 to become assistant master in classical studies at the school in which he was attending.  Teaching classics and mathematics in New Jersey in 1873 he returned the following year to Nova Scotia to study law, becoming articled to a Halifax law firm.

Admitted to the Nova Scotia bar in 1878 he gained a prominent reputation in legal circles and founded - following his marriage to Laura Bond in 1889 - his own law firm.

Borden was elected to the House of Commons in 1896 and 1890 and became leader of the Conservative party on 6 February 1901, serving in opposition for ten years until his party's election victory of 21 September 1911 on a platform of resistance to U.S. economic influence, thereby ending Sir Wilfrid Laurier's run of 15 consecutive years as his country's premier.

Prime Minister - Canada's eighth - throughout the war, Borden (who was knighted in 1914) practised a policy of complete support for the British war effort.  He determinedly (and controversially) pushed conscription through parliament in 1917, leading to riots in French-speaking Quebec.

His government encountered further  controversy through its support for the faulty Ross rifle (which tended to jam in battle and ultimately led to the dismissal of its chief sponsor Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence) and there were accusations of war profiteering over the awarding of British munitions contracts.

Borden's government also introduced the first federal income tax and nationalised Canadian railways.  Re-elected on 17 December 1917 Borden formed a Union coalition government comprised of Conservatives and pro-conscription Liberals.

Despite his full support for the war Borden was nevertheless insistent that Britain's self-governing dominions should be represented within Lloyd George's Imperial War Cabinet in London and at the subsequent peace conference.  Consequently at the Paris Peace Conference Borden headed the Canadian delegation; his signature on the Versailles treaty is often deemed to herald Canada's emergence as an autonomous state.

Borden was a firm supporter of U.S. President Wilson's Fourteen Points and was clear in believing that Canada's interests lay in a close alliance between the British Empire and the United States.  Borden also supported Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and was willing to provide Canadian troops to support the Russian White forces.

Finally leaving office on 10 July 1920 Borden attended the Washington Naval Disarmament Conference in 1921 as Canadian delegate and served on the League of Nations council in 1930.

He published several works including Canada in the Commonwealth (1929) and Robert Laird Borden: His Memoirs (1938), edited by his nephew Henry Borden.

He died on 10 June 1937 in Ottawa at the age of 82.

A Battery was a group of six guns or howitzers.

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