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Item Ref:  BSL - 1912 Borden

Sir Robert Laird, P.M.

Sir Robert Laird Borden, PC , KC , GCMG , DCL , LL.D (1854 – 1937) was the eighth Prime Minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920,


Sir Robert Laird Borden (1854 – 1937)

He was born and educated in Grand Pre Nova Scotia, an agricultural community at the eastern end of the Annapolis Valley where his great-grandfather Perry Borden, Sr. of Tiverton, Rhode Island had taken up Acadian land in 1760. Perry had accompanied his father, Samuel Borden, the chief surveyor chosen by the government of Massachusetts to survey the former Acadian land and draw up new lots for the Planters in Nova Scotia.

From 1869 to 1874, he worked as a teacher in Grand Pré and Matawan, New Jersey. Seeing no future in teaching, he returned to Nova Scotia in 1874 to article for four years at a Halifax law firm (without a formal university education) and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in August 1878, placing first in the bar examinations. Borden went to Kentville, Nova Scotia as the junior partner of the Conservative lawyer John P. Chipman. In 1882 he was asked by Wallace Graham to move to Halifax and join the Conservative law firm headed by Graham and Charles Hibbert Tupper. Borden became the senior partner in fall 1889 when he was only 35 following the departure of Graham and Tupper for the bench and politics. His financial future guaranteed, on September 25, 1889, he married Laura Bond (1863-1940), the daughter of a Halifax hardware merchant. They would have no children. In 1894 he bought a large property and home on the south side of Quinpool Road which the couple called "Pinehurst". In 1893 Borden successfully argued the first of two cases which he took to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He represented many of the important Halifax businesses and sat on the boards of Nova Scotian companies including the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Crown Life Insurance Company. President of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society in 1896, he took the initiative in organizing the founding meetings of the Canadian Bar Association in 1896 in Montreal. By the time he was prevailed upon to enter politics, Borden had what some judged to be the largest legal practice in the Maritime Provinces, and had become a wealthy man.

He was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Halifax riding in the 1896 federal election, the same election in which Laurier became PM. Borden became leader of the Conservative opposition in 1901. He slowly rebuilt the party, which had lost power and influence after the defeat of Sir Charles Tupper in 1896. In the 1911 election, he swept to power, campaigning against Sir Wilfrid Laurier's plan for free trade in natural products with the United States. Borden and the Conservatives argued in favour of Imperial preference which would use tariffs to diminish imports from outside the British Empire.

As Prime Minister of Canada during the First World War, Borden transformed his government to a wartime administration, passing the War Measures Act in 1914. Borden committed Canada to provide half a million soldiers for the war effort. However, volunteers had quickly dried up when Canadians realized there would be no quick end to the war. Borden's determination to meet that huge commitment led to the Military Service Act and the Conscription Crisis of 1917, which split the country on linguistic lines. The unpopular conscription issue would likely have meant defeat in the election of 1917, but Borden recruited members of the Liberals (with the notable exception of Wilfrid Laurier) to create a Unionist government. The 1917 election saw the "Government" candidates (including a number of Liberal-Unionists) crush the Opposition "Laurier Liberals" in English Canada resulting in a large parliamentary majority for Borden.

The war effort also enabled Canada to assert itself as an independent power. Borden wanted to create a single Canadian army, rather than have Canadian soldiers split up and assigned to British divisions. Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia, generally ensured that Canadians were well-trained and prepared to fight in their own divisions, although with mixed results such as the Ross Rifle, and Arthur Currie provided sensible leadership for the Canadian divisions in Europe, although they were still under overall British command. Nevertheless Canadian troops proved themselves to be among the best in the world, fighting at the Somme, Ypres, Passchendaele, and especially at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

In world affairs, Borden played a crucial role in transforming the British Empire into a partnership of equal states, the Commonwealth of Nations, a term that was first discussed at an Imperial Conference in London during the war. Borden also introduced the first Canadian income tax, which at the time was meant to be temporary, but was never repealed.

Convinced that Canada had become a nation on the battlefields of Europe, Borden demanded that it have a separate seat at the Paris Peace Conference. This was initially opposed not only by Britain but also by the United States, who perceived such a delegation as an extra British vote. Borden responded by pointing out that since Canada had lost more men than the U.S. in the war, she at least had the right to the representation of a "minor" power. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George eventually relented, and convinced the reluctant Americans to accept the presence of separate Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations. Not only did Borden's persistence allow him to represent Canada in Paris as a nation, it also ensured that each of the dominions could sign the Treaty of Versailles in its own right, and receive a separate membership in the League of Nations. At Borden's insistence, the treaty was ratified by the Canadian Parliament. Borden was the last prime minister to be knighted after the House of Commons indicated its desire for the discontinuation of the granting of any future titles to Canadians in 1919 with the adoption of the Nickle Resolution. That same year, Borden approved the use of troops to put down the Winnipeg General Strike. It should also be remembered that between 1914 and 1917, in response to xenophobia aimed at citizens of the Austro-Hungarian empire arising out of the First World War, 8,579 Eastern Europeans were interned. This number included about 5,000 Ukrainian-Canadians, some of whom were born in Canada. A further 80,000 were registered, thereby losing basic civil rights. They were stripped of the right to vote in 1917. Borden's government also nationalised the Canadian Northern Railway and Grand Trunk Railway to create what would become the Canadian National Railways.

Sir Robert Borden retired from office in 1920. He was the Chancellor of Queen's University from 1924 to 1930, and stood as president of two financial institutions. Borden died in Ottawa on June 10, 1937. He is buried in the Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario.

Borden was the last Canadian Prime Minister born before Confederation. Sir Robert Borden is depicted on the Canadian $100 bill.

Here Borden writes to Louis Simpson, Esq. at the Rideau Club in Ottawa, likely a staunch Conservative Unionist who supported his views on Imperial Union and Empire. A view that would be tempered by World War I and Canada's growth into a world power recognized at the international diplomatic table.

Document Specifications:  This is an extremely fine one sheet document on batonne laid paper, signed "RL Borden" as Prime Minister of Canada and measuring 8" wide and 10" tall (205mm x 260mm). Typewritten Letter in blue ribbon on Red Embossed Prime Ministerial Seal Letterhead. Dated Ottawa December 6th, 1912.  A Fine example of Borden's Prime Minister signature while in Office.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd. .................................  $ SOLD

End of Item - BSL - 1912 Borden

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