Sir Charles Tupper, prime minister, premier of Nova Scotia 1864–67, physician (born 2 July 1821 in Amherst, NS; died 30 October 1915 in Bexleyheath, England).
Sir Charles Tupper directed Nova Scotia to Confederation while he was maximum. Over the course of his long political career, he served as a federal Cabinet minister and diplomat, and briefly as prime minister of Canada — his 10-week sentence is the shortest in history. He had been the last surviving husband of Confederation.
Sir Charles Tupper Education and Early Career
Charles Tupper was born on his family’s small farm nearby Amherst, Nova Scotia. His father, also known as Charles, was a Baptist pastor. Largely home-schooled, Tupper’s education was supplemented by grammar school courses. In 1837, he analyzed at Horton Academy (later Acadia University) at Wolfville, Nova Scotia, focusing on Latin, Greek, French, and science. Tupper then studied at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, where he earned his medical degree in 1843. He returned to Amherst annually and established a medical practice and drug store.
He married Frances Morse, a descendent of the founders of Amherst, in 1846.
Charles Tupper was encouraged by a buddy and Nova Scotia Conservative party leader James William Johnston to operate for a seat at the Nova Scotia Assembly as a Conservative. Back in 1855, Tupper radically unseated Cumberland County’s popular Reform representative, Joseph Howe. While the Conservatives did not fare well in the election, Tupper outlined a new party strategy in caucus that sought to courtroom Nova Scotia’s Roman Catholic minority and also fortify railroad building. From 1857, Tupper had convinced disenchanted Roman Catholic Liberals to cross the floor, which reduced the government to a minority. As a result, the Liberals the Conservatives took power on 14 February 1857. With Johnston as premier, Tupper became provincial secretary.
Tupper set out to enhance Nova Scotia’s railways, believing it was critical to the evolution of natural resources. In addition, he believed that railways could make the state’s major port town, Halifax, a”vast manufacturing mart for the aspect of the Atlantic.” In June 1857, he started discussions with officials in New Brunswick and also the Province of Canada to discuss the possibility of an intercolonial railway. After drifting to London to secure backing for such a project, Tupper returned empty-handed. Based on historian Phillip Buckner, this”convinced [Tupper] of the necessity to restructure the imperial relationship and also to seek closer ties with all another British American colonies.”
The Conservative party lost a bitter election in 1859, though Tupper retained his seat. After his party returned to power from 1863, Tupper functioned as provincial secretary.
Though his career in medicine was originally sidelined when he entered politics, Charles Tupper continued to practise medicine throughout his political career. While sitting in opposition, he opened a successful medical practice in Halifax at 1859. He was also now a hospital surgeon and municipal medical officer and involved in the creation of a medical faculty. He was chosen president of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia in 1863 and, while a Member of Parliament, became the first president of the Canadian Medical Association (1867–70). While sitting for a term in resistance (1874–78), he returned to medication, practising until his party returned to government, at which point his health care career dwindled.
Tupper is commemorated by the Canadian Medical Association through the Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Action, which is awarded to a physician”that has demonstrated leadership, dedication and commitment in advancing the goals and policies of the CMA through grassroots advocacy.”
As premier, Charles Tupper championed both Maritime and British American marriage, which he did not believe were incompatible objectives. He had been a delegate in the Charlottetown, Québec and London Conferences but was unable to win acceptance for its Québec Resolutions in the Nova Scotia Assembly. He contended that joining Canada would fortify Nova Scotia’s commercial sector and provide the colony with increased influence in Canada along with the broader British Empire.
“What’s a British-American, but a man regarded as a mere dependent upon an empire which, however great and magnificent, does not recognize him as adapting to any voice within her Senate, or owning any interests worthy of imperial regard,” he explained in a landmark speech in 1860. “British America, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, would in a couple of years exhibit to the world a great and powerful organization.”
Backed with a booming provincial economy, Tupper expanded the railroad network and improved schooling with the Free School Act, which created state-subsidized public schools. The outbreak of the American Civil War persuaded him that joining a wider Canadian union was crucial to Nova Scotia’s safe future.
In 1864, Tupper focused on what seemed to be the more achievable aim of Maritime union — a potential stepping stone to a national federation. Canadian agents joined Tupper at the Charlottetown Conference and talk quickly switched from Maritime marriage to Confederation. Tupper pictured a centralized federal marriage that could reserve considerable independence for the provinces. After much political effort, and in the teeth of strong resistance from Joseph Howe, a powerful anti-Confederation voice, Tupper acquired a vote in favour of union from the Nova Scotia Assembly in 1866.
Charles Tupper left provincial politics in 1867 and won a national seat as the only supporter of Confederation from Nova Scotia. Though his promise for a Cabinet article was powerful, he stood aside to let others from Nova Scotia to go into the ministry — a plan used to soften anti-Confederation belief in the province. Tupper also helped lead to the”better conditions” settlement with Joseph Howe. The arrangement between Tupper and Howe given that the two men would work together to protect Nova Scotia’s interests in Parliament in trade for Howe’s support for Confederation. Because of this, Howe was given a position in Cabinet in 1870, and Tupper started his long ministerial career. Tupper served successively as president of their Privy Council (1870–72), minister of inland revenue (1872–73) and ministry of habits (1873) from the first government of Sir John A. Macdonald.
After the Conservatives returned to office after the Pacific Scandal, Tupper served as minister of public works (1878–79) and ministry of railways and canals (1879–84). During this time period, the construction of this Canadian Pacific Railway was nearing a conclusion. Resuming his responsibilities in London, he became known as an outspoken advocate of imperial federation with the United Kingdom. Sir John A. Macdonald was not delighted with Tupper’s perspectives, but Tupper’s political standing allowed him immunity against censure.
Was handed over for the party leadership in favour of John Abbott, John Thompson and Bowell, Tupper finally became prime minister on 1 May 1896. In a desperate attempt to stave off defeat at the House, Tupper and his colleagues introduced therapeutic legislation to protect the educational rights of this French-speaking minority in Manitoba (see Manitoba Schools Question). The bill was blocked in the Commons.
Tupper and the Conservatives suffered a magnificent general election defeat that June, as Québec’s returns were critical. He stepped on 8 July, having served just 10 weeks as prime minister, the shortest tenure in Canadian history. He lasted in Parliament since Leader of the Opposition but had been defeated at the election of 1900.
Life after Politics
After retirement, Sir Charles Tupper was appointed to the British Privy Council in 1907 and served to the committee of the British Empire. His wife, Frances, died in 1912, closing their 65-year union. Their son, Charles Hibbert Tupper, entered politics and served as a Cabinet ministry for many prime ministers.
Tupper dwelt in Vancouver before moving to live with one of his daughters in England in 1913, in which he died of heart failure on 30 October 1915. His remains were returned to Canada and buried in Halifax.
Sir Charles Tupper was a decisive figure in Canadian political life. His improbable defeat of Joseph Howe in his very first election gave him the platform he’d eventually use to bring Nova Scotia into Confederation in 1867. As one of Sir John A. Macdonald’s main lieutenants, he had a defined potential for government in addition to a reputation for parliamentary bluff and bullying. When he died in 1915, he had been the last surviving Father of Confederation.