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WWI Document Archive > Alphabetical Index of WWI Biographies > B-Index > Borden


BORDEN.GIFSPACER.GIFBorden, Sir Robert Laird, Prime Minister. (1854-1937).

Sir Robert Laird Borden, a unilingual Conservative lawyer born in Grand-Pre, Nova Scotia in 1854, became his party's leader in 1901, endured electoral setbacks in 1904 and 1908, and became prime minister following the Conservative victory of 1911. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, Borden committed Canada to "put forth every effort" in support of Britain, in the event that a crisis in Europe should occur.

Following the advent of war, Borden -- as Jane Plotke has noted -- undertook a technological revolution in governance and sailed to Britain, from which he maintained contact with his cabinet via transatlantic cable while he kept an eye upon the conduct of the war. With the decision of the Canadian Minister of Justice that 'Canadians were militiamen on active service abroad'* the organisation and control of the Canadian Corps remained in the hands of Canada rather than the Imperials throughout the war - a fact which strengthened considerably Canada's move toward political separation from Great Britain after the war. The minutes of the Imperial War Cabinet reveal Borden as a loyal, but not uncritical, supporter of Empire. He voiced openly his irritation that the Dominions had not even been consulted regarding the momentous decisions of July-August 1914; throughout the war his was regarded as a significant voice on behalf of the other, farther-removed Dominions.

In 1917 his (now) Unionist Party won the greatest and last victory for British-Conservative nationalism with 57 per cent of the vote. Borden's government passed the War Measures Act, which broadened the federal government's powers to issue orders-in-council without parliament; the Military Services Act of 1917, which introduced military conscription; the Civil Service Act of 1918; the War-time Elections Act, which gave the vote to mothers, sisters, and wives of soldiers (but to no other women); and, they came out in support of Prohibition. Borden played a prominent role in Imperial cabinets and conferences and in the effort to construct a single Imperial foreign and trade policy. He attended the Paris Peace Conference.

Borden was succeeded as party leader and Prime Minister in 1920 by Arthur Meighen. The elder statesman then remained active in public affairs as a chief proponent of the Canadian League of Nations Society and the concept of collective security in international affairs. He also wrote his memoirs, which were published after his death.

* See, Kenneth McNaught, The Pelican History of Canada, New York, 1969, p 214

Robert L. Borden, Memoirs (2 vols.; Toronto: 1938)

R. Craig Brown, Robert Laird Borden: A Biography (2 vol.)


WWI Document Archive > Alphabetical Index of WWI Biographies > B-Index > Borden