Arthur Meighen is an educator, lawyer, politician, author, and office holder; born on 16 June 1874 near Anderson, Ontario the second child and eldest son of Joseph Meighen and Mary Jane Bell; m. 24 June 1904 Jessie Isabel Cox in Birtle, Man., and they had two sons and a girl; d. 5 Aug. 1960 in Toronto and has been buried in St Marys, Ont.
Arthur Meighen‘s paternal grandfather, Gordon, was a Presbyterian Ulsterman who left Londonderry (Northern Ireland) in 1839 for Upper Canada. Five years after he acquired a farm lot at the southwest part of this province, near St Marys, where he turned into the local schoolmaster. In his death in 1859 that his 13-year-old son, Joseph, left college to run the farm. Marriage in 1871 and six children followed in orderly development. The oldest boy, Arthur, revealed more aptitude for publication learning than farm jobs. Accordingly, his parents moved into the outskirts of St Marys so he could attend school without the expense of boarding. Arthur did his share of chores on the family’s dairy farm; at the exact same time, he read voraciously, maintained outstanding honors, and participate in the debating activities of their institution’s Literary Society. His home surroundings, he later recollected, instilled in him”the immeasurable worth of audio education and both limitless and permanent relevance of habits of industry and thrift.” Unlike his more worldly contemporary William Lyon Mackenzie King*, Meighen did not cut a wide swath on campus, limiting his scope to his classes, wide reading in English, history, and mathematics, and enthusiastic participation in the mock parliament. In 1896 he received his ba with honors in mathematics; the next year he returned to Toronto to earn teaching credentials in the Ontario Normal College.
Having obtained an interim specialist’s certification, Meighen was hired in 1897 from the large school board of Caledonia, east of Brantford, to teach math, English, and industrial subjects. The year began well, but by spring he was becoming embroiled in a bitter dispute with the chairman of the board, who resented his rigorous discipline of his daughter. Meighen resigned and proceeded west to Manitoba, where he found work heading the industrial division of the Winnipeg Business College. In the summer of 1899, he applied unsuccessfully for the post of a leader in a high school in Lethbridge (Alta). Back in January 1900 the transplanted Ontarian commenced legal studies and was articled in a Winnipeg company; by 1902 he had been connected to a tiny law office in Portage la Prairie. On 2 Feb. 1903 that he was called to the bar of Manitoba. He set up his own clinic in Portage la Prairie, where he handled a mix of business, such as wills, estates, property transactions, and minor criminal cases. About this time he met Isabel Cox from Granby, Que., who was then a schoolteacher in Birtle, and they wed in June 1904. While Meighen built up his clinic, he dabbled in the hot real-estate marketplace, joined the Young Men’s Conservative Club, and in 1904 was a passionate worker in the failed campaign of the local Tory mp, Nathaniel Boyd.
In the federal election four years later, Meighen himself transported the Conservative colors in Portage la Prairie. His nomination was it had been presumed that the Liberal incumbent, John Crawford, was a lock to hold the constituency. Meighen jumped into the effort with vigour, travelling to the four corners of their riding by wagon or buggy. He proved to be an effective speaker. He left but two short speeches in his first semester of parliament, though they did catch Borden’s focus, and scarcely more in 1910. His one significant oration this year, in connection with a proposed railway evaluation, even got the praise of Laurier, who remarked to a colleague,”Borden has seen a man at last.” He took no part in the Conservatives’ obstruction in 1911 of Laurier’s reciprocity invoice, but he campaigned hard for his party’s traditional National Policy of protection in the general election in September. Nationally, Borden directed his Conservative forces to success; in Portage la Prairie, Meighen upped his winning margin to 675 votes.
Dr William James Roche, the mp for Marquette since 1896, also Robert Rogers, the master of the state’s Conservative machine and a part of Premier Rodmond Palen Roblin*’s cupboard, stood ahead of him, and both became ministers. Meighen’s climbing command of parliamentary process shortly found an outlet, nevertheless. After the Liberals held up the government’s Naval Aid Bill, Borden turned into his young Manitoba protégé to discover a way out. Meighen urged the adoption of a form of closure that has been operating in the British parliament, also suggested that an ingenious ploy where the ruler could be implemented at the Canadian House of Commons without sparking a much more protracted debate. Borden introduced the motion for closed on 9 April 1913; although the enraged Liberals fought it tooth and nail, their attempts were vain. Closure was passed following two weeks of heated debate, followed three weeks later by the invoice (that was defeated in the Senate). Meighen’s function behind the scenes soon became known, for it was he who explained the procedural details from the commons. Borden too was impressed. On 26 June Meighen was sworn into the vacant position of solicitor general, which was subsequently not part of cabinet.
While still a backbencher Meighen had obtained a reputation as a progressive Conservative. Just before his appointment, he, Richard Bedford BennettDecision , William Folger Nickle, along with many others had voted against amendments to the Bank Act they considered harmful to prairie farmers. In his new article, Meighen found himself defending the authorities by his erstwhile maverick allies. Borden assigned him the job of negotiating a financial arrangement with the Canadian Northern Railway, which was teetering on the edge of insolvency and threatening to bring down many provincial authorities and a major chartered bank with it. After several weeks of analysis and hard negotiating, Meighen and his small team of government officials presented the cabinet with a proposal: a $45 million government guarantee of Canadian Northern bonds in return for a mortgage and a substantial share of common stock. The cabinet was pleased, and Meighen was requested to pilot the resulting bill through the commons. Here, in May 1914, he struck his fiercest resistance from his fellow western Tory, Bennett, who branded him”the gram[o]telephone” of Sir William Mackenzie* and Sir Donald Mann*, the entrepreneurs who had established the Canadian Northern. On 2 Oct. 1915 the prime ministry would raise his attorney general to cabinet position.
Canada entered World War I combined, in parliament and throughout the country, but the unity did not last. From 1915 partisan divisions were apparent. Chief among the controversial issues were the conduct of the war, continuing railway deficits, along with the lingering question of French-language schooling. In 1912 that the Ontario government under Sir James Pliny Whitney* had imposed Regulation 17, which seriously limited the reach of French as a language of instruction. By 1915 this issue was poisoning federal politics, pitting English against French and draining Quebec support for its war. The government preferred to leave the issue alone — it involved provincial authority — however in April 1916 three cabinet members from Quebec, Thomas Chase-Casgrain, Esioff-Léon Patenaude, and Pierre-Édouard Blondin*, urged Borden to refer it to the King’s Privy Council in Britain. No such action was taken. Founded in Quebec remained powerful and powerful politicians there may have known of Meighen’s role in drafting Borden’s refusal. Meanwhile, army casualties in a war of attrition were threatening the viability of Borden’s commitment in 1916 which Canada would area half a million guys. Meighen favoured a selective draft, and the prime minister came to support conscription after a tour of the Western Front. Meighen was given the job of drafting the Military Service Bill, which Borden introduced in June 1917, and then shepherding it through parliament. He played brilliantly, even clashing with all the respected Laurier. “We must not be afraid to lead,” that the Manitoba mp declared. Victory in the commons blinded him to Patenaude’s prediction that conscription would”kill… the party for 25 years” at Quebec.
The government’s solution to this crisis over railway finance was, initially, to appoint a commission of inquiry and, second, to utilize its ambiguous report as justification for nationalizing the Canadian Northern. The Liberals, who opposed the nationalization bill strenuously, charged the Conservatives with compensating shareholders for the worthless stock, as a political payoff. Sir William Thomas White, the finance ministry, led the government forces at the debate, but Meighen was notable in fending off resistance charges of cronyism and corruption. The solicitor general took the lead in navigating a much more contentious bill throughout the commons in September 1917. The War-time Elections Bill was a highly partisan measure, branded a cynical gerrymander by the Liberals, and defended as a noble act of patriotism by the Conservatives. This step citizens of enemy alien birth who was naturalized since 1902; at the same time, it enfranchised the immediate female relatives — wives, widows, mothers, sisters, and daughters — of Canadian servicemen abroad. At a single stroke, tens of thousands of likely Liberal voters were eliminated from the rolls and substituted by girls likely to vote. “War service ought to be the basis of war franchise,” Meighen announced in parliament. It was not the principle of the partial franchise for women but rather the fact of votes for the authorities that motivated him. He’d take no part in the Borden administration’s extension of voting rights to all females in 1918.
Borden led a Conservative government dedicated to a maximum war effort, but also a party whose electoral fortunes appeared grim, dependent on the results of current provincial elections. The Military Service Act not just promised a solution to military enlistment, in addition, it split the resistance, with most English-speaking Liberals favoring conscription and francophone Quebecers rallying around Laurier, who stood. Partisan Tories such as Robert Rogers urged a quick election, but Borden feared two things: national disunity and Laurier’s effort magical. All through the summer of 1917, with considerably stressed discussion, Borden had sought a coalition with pro-conscription Liberals. Meighen was by this time among his closest confidants. Both Meighen and Reid were a company on Borden continuing as chief. Meighen moved into Interior, traditionally the primary western portfolio, but his status was somewhat diminished as a consequence of the prime minister’s inclusion of three notable western Liberals: Arthur Lewis Watkins Sifton, Thomas Alexander Crerar, along with James Alexander Calder. Meighen gained from the exclusion of his Tory rival, Rogers, but he had to discuss administrative and political sway with immigration minister Calder. The alternative, an anti-conscription Liberal win in the election called for December, could be worse, he decided.
Initially leery of Calder, the master of the Saskatchewan Liberal machine, Meighen was delegated by Borden to use him to arrange the Union government’s effort in the four western provinces. Meighen took control of Manitoba, Calder had Saskatchewan, and Alberta was abandoned to Sifton. In British Columbia, Calder found into the business while Meighen supplied the oratory. Meighen quoted statistics to show that voluntary enlistments had dropped far below the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s casualty rate. The 3 heavyweights reprised their pitch to get bipartisan support the next night in Regina. Meighen shared several platforms together with the premier of Manitoba, Tobias Crawford Norris*. He hardly needed to lift a finger in his own riding of Portage la Prairie, where a farmers candidate resigned so he could easily conquer F. Shirtliff. On election night, Meighen was in Vancouver. “The conscience of this nation whined,” he declared confidently at the news of the Union government’s success. He gave little consideration to a menacing development: the entire absence of Unionist MPs out of Quebec, which had appeared overwhelmingly Liberal.
Borden decided to focus on two priorities: a full war effort and preparations for post-war demobilization. He’d already established, in October, a coordinating committee of cupboard for each region; Meighen sat on the reconstruction and development committee. In May 1918, Borden attracted Meighen and Calder together with him to England to attend the Imperial War Conference, where matters of demobilization, reconstruction, and immigration were slated for discussion. Even in wartime, there was a full program of pomp and circumstance. Meighen found time to satisfy Canadian troops in the front, and in a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society he said that”Canada is British — not more British than now.” His main role in England, however, was to strike a bargain with the Grand Trunk Railway, by which its assets could be attracted into a national transcontinental system that comprised the Canadian Northern. No great fan of public ownership, he still believed there was no option. The mind of the Grand Trunk, Alfred Waldron Smithers, held out for better terms, but within a year the Grand Trunk Pacific went into receivership. Meighen concluded the final discussions in Ottawa in October 1919 and then piloted the Grand Trunk Railway acquisition bill through parliament.
After the Allied victory in Europe, the government had turned its attention to the demobilization of half a million Canadian troops. Meighen oversaw among the government’s major initiatives: a program to assist financially those veterans who desired to become farmers. This step received all-party support, but one of Meighen’s high-profile actions didn’t. When a labor dispute in Winnipeg in May 1919 [visit Mike Sokolowiski] escalated to a general strike involving over 30,000 workers, including sympathetic postal employees, Meighen, and labor ministry Gideon Decker Robertson were dispatched to the west. Their immediate aim was to restart the postal system. On 25 May an ultimatum was issued to the sympathy strikers: return to work or lose your jobs. The majority of postal workers rejected the ultimatum though, with the hiring of new employees, deliveries shortly resumed. He accepted the arrest of the strike leaders and advocated any foreign-born one of them be summarily deported. Shortly after the attack ended, he brought forth amendments to the Criminal Code, collectively known as section 98, to ban association with associations deemed seditious. This section effectively inverted the standard presumption of innocence. Meighen was unrepentant; for him, maintaining”the foundation of order and law” took precedence.
The government’s aggressive stance at Winnipeg made it the enmity of the more radical union members in Canada, yet another addition to the expanding list of groups with a grudge against it. The listing included French Canadians angered over conscription, farmers irked by tariffs, Montreal businessmen alienated by railway nationalization, and taxpayers disenfranchised by the War-time Elections Act. Meighen was one of those in the cupboard who uttered a vigorous program of propaganda and organization to firm up a fresh unionist party that would confuse the ties recently formed between the Liberal and Conservative supporters of the coalition authorities. Preoccupied with nationwide and global events of the country, Borden deferred action on party matters until his health gave out. In early July 1920, he announced his intention to resign. Press rumors mentioned Meighen and the wartime minister of finance, Thomas White, as his likeliest successors. The caucus authorized Borden to choose. After input from over 100 MPs, he ascertained that Meighen was the backbenchers’ favorite, while White was favored by the ministers. Borden first approached White, who dropped, and then he anointed Meighen. The new government took office on 10 July below the title of the National Liberal and Conservative Party.
As prime minister, Meighen confronted a new opposition leader. Laurier had expired in 1919 and been substituted in a Liberal convention by Mackenzie King. There have been several parallels in the lives and careers of both leaders. Both were born in 1874 in southern Ontario and increased in Presbyterian houses. Both were undergraduates at the University of Toronto in the 1890s. Meighen went west and became a lawyer, while King pursued postgraduate studies. Their paths tied up again in 1908 when each was sent to the House of Commons, but whereas Meighen was re-elected in 1911 and 1917 and rose through Conservative and Unionist positions, King was defeated both times. Having stood by Laurier, his reward has been solid Quebec support from the Liberal leadership race. For his role in shaping the Military Service Act and the Union government, Meighen was vilified by Conservatives in Quebec, who had favored White. On a personal level, the leaders provided a study in contrast. Meighen was a dogged logician and orator who thought indirect talk. His opponent was provided with wordy platitudes and endless consultations. Their temperaments clashed, and so did their aspirations.
Meighen’s first priority was to pull together a functioning party organization supporting his administration. The Unionist caucus meeting in July, besides picking a leader and a title, had also hammered together a platform. Key planks included service for a moderately protective tariff, opposition to class-based or sectional appeals detrimental to national unity, and company service for the British connection, accompanied by complete Canadian autonomy. By this time, many notable Liberal Unionists had retired by the cabinet, but the authorities continued to rely on the voting service of 25 to 30 Liberal Unionist backbenchers. Meighen’s challenge was to build a fighting force out of disparate elements. Such traditional Tories as Robert Rogers openly urged a return to pre-war party lines, but Meighen refused to drop his new allies. Proud of the Union government’s record, he was dedicated to broadening the base of the old Conservative Party, much as John A. Macdonald* had done in 1854 and 1867 and Borden in 1911 and 1917. Accordingly, a national organizer (William John Black) was appointed in August 1920 and a publicity bureau was established. Meighen established a countrywide speaking tour that summer and fall, accompanied by the western states by Calder, the standing Liberal Unionist. The crowds were large and seemingly receptive. Less encouraging were his attempts to reestablish his celebration in Quebec. Its organization was broken and weak, and he himself was reviled because of the architect of conscription.
From the commons, Meighen confronted not one but two new leaders. In addition to King, there was Thomas Crerar, the former Unionist ministry of agriculture, who headed a recently coalesced group of agrarian MPs calling themselves the Progressive Party. This scenario made for an extremely competitive setting during the 1921 session, though the government managed to sustain its position in crucial votes by margins of 20 to 30. In the debates over the throne speech and the budget, the Liberals challenged the government’s right to continue holding office in the face of by-election beats, but Meighen held quickly. With an eye to the upcoming election, he made moderate but constant tariff coverage on his constant theme. The severity of the postwar recession improved public discontent, while paradoxically compelling the government of the need for budgetary retrenchment. In April a royal commission was created to investigate the grain trade, a partial response to farmers’ demands for the reinstitution of this postwar wheat board.
At the End of the session in June 1921, Meighen went together with his spouse to attend the Imperial Conference in London. Faced with the issue of reconciling the dominions’ growing autonomy with the need for a common imperial foreign policy, the British authorities had decided to convene a”Peace Cabinet” meeting for the purposes of informing and consulting with the senior colonies. Although defense and constitutional adjustments were discussed, the main topic was shown to be the Anglo-Japanese alliance. For nearly 20 years a pact of understanding and assistance had linked the two empires. Westminster, strongly supported by Australia and New Zealand, favored the retention of this treaty. Meighen feared its renewal could alienate the United States. As early as February 1921, supported by a prescient memorandum from Loring Cheney Christie* of the Department of External Affairs, Meighen (its own ex officio minister) had advocated the British authorities the conclusion of the alliance, followed by a global summit of Pacific powers. In the ensuing Washington Conference on disarmament, the alliance was replaced with a multilateral arrangement.
In spite of this victory, in August Meighen returned to a deteriorating political situation in Canada. The market languished in recession. The accumulated resentments of four divisive wartime years hadn’t abated. Voters with a grudge against the intrusive Union government anticipated the next general election. A different leader might have evaded responsibility for its Borden record, but Arthur Meighen was not that sort of man. He was proud of the Conservative and Unionist accomplishments, to a lot of that he had personally contributed. In the event the ship of the National Liberal and Conservative Party were to go down, it’d be with guns blazing. “The one unpardonable sin in politics would be insufficient guts,” he had written to a supporter in 1920. “As a Government, we are in an impregnable position, in point both of policy and of a document, and I do not propose to make apology either by act [or] word.”
To face the electorate, Meighen needed first to rebuild his cabinet. The government was particularly vulnerable in Quebec and the prairies, precisely the areas of the country where promising ministerial recruits were rare. Some Liberal Unionists had returned to King; others had followed Crerar to the Progressive Party. Arthur Sifton had died and in September 1921 James Calder left the cabinet for the Senate. Prairie’s weakness in the cabinet was mirrored in the constituency level; in many cases, there was no association at all for the government party. If anything, the situation was bleaker in Quebec, where traditional Bleus had needed to share the spotlight with the nationalists in 1911 and had disappeared in the disastrous conscription election of 1917. Meighen appointed four French Canadians in the reorganization of September 1921 but none carried any weight with the general public. His sincere attempts to recruit E.-L. Patenaude, who had resigned from Borden’s cupboard over conscription, were unsuccessful.
By now Meighen had formally launched his campaign for re-election, using a significant address in London, Ont., on 1 September, political observers were unanimous. Quebec was solidly Liberal and the Progressives were set to sweep the prairies. Ontario promised a three-way fight, together with the Progressives benefiting from the favorable United Farmers government elected in 1919. Even the coastal areas seemed unpromising. For three months he stumped the country, traveling by rail, automobile, and ship to deliver several 250 speeches. He preached tariff protection in the west defended conscription in Quebec, also championed public ownership of railways in the center of Montreal, where the media, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Bank of Montreal were bitterly hostile towards him. Although he lacked female candidates — few girls ran entirely and just one, Agnes Campbell Macphail, a Progressive, was chosen — Meighen appealed to the million-plus female voters, reminding them it had been the Union authorities that had legislated votes for all women. He denounced King’s ambiguity about the tariff and railway difficulties and attacked the course basis of the Progressives. Hecklers he handled effortlessly, and anywhere the crowds cheered. Even L’Action Catholique (Québec), which opposed the authorities, surrendered on 9 November that he was”a man of wisdom and a pioneer.” The campaign proved to be a personal victory, however, the voting day was a disaster.
The National Liberal and Conservative Party has been reduced to 50 chairs, representing just three states (Ontario, New Brunswick, and British Columbia) and the Yukon. Meighen and nine cabinet colleagues were conquered in their own ridings. The Liberals, with 116 MPs, would form the new government, though they fell just short of a majority. The Progressives, with 65 members, made official opposition status but diminished the job. A number of them expected to ally themselves with a reformed Liberal Party; others refused party government on principle. Meighen moved quickly to position himself to confront King’s minority government and exploit the ambivalence among the Progressives. Even though King deliberated over cabinet choices, Meighen arranged for his return in January 1922 in Grenville, a secure seat in southern Ontario. When parliament convened in March, he was seated across from King, prepared to do battle. Knowing that some in his party would blame him for the defeat, he had called a meeting of MPs, senators, and conquered candidates just prior to the session. This meeting unanimously endorsed his leadership and officially reclaimed the traditional celebration name of Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier*: Liberal-Conservative. Thus fortified, Meighen undertook to sabotage the new government and its sometime Progressive allies, even while reviving his own party’s fortunes.
During the session of 1922, he assessed King’s campaign claims, wondering where the promised tariff reductions were. Meighen still favored protection; he just wished to put Liberal hypocrisy on the record. The major issue of the year blew up in September, long after parliament had brightly. A press release from the British government had encouraged the dominions to join it in safeguarding the Dardanelles strait (Çanakkale Boğazi) from potential Turkish attack. New radical authorities in Turkey had repudiated it and now threatened British troops. King, annoyed at the lack of consultation and alarmed at the potential for national and party disunity, playing time. Parliament would decide, but parliament wasn’t in session. “When Britain’s message came,” Meighen thundered,”then Canada should have said:’Ready, aye ready; we stand by you. ”’ His remarks went over well in Toronto, but badly in Quebec and the prairies.
The Çanak crisis underscored a severe political dilemma: the incompatibility of a number of Meighen’s deepest beliefs together with the prevailing views of French-speaking Quebecers. On 9 July 1920, Henri Bourassa had condemned the new leader in Le Devoir (Montréal): “Mr. Meighen represents, in person and temperament, in his attitudes and his previous declarations, the extreme that Anglo-Saxon jingoism has to offer that is most barbarous, most private, most anti-Canadian.” The party could not even acquire a by-election fought about the tariff issue in September 1924 in the once Tory riding of St Antoine, at the heart of protectionist Montreal. The Liberals kept the chair and Several, including the powerful Montreal Daily Star and Gazette, blamed Meighen for its debacle.
Undaunted, in parliament and on the public stage the Conservative leader continued to stress tariff protection, which he coupled with the guarantee of freight rate alterations to make the package more attractive to Maritime and prairie voters. King, encouraged with a decisive Liberal triumph in Saskatchewan in 1922 under Charles Avery Dunning, declared a national election for 29 Oct. 1925. The prime minister asked for a mandate to deal with four issues: the railway deficit, immigration, the tariff question, and Senate reform. Meighen immediately placed King about the defensive by demanding what solutions the Liberals suggested and by reminding voters the government had done little in four decades in office. The Progressives, now led by Manitoban Robert Forke, were a much-diminished force compared to 1921, and they limited their attention to the prairies. Aided by four recently elected provincial premiers, Meighen struck a good chord throughout English Canada. In Quebec, he secretly delegated control of the Conservative attempt to a former aide in pre-conscription days, E.-L. Patenaude, that campaigned at the head of a slate of Quebec Conservatives faithful to the Macdonald-Cartier tradition, but independently of the controversial Meighen. One of those in Patenaude’s subsequent was the dominant nationalist Armand La Vergne.
The result was a stunning success for the Conservatives, just seven seats short of a majority. In Ontario, the Maritimes, and British Columbia, they left a close sweep. Even on the prairies, where Meighen was returned in Portage la Prairie, they picked up ridings in Manitoba and urban Alberta. Quebec was a disappointment — only four anglophone Tory MPs were returned but Patenaude’s presence had doubled the Conservatives’ share of the popular vote. When King chose to continue with Progressive assistance, despite losing his own seat, Meighen decided on a daring move to win back desired Quebec support. The passing of the Liberal mp to get Bagot opened a by-election there in December. To improve his candidacy, Meighen declared a dramatic shift in policy. In the event of a future war, his administration would seek electoral endorsement before sending troops abroad. The place for his speech wasn’t Bagot, but Hamilton, Ont., though he continued that the pledge in person and at French while campaigning for Fauteux. Sad to say, the gambit was not only inadequate to acquire Bagot, it also upset a range of imperialist Conservatives, especially Ontario premier George Howard Ferguson*.
Meighen nevertheless approached the parliamentary session of 1926 aggressively. The critical round along with his fledgling nemesis was about to start. King sought to acquire the support of the Progressive and Labour MPs with coverage concessions, but Meighen intended to hold firm to the principles of Conservatism, confident that the Liberal government would cling. He was ready to assume office immediately and bent all his efforts to win a no-confidence vote at the commons. If a new election was demanded, he did not doubt the outcome. Interestingly, both he and King confronted whispers of insurrection, with R. B. Bennett, the Tory mp for Calgary West, and Liberal premier C. A. Dunning waiting at the wings. From the first few divisions of this session, the independently procured sufficient third-party service to set up their right to keep office. Promises to ease rural credit, research Maritime rights, and reform the tariff were procured respectively by-laws, a royal commission, and a tariff advisory board. Finance Union James Alexander Robb* introduced a wealth budget with tax cuts along with also a surplus. But, Progressive support splintered when a special commons committee reported flagrant abuses at the Department of Customs and Excise under Jacques Bureau. A motion with this maladministration by Henry Herbert Stevens in late June 1926 threatened to bring down the government.
To avoid censure, King decided that parliament ought to be dissolved and an election called. Governor-General Lord ByngDecision, the thoroughly honourable soldier who’d commanded the Canadian Corps in France, denied his petition. An amazed King abruptly vanished, leaving the nation with no government. When Byng provided Meighen the chance to make a ministry, he also accepted, though not without misgivings. His short administration (Canada’s shortest until the 1980s) would run from 29 June to 25 September. By the rules of the day, MPs who admitted cabinet appointment needed to resign their seats and seek re-election. In a session in which divisions were routinely determined by a handful of votes, the resignation of a dozen frontbenchers will be self-defeating. As a temporary measure, Meighen decided upon the legal, though unusual, a ploy of appointing acting ministers. To become prime minister, nevertheless, he couldn’t avoid resigning his very own seat. The leadership of the Conservative forces in the commons dropped to less skilled hands. The new government survived three important votes, but a movement in July by J. A. Robb, questioning the constitutional validity of Meighen’s behaving ministry, killed it. Citing dubious constitutional precedents, and alleging British hindrance, King persuaded a handful of Progressives, who just days before had voted to censure his government, to change their allegiance. The Robb motion carried by a single vote, the critical margin supplied by a Progressive who broke his pairing arrangement.
Meighen had no option but to request a dissolution, and an election was set for 14 Sept. 1926. After one indecisive victory each, the rubber match between King and Meighen was finally underway. Both entered the effort bombarded with confidence. King felt sure the country would rally supporting his clarion call to maintain Canadian independence in the face of a clear collision involving a British-appointed governor-general and the Tory party. Meighen was just as sure that Canadians would watch through the Liberals’ inherent hue and cry, and punish them for the customs scandal. This time he would have a respected Quebec lieutenant in his side. Patenaude to campaign openly as a Meighen Conservative. Meanwhile, the Progressives, sensing their ebb, scrambled to save their seats by organizing saw-offs with the Liberals. King utilized Robb’s wealth budget to great effect, and he turned the untimely death of former customs minister Georges-Henri Boivin to benefit with a symbolic pilgrimage to his tomb. (Boivin, appointed to clean up the mess left by Bureau, had come under fire by the opposition.) Quebec stood firm, and the Liberal-Progressive alliance generated victories in two dozen Ontario and Manitoba seats. Meighen lost his own riding.
And there was. In the decisive conflict, Arthur Meighen had come next best. He promptly tendered his resignation to the governor-general, agreeing to stay on as prime minister until King had assembled a cupboard. With no seat for the second time in five decades, he chose to relinquish the party leadership as well. They accepted his resignation and picked Hugh Guthrie*, a prominent Unionist Liberal who had stayed together with the Tories, as their parliamentary leader for the following year. In precisely the same meeting a committee has been struck to arrange a leadership convention; for the place, it depended on Winnipeg in October 1927. Press speculation centered on Meighen and Ontario premier Howard Ferguson because the prime contenders, although each firmly denied any aspiration. When Meighen, from the convention platform, launched in an eloquent defense of the controversial Hamilton address of 1925, Ferguson offered a spirited rebuttal. Many delegates cheered for Meighen and hooted at Ferguson, but the net effect has been that the elimination of both from consideration. R. B. Bennett completed the convention on the next ballot.
Now in his early fifties, Meighen launched himself into a new career in the business world. It wasn’t a completely novel departure: years ago, at Portage la Prairie, he had branched out from legislation into property speculation and directorships in local businesses. The business world intrigued him. Of the numerous offers that had come his way, he’d accepted an invitation in 1926 to become a vice-president and general counsel for Canadian General Securities Limited, a Winnipeg investment brokerage firm that was seeking to expand into Toronto. Back in November 1926, he moved with his wife and daughter to the Ontario capital — their two sons were then at university. The next September they bought a house in 57 Castle Frank Crescent at the affluent Rosedale neighborhood. For three years General Securities prospered, but the stock-market crash of 1929 nearly bankrupted it. Meighen suffered great anxiety, particularly because many small investors had entrusted their capital into the business from admiration for him. Extended hours and sensible management paid off and within two decades the worst was over. He began to take non-political speaking engagements in Toronto and as far away as Washington. He even took on a few legal circumstances. In June 1931 he was appointed into the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario on the recommendation of Ferguson’s successor as premier, George Stewart Henry.
Life in Toronto for its Meighens differed greatly in their years in Ottawa. Almost from the time he had entered Borden’s cabinet in 1915, politics and government had swallowed his life. It was his wife, whom he affectionately known as Nan in private, and much more formally referred to as Mrs Meighen in people, who had mostly raised their three children: Theodore Roosevelt O’Neil, Maxwell Charles Gordon, along with Lillian Mary Laura. He was a loving but booked father, devoted to delivering admonitions, to his sons particularly, to the virtues of thrift, perseverance, and hard work. He had never hunted the social or ceremonial frills of public life, so he didn’t miss them when he left politics. His wife loved social gatherings over he did, but neither of them was in the least bit pretentious. In Toronto, he insisted on walking to work, a space of some three miles from Rosedale into his Bay Street office. One benefit of his profession change was that he found more time to indulge his lifelong interest in studying, as well as games of bridge and golf with close friends. And once the financial crisis of 1929 was overcome, he began to accumulate a substantial fortune from various astute investments. Meighen had largely missed his kid’s formative years, but he was determined to provide for them and his future grandchildren whatever material support they might need as they left their own way into responsible adulthood. Meanwhile, he was avoiding involvement in partisan politics. That portion of his life, it seemed, was over.
Considering that the convention of 1927, R. B. Bennett had totally ignored him. Meighen was not asked to help in the slightest manner during the victorious Conservative campaign of 1930. The apparent snub hurt a proud man. When at last an offer came to head the national Board of Railway Commissioners, Meighen diminished, but he did not deny Bennett’s following proposal: appointment to the Senate along with the place of a government leader. Meighen accepted, powerful 3 Feb. 1932, on condition he would be anticipated in Ottawa just while the Senate was still sitting. Though technically a part of the cabinet as a minister without a portfolio, he did not attend meetings on a regular basis. One of his first responsibilities was to press the Conservative cause in the thought of three Liberal senators implicated in the Beauharnois Scandal. Meighen was his eloquent best in the climactic debate, though he took little pleasure from the outcome: censure of both senators Wilfrid Laurier McDougaldDecision and Andrew Haydon. He was more at home in expediting the refinement of complex pieces of legislation. For example, in 1932 he introduced the Canadian National-Canadian Pacific Bill, to facilitate the coordination of their railways’ operations until it moved through the commons.
Meighen was the target of conflict-of-interest allegations by Ontario’s Liberals, who charged that trust funds he handled had benefited from decisions made by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission, where he sat. The newly elected government of Mitchell Frederick Hepburn created an inquiry in 1934 to investigate the charges, but its report was inconclusive and the issue died down. The nation’s attention shifted to Ottawa when Bennett, in a series of five nationwide radio broadcasts early in 1935, denounced the older order and advocated fundamental reforms, a Canadian variant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States. Meighen was not impressed with the prime minister’s revolutionary oratory, but as a chief lieutenant in the upper house, he loyally shepherded the reform legislation throughout the Red Chamber. Usually, the Senate would make a series of amendments to each invoice, numbering 51 in the case of the Employment and Social Insurance Act. At the close of the semester, Meighen was happy with the outcome. Later, in the existence of Bennett himself, he’d denounce”not the laws, which was enlightened, but also the [radio] speeches, which frightened.” Regardless of their parliamentary alliance, Meighen declined Bennett’s petition to effort in the election of 1935. He still remembered the snub of 1930.
Since the two Tory titans watched their common foe, King, comfortably take back power, they finally lost their old animosities. Meighen in the Senate and Bennett in the commons were Canada’s outstanding Conservative parliamentarians. When Bennett decided in March 1938 his health wouldn’t permit him to carry on, he hoped Meighen would be his successor. The latter had no urge to reassume the leadership — it was apparent to him that the west and Quebec wouldn’t take him but he did share Bennett’s misgivings about the obvious front runner, Robert James Manion*. Though defeated in his riding in 1935, “Fighting Bob” ‘d parlayed union to a French Canadian lady and his congenial personality into a formidable candidacy. Meighen tested the waters to get Sidney Earle Smith, president of the University of Manitoba, but there was little attention, even in Winnipeg. When Bennett asked Meighen to provide the keynote speech to the national party convention in July 1938 and suggested Commonwealth defense for a topic, he readily consented. With war threatening to break out in Europe, and Canada ill-prepared, it was a subject near to his heart. He delivered another barnburner reminiscent of his Winnipeg speech of 1927, but that time Bennett and Ferguson applauded while the Quebec delegates sat in their hands, compared to his telephone for Canadian-British solidarity. The conference confirmed the shift of the party’s title, from Liberal-Conservative to National Conservative. On the leadership vote, Manion won on the second ballot, but neither Meighen nor Bennett was present to congratulate him.
Although Meighen sought to avoid open conflict with the new pioneer, he was singularly unimpressed with Manion’s performance. Where Meighen would have harassed the Liberals mercilessly for their tepid preparations for war, Manion simply echoed the government’s assurance to prevent conscription in any conflict. On the question of railroad deficits, Meighen reversed his longstanding resistance to the amalgamation of the Canadian National Railways and the CPR and supported a Senate motion that advocated unified management. This volte-face angered Manion, which was compared to such a step. When the 1940 election campaign started, Meighen remained from this fray, as he had in 1935. He wasn’t surprised in the drubbing administered to his party by the Liberals, however, he regarded the King ministry with barely hidden contempt. When some respondents urged him to leave the Senate and reassume the direction, but he declined. Manion, who’d lost his own seat, was substituted by Richard Burpee Hanson* of New Brunswick, who supplied capable if unexciting parliamentary direction. The stiffest opposition criticism came from Meighen, whose people and Senate addresses deplored government hypocrisy and inaction on preparations for war. “I can’t agree that we are doing our part,” he thundered in the Senate on 13 Nov. 1940.
Sensing the growing requirement that he chooses the Conservative helm, in 1941 Meighen approached John Bracken*, the Liberal-Progressive premier of Manitoba, to see if he could be persuaded to come to Ottawa and take at work. Though flattered, Bracken remained on the sidelines as the strain on Meighen mounted. He loathed King and despaired of ever seeing the Liberals mobilize a full war effort, but he resisted the telephone, feeling himself too old at 68 to accept the challenge. King certainly didn’t need him back in the commons. Meighen’s debating skills and grasp of administrative detail and parliamentary procedure were exceptional. King understandably regarded the possibility of his old foe’s return with foreboding, because he revealed in his journal on 6 Nov. 1941: “I’m getting past the time when I can fight in public with a man of Meighen’s kind who is sarcastic, vitriolic and also the meanest kind of politician.” At a party meeting in Ottawa that month, Meighen launched another blistering assault on the Liberal administration’s faltering war effort. Subsequently, the delegates voted by a margin of 37–13 to offer the vacant party leadership to Meighen. Citing the lack of unanimity and noting that the meeting was called for other purposes, he declined the honor. The delegates persisted and, at another motion, they unanimously requested that he accept. Reluctantly, Meighen consented and he supposed to control on 12 November, but on the condition that the Conservative Party would devote itself to”compulsory discerning service over the whole area of warfare.” No more would the party follow public opinion since it had under Manion and Hanson. With Meighen back at the helm, the Conservatives would attempt to direct it.
Meighen couldn’t overlook his own two sons in uniform: Ted was at the Royal Canadian Artillery while Max served at the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps. “I never understood what human longing was until separated by war from the sons I love so much,” he’d written in March 1941. “I sit in my office only gazing on the folder with both photos.” It was not only that he’d warned of impending disaster through the 1930s. Now, his own kin was placing their lives on the line, yet the country was still not on a full war footing. Unsurprisingly, he fought the by-election of 9 Feb. 1942 at York South to the issue of compulsory service. Occasioned by his demand as party leader to acquire a seat — he’d left the Senate on 19 January — that the conflict took on a decidedly nasty tone. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation attacked him yesterday’s man and also a tool of big financial interests. Officially, the Liberals stayed out of this competition but a lot of their foot soldiers affirmed Joseph William Noseworthy, the CCF standard-bearer. King played his part by announcing a nationwide plebiscite on the issue of conscription, thus spiking the Conservative guns. In addition, the CCF, in an appeal to working-class voters, called not just for a complete war effort but for social justice after the war. Meighen met humiliating defeat at a conventional Tory riding.
Meighen’s first instinct was to resign but he felt obligated to the party. Rather than competition another by-election, he enabled Hanson to keep as Conservative house leader. The arrangement did not work well. They clashed over tactics and coverage. Meighen still believed Canada’s lackluster war campaign was that the fundamental problem, while Hanson emphasized economic and social reforms. A semi-official policy conference at Port Hope, Ont., in September 1942 developed a stage considerably more innovative in tone compared to Meighen could have favored. It advocated the alteration of farm debt, a national labor relations board, federal aid for low-cost housing, comprehensive social security, and a national contributory system of healthcare. Meighen was wary of the country providing such a range of social services, but his attention had been directed elsewhere. On his initiative, an organizing committee was established that exact same month to organize a leadership conference for December in Winnipeg. He worked relentlessly behind the scenes to persuade John Bracken to stand for the leadership, and he utilized his party connections to advocate that the Manitoba premier as the ideal choice to succeed him. The two Bracken and the celebration were reluctant, however, Meighen prevailed. The party left Winnipeg with a brand new name (Progressive Conservative), a new leader (Bracken), and new policies (that the Port Hope platform). As for Meighen, he informed the delegates that he was retiring for good, leaving his deeds and words as a leader”unrevised and unrepented.”
Inevitably, Bracken’s failure to conquer the weary Liberals in the election of 1945 reflected nearly up to Meighen’s judgment as it did Bracken’s little gifts. However, the Progressive Conservative Party was alive and would finally succeed beneath a different westerner, John George Diefenbaker*. Meighen took a small part in politics after 1945. A set of his important speeches going back to 1911 was printed as Unrevised and unrepented… (Toronto, 1949). To his pleasure, it garnered favorable reviews, even from Liberals. A few decades later, a record of one of these addresses, “The greatest Englishman of background,” was made into a vinyl LP and circulated to each Canadian college and each Ontario high school, courtesy of an anonymous benefactor. This speech, a tribute to William Shakespeare, had been first delivered in 1936. Meighen’s speech-making diminished together with his advancing years, as did his attention to his investment company in Toronto. Following a short illness, he died in his sleep on 5 Aug. 1960. He had been given a state funeral in Toronto and then pushed slowly across Ontario into St Marys, the town of his childhood years, for burial.
On any list of Canadian prime ministers ranked according to their own accomplishments while in office, Arthur Meighen would not put very significant. Taken together, his two stints as first ministry complete less than half a typical four-year duration. In 1920–21 he was obsessed with post-war reconstruction along with a severe economic downturn. Though his performance was competent, it wasn’t exciting. Only at the imperial prime ministers’ summit did he glow, loyally but effectively prodding Britain to transform the Anglo-Japanese alliance into a multilateral agreement that properly included the USA. In 1926 he had time just to execute the most necessary administrative functions while fighting with the ultimately decisive campaign against King’s Liberals. Therein lay the rub. In three contests involving King and Meighen, the Grits won in 1921, the Tories put first in 1925, but in the winner-take-all third game, he was beaten by his hated rival. Tellingly, Meighen himself wouldn’t have accepted this kind of examination as either just or fair. Within our dominion, he stated in a farewell tribute to R. B. Bennett in January 1939, “there are times when no Prime Minister could be true to his trust to the country he’s sworn to serve, save at the temporary sacrifice of the party he is appointed to direct.” At precisely the exact same speech he took aim in the greek ambiguity of their mutual foe, King. “Loyalty into the ballot box isn’t necessarily loyalty to the country,” he pointedly declared. “Political captains in Canada have to have the courage to lead rather than servility to follow.”
Arthur Meighen had guts in abundance. His instinct was to face a problem, an opponent, or even a circumstance. Early in his career, he profited from this quality. Utilizing his prodigious memory, crystal-clear logic, and present for oratory, he rose rapidly through the ranks. Once he had been facing to face with a master tactician like King, however, his advance faltered. From Meighen’s perspective, the Liberal leader did not play fairly. He dodged problems, avoided accountability, and elevated hypocrisy to new heights. What Meighen couldn’t see was that his own early successes as a minister from the Union government of Sir Robert Borden exacted a price on his later career. Before he even assumed prime ministerial office, he had seriously alienated French Canadians by recommending conscription, fresh Canadians bypassing the War-time Elections Act, Montreal businessmen by nationalizing railways, laborers by suppressing the Winnipeg General Strike, and farmers by adhering to the protective agency. Given his character, he would not recant any of these policies. They’d remain”unrevised and unrepented.”
The record must also show Meighen’s accomplishments, however. As a rising ministry at the wartime government, he’d a lot of Borden’s heavy lifting, particularly after 1915. As chief of the opposition in the 1920s, he rallied Conservative forces at the House of Commons, held that a vacillating Liberal government accountable for a miserable customs scandal, also arrived close to reclaiming power. During the 1930s he served as Conservative leader in the Senate, and his speeches decrying isolationism helped rally public opinion away from dangerous neutralism. Late in his robe, he heeded a party draft and did what he could to lead his beloved Conservatives back from oblivion. His final act was to hand over leadership of a revived party to a competent, if not magnetic, successor. These accomplishments weren’t all that he set out to do in 1908, but his performance in politics was definitely well above average. His most fitting epitaph came from a bitter opponent, the Liberal Manitoba Free Press. Upon his first retirement, in 1926, its legendary editor, John Wesley Dafoe*, lamented Meighen’s reduction to Canadian public life: “To fight his way to the charming government ranks in six years;… to reach and maintain against all comers the position of the first swordsman of Parliament — those are accomplishments which will survive the disaster of today.”
The most important main resource for this biography is the Arthur Meighen newspapers (MG 26, I) at Library and Arch. The originals of this R. B. Bennett newspapers are in the Univ. of N.B. Library, Arch. Dept. (Fredericton), and the Arch. of Ont. (Toronto) retains the G. H. Ferguson papers (F8).
Meighen published two novels of his addresses: Oversea speeches: June–July 1921 (Toronto, 1921) and Unrevised and unrepented: Evidence speeches and others (Toronto, 1949). The published Debates (Ottawa) of the House of Commons, 1908-26, and the Senate, 1932-42, are the top resources for his parliamentary orations. Another period source not be overlooked is the Canadian yearly rev. of public affairs (Toronto).
Any student of Meighen’s life and livelihood will be indebted to the works of Roger Graham, whose magnum opus is Arthur Meighen: a biography (3v., Toronto, 1960-65). Additionally, Graham edited a volume in the Problems in Northern Hist. Assoc. booklet, Arthur Meighen ([Ottawa], 1968), also contributed an intriguing analytical chapter, “Some political ideas of Arthur Meighen,” at The political ideas of the prime ministers of Canada, ed. Marcel Hamelin (Ottawa, 1969), 107-20. Graham’s strategy is both scholarly and laudatory. His work needs to be read alongside the first two volumes, covering 1874-1932, of R. MacG.
Another three books provide helpful coverage of the Conservative Party: John English, The decline of politics: the Conservatives and the party program, 1901-20 (Toronto, 1977); L. A. Glassford, Reaction and reform: the politics of the Conservative Party under R. B. Bennett, 1927-1938 (Toronto, 1992); and J. L. Granatstein, The politics of survival: the Conservative Party of Canada, 1939-1945 ([Toronto], 1967). Other secondary sources of continuing significance for key facets of Meighen’s livelihood include R. C. Brown, Robert Laird Borden: a biography (2v., Toronto, 1975-80), two, J. M. Beck, Pendulum of electricity: Canada’s national elections (Scarborough, Ont., 1968), W. L. Morton, The Progressive Party in Canada (Toronto, 1950), and Ramsay Cook, The politics of John W. Dafoe and also the”Free Press” (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1963).
Following Graham, both biggest boosters of Arthur Meighen have been the Tory journalist Michael Grattan O’Leary* in his Recollections of individuals, media, and politics, foreword R. L. Stanfield (Toronto, 1977) and the CCF academic Eugene Alfred Forsey* in A lifetime on the fringe: the memoirs of Eugene Forsey (Toronto, 1990). Recent historic judgment continues to be severe, particularly in Michael Bliss’s remedy of Meighen at Right honorable men: the descent of Canadian politics from Macdonald to Mulroney (Toronto, 1994) and J. L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer’s evaluation in Prime ministers: standing Canada’s leaders (Toronto, 1999).
There are not many journal articles devoted to Meighen’s political career. , 44 (1937): 152-63. A historical article from J. B. Brebner, “Canada, the Anglo-Japanese alliance and the Washington seminar,” Political Science Quarterly (New York), 50 (1935): 45-58 describes Meighen’s pivotal role in reorienting British imperial policy towards Japan. L. A. Glassford outlines the effect of women voters on Meighen’s party in “`The existence of so many ladies’: a report on the Conservative Party’s answer to female suffrage in Canada, 1918-1939,” Atlantis (Halifax), 22 (1997-98), no.1: 19-30. Ultimately, J. L. Granatstein ably covers the electoral coup de grâce administered to Meighen by the Republicans in”The York South by-election of February 9, 1942: a turning point in Canadian politics,” Canadian Hist.