9th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in this position from July 1920 to December 1921 and again from June to September 1926, as a Conservative from Manitoba. He was born near Anderson, Ontario, Canada to farming parents and attended local primary schools. After graduating from high school at the Saint Mary's Collegiate Institute in Saint Marys, Ontario (now known as Arthur Meighen Public School), he attended University College at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics. He then attended and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, and moved to Manitoba where he tried different professions, including a teacher, lawyer, and businessman, before becoming involved in politics as a member of the Conservative party. In 1908 he was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons, representing the Manitoba district of Portage la Prairie. In 1911 he was re-elected, this time as a member of the new governing party. He won election again in 1913, after being appointed to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden's Cabinet as Solicitor General, serving in that position until August 1917 when he was appointed Minister of Mines and Secretary of State. In 1917 he was primarily responsible for implementing mandatory military service as a result of the Conscription Crisis of 1917. In October 1917 he became the minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs and was re-elected to the House of Commons in December 1917. As Minister of the Interior, he steered through Parliament the largest piece of legislation ever enacted in the British Empire, creating the Canadian National Railway Company. In 1919, as acting Minister of Justice and senior Manitoban in the government of Sir Robert Borden, he helped put down the Winnipeg General Strike by force. In July 1920 he became leader of the Conservative and the Unionist Party, and Canadian Prime Minister when Borden resigned and he took over the remainder of Borden's term. He campaigned in the 1921 election under the banner of the National Liberal and Conservative Party in an attempt to keep the allegiance of Liberals who had supported the wartime Unionist government. However, his actions in implementing conscription hurt his party's already-weak support in Quebec, while the Winnipeg General Strike and farm tariffs made him unpopular among labor and farmers alike. His party was defeated by the Liberals, led by William Lyon Mackenzie King. He continued to lead the Conservative Party (which had reverted to its traditional name), and was returned to Parliament in 1922, after winning a by-election in the eastern Ontario district of Grenville. He became the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian parliament and his term was most marked by his response to the crisis at Chanak (in the Turkish Dardanelles neutral zone), in which British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill leaked to the newspapers that the British Dominions (sovereignties) might be called upon to assist British forces in the Chanak area. With Parliament not in session, Prime Minister King refused to commit to sending troops, resenting the way Churchill had gone over the Dominion leaders' heads. King used the rationale that Parliament should decide, and that the matter was not important enough to recall Parliament. Meighen, who was in favor of supporting Britain in this crisis, condemned King for his position. After a few days, the crisis subsided, and he gained the reputation as being blindly in favor of Britain's interests. In 1926, when King was on the verge of losing a vote in the House of Commons, he asked the Governor General, Lord Byng, to call an election. Byng used his reserve power to refuse the request. King resigned as Prime Minister, and Meighen was invited by Byng to form a government, having secured a measure of support from the opposition farmers' parties. This became known as the "King-Byng Affair". Towards the end of 1926, Byng called for a federal election and Meighen and his Conservative party were swept from office, with his second term as Prime Minister lasting only three months. He then resigned as the Conservative Party leader and moved to Toronto to practice law. In 1932 he was appointed to the Senate on the recommendation of Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. He served as Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister without Portfolio from February 1932, to October 1935. He then served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1935 until he resigned from the upper house in January 1942. In late 1941 he became leader of the Conservatives for the duration of the war, accepting the party leadership in November 1941, foregoing a leadership convention, and campaigned in favor of conscription. As leader, he continued to champion the concept of a National Government including all parties, which the party had advocated in the 1940 federal election. Such an arrangement had been seen in Canada during World War I but the Canadian people did not support this idea. In January 1942 he resigned his Senate seat and campaigned in a by-election for the Toronto riding of York South, to return to the House of Commons. His candidacy received the improbable support of the Liberal Premier of Ontario Mitchell Hepburn, which effectively hastened the end of Hepburn's Liberal Premiership, and did not provide Meighen with any durable electoral support. The Liberal party did not provide a candidate in the election, which actually hurt his chances by precluding the possibility of a split in the anti-Conservative vote, and he was defeated in the February 1942 election. In December 1942 he announced that he was not a candidate for the leadership and the Conservative party subsequently chose John Bracken as leader, and renamed itself the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He returned to Toronto to practice law and died there at the age of 86.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Jessie Isabel Cox Meighen