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William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Not to be confused with William Lyon Mackenzie, Mackenzie King's grandfather.
William Lyon Mackenzie King
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WilliamLyonMackenzieKing.jpg
William Lyon Mackenzie King

10th Prime Minister of Canada
First Term: December 29, 1921
June 28,1926
Second Term: September 25, 1926–
August 6,1930
Third Term: October 23, 1935
November 14,1948
Predecessor: Arthur Meighen
First Successor: Arthur Meighen
Second Successor: R. B. Bennett
Third Successor: Louis St. Laurent
Date of Birth: December 17, 1874
Place of Birth: Kitchener, Ontario
Spouse: never married
Profession: lawyer
Political Party: Liberal Party of Canada

William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC , LL.B, Ph.D., MA, BA (December 17, 1874July 22, 1950) was the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921, to June 28, 1926; September 25, 1926, to August 7, 1930; and October 23, 1935, to November 15, 1948. He had the longest combined time in the Prime Minister position in British Commonwealth history.


Contents

Early life

King was born in Berlin, Ontario (now Kitchener). A grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837, King held five university degrees. He obtained three from the University of Toronto: B.A. 1895, LL.B. 1896, and M.A. 1897. After studying at the University of Chicago, Mackenzie King proceeded to Harvard University, receiving an M.A. in political economy 1898 and a Ph.D. 1909.

He was first elected to Parliament as a Liberal in a 1908 by-election, and was re-elected in a 1909 by-election following his appointment as Canada's first Minister of Labour. He lost his seat in the 1911 general election, which saw the Conservatives defeat his Liberals.

Following his defeat, he went to the United States to work for the Rockefeller family, assisting them in labour relations. He returned to Canada to run in the 1917 election, which focused almost entirely on the conscription issue, and lost again, due to his opposition to conscription, which was supported by the majority of English Canadians.

In 1919, he was elected leader at the first Liberal leadership convention, and soon returned to parliament in a by-election. King remained leader until 1948. In the 1921 election, his party defeated Arthur Meighen and the Conservatives, and he became Prime Minister.

The "King-Byng" Affair

Main article: King-Byng Affair

In his first term as Prime Minister, he was opposed by the Progressive Party, which did not support trade tariffs. King called an election in 1925, in which the Conservatives won the most seats, but not a majority in the House of Commons. King held onto power with the support of the Progressives. Soon into his term, however, a bribery scandal in the Department of Customs was revealed, which led to more support for the Conservatives and Progressives, and the possibility that King would be forced to resign. King asked Governor General Lord Byng to dissolve Parliament and call another election, but Byng refused, the only time in Canadian history that the Governor General has exercised such a power. King resigned, and Byng asked Meighen to form a new government. When Meighen's government was defeated in the House of Commons a short time later, however, Byng called a new election in 1926. King and the Liberals returned to power.

Depression and war

In his second term, King introduced old-age pensions. In February 1930, he appointed Cairine Wilson, whom he knew personally, as the first female senator in Canadian history.

His government was in power during the beginning of the Great Depression, but lost the election of 1930 to the Conservative Party, now led by Richard Bedford Bennett.

King's Liberals were returned to power once more in the 1935 election. The worst of the Depression had passed, and King implemented relief programs such as the National Housing Act and National Employment Commission. His government also created the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1936, Trans-Canada Airlines (the precursor to Air Canada) in 1937, and the National Film Board of Canada in 1939.

King hoped an outbreak of war in the 1930s could be avoided. He had met with Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler, whom he said was a reasonable man who cared for his fellow man, working to improve his country in the midst of the Depression. He confided in his diary that he thought Hitler "might come to be thought of as one of the saviours of the world" and told a Jewish delegation that "Kristallnacht might turn out to be a blessing."

King realized the necessity of World War II before Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, but unlike World War I when Canada was automatically at war as soon as Britain joined, King asserted Canadian autonomy by waiting until September 10, when a vote in the House of Commons took place, to support the government's decision to declare war.

King's promise not to impose conscription contributed to the Liberals' re-election in the 1940 election. But after the fall of France in 1940, Canada introduced conscription for home service, and only volunteers were to be sent overseas. King wanted to avoid a repeat of the Conscription Crisis of 1917. By 1942, the military was pressing King hard to send conscripts to Europe. In 1942, King held a national plebiscite on the issue asking the nation to relieve him of the commitment he had made during the election campaign. He said that his policy was "conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription."

French Canadians voted overwhelmingly against conscription, but the majority of English Canada supported it. For the next two years, King tried to avoid the issue with a massive campaign to recruit volunteers, despite heavy losses in the Dieppe Raid in 1942, in Italy in 1943, and after the Battle of Normandy in 1944. At the end of 1944, he finally decided it was necessary to send conscripts to Europe. This led to a brief political crisis (see Conscription Crisis of 1944), but the war ended just a few months later. Few of the conscripts ever saw combat.

Canadian autonomy

Throughout his term, King led Canada from a colony with responsible government to an autonomous nation within the British Commonwealth. During the Chanak Crisis of 1922, King refused to support the British without first consulting parliament, while Conservative leader, Arthur Meighen, pronounced "ready, aye, ready". The British were disappointed with King's response, but this was the first time that Canada had really asserted an independent foreign policy. After the King-Byng Affair, King went to the Imperial Conference of 1926, and argued for greater autonomy of the Dominions. This resulted in the Balfour Declaration, which announced the equal status of all members of the Commonwealth of Nations, including Britain.

In the lead up to World War II, King played two roles. On one hand, he told English Canadians that Canada would no doubt enter war if Britain did. On the other hand, he and his right hand man Ernest Lapoint told French Canadians that Canada would only go to war if it was in the country's best interests. With the dual messages, King slowly led Canada towards war without causing strife between Canada's two main linguistic communities. As his final step in asserting Canada's autonomy, King ensured that the Canadian Parliament made its own declaration of war on the day after Britain.

Post-war Canada

Mackenzie King won the election of 1945. King was considered a minor player in the war by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, despite hosting a wartime conference in Quebec City in 1943. Nonetheless, King helped found the United Nations in 1945. In 1948, he retired after 22 years as Prime Minister, and was succeeded as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister of Canada by Louis St. Laurent.

Personal life

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Cover of Time Magazine (February 9, 1925)

Mackenzie King was a cautious politician who tailored his policies to prevailing opinions. "Parliament will decide," he liked to say when pressed to act.

Privately, he was highly eccentric with his preference for consulting spirits, including those of Leonardo da Vinci, Louis Pasteur, his dead mother and his dog. He sought personal reassurance from the spirits, rather than political advice. Indeed, after his death, one of the mediums said that she had not realized that he was a politician. King did ask whether his party would win the 1935 election, one of the few times politics came up during his seances. His occult interests were not widely known during his term in office, however, and only became publicized by biographers after his death who used the extensive diaries that he kept most of his life.

He never married, but had a close female friend, Joan Patteson, a married woman, with whom he spent much of his leisure time. His country retreat at Kingsmere in Gatineau Park, near Ottawa, is open to the public.

Mackenzie King died on July 22, 1950, at his home near Ottawa. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto. He is pictured on the Canadian fifty-dollar bill.

Quotations

We had no shape

Because he never took sides;
And no sides
Because he never allowed them to take shape.

from F.R. Scott, "W.L.M.K. (http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/scott_fr/poem5.htm)"

William Lyon Mackenzie King
Sat in a corner and played with string,
Loved his mother like anything,
William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Dennis Lee, "William Lyon Mackenzie King"

"Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription."

External links


Preceded by:
Arthur Meighen
Prime Minister of Canada
1921-1926
Succeeded by:
Arthur Meighen
Preceded by:
Arthur Meighen
Prime Minister of Canada
1926-1930
Succeeded by:
R.B. Bennett
Preceded by:
R.B. Bennett
Prime Minister of Canada
1935-1948
Succeeded by:
Louis St. Laurent
Preceded by:
Daniel Duncan McKenzie
Liberal Leaders
Succeeded by:
Louis St. Laurent

Template:End box Template:CanPMfr:William Lyon Mackenzie King nl:William Lyon Mackenzie King pl:Mackenzie King pt:William Lyon Mackenzie King

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