Characters > Historical
Sir Robert Borden
Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada
In late July of 1914, Sir Robert Borden was enjoying a golf vacation with his wife in the Muskoka’s, where we first meet him, when he receives an urgent telegram that he was to return to Ottawa. The situation in Europe was serious.
July had been a relatively busy month for Borden. Parliament had been recessed on June 12 for the summer. The parliamentary session had ended badly because he felt that Liberal senators had reneged on a deal to pass a bill to increase Senate representation.
A bright spot in June was that on 22th the prime minister was knighted by the British government.
It is also a rather curious coincidence that days before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Borden had visited Petawawa with Sam Hughes, his minister of Militia and Defence, to watch military manoeuvres .
In early July Borden was in Nova Scotia visiting his ailing mother. When he returned he had to deal with the Komagata Maru incident. The Komagata Maru was a Japanese freighter that was transporting 376 passengers from Punjab, India to Canada. The vessel returned to India with nearly all its passengers aboard.
Borden was in a cabinet meeting discussing his government’s response to the crisis when he was given the telegram that announced that Britain was at war with Germany. He recalled Parliament on August 18 to pass the legislation that would give the Canadian government the legal authority and funding to prosecute the war.
For much of August and September he was occupied getting the first contingent to England. Borden felt much of his time was wasted dealing with his bickering ministers and on rather minor matters. Hughes was at the top of the list. He travelled Valcartier several times to visit the soldiers. The last time was when he reviewed the troops just before they embarked for Europe.
However, he still had a country to govern and a government to run. He had to:
- Appoint judges.
- Replace ministers who retired or resigned.
- Decide whether or not to call a snap election to obtain a new mandate since his government had only one year left in the current one.
- Deal with businessmen looking for government contracts,
- Decide what to do with the poor financial state of the railways.
- Negotiate the terms for Newfoundland joining Confederation.
Sources and further reading
Borden, Robert Laird, Parliament of Canada, Parliamentarian File, Prime Ministers of Canada
Sir Robert Borden - The Canadian Encyclopedia
Sir Robert Borden, Wikipedia
The Diaries of Sir Robert Borden, 1912-1918. Transcription by Dr. Kathryn Rose - Memorial University Research Repository
Sir Robert Borden - Fire on the Hill
Allen, Ralph. Ordeal by Fire, Canada, 1910-1945. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961.
Hutchison, Bruce. Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964. Toronto: Longmans Canada.
Borden, Robert Laird, Sir. Robert Laird Borden: His Memoirs. Toronto: Macmillan, 1938.
Brown, Robert Craig. Robert Laird Borden: A Biography. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1975.