Sir Robert Laird Borden (June 26, 1854 - June 10, 1937) was the eighth Prime Minister of Canada from October 10, 1911 to July 10, 1920. He was born in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.
In 1889 he married Laura Bond (1863-1940). Professionally, Borden's list of careers ran the gamut. From 1868 to 1874 he worked as a teacher in Nova Scotia and New Jersey. After he returned to Nova Scotia in 1876, he studied law at a Halifax law firm (without a formal university education) and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1878. He was the Chancellor of Queen's University from 1924 to 1930 and stood as president of two financial institutions.
He was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1896, and became leader of the Conservative opposition in 1901. He slowly rebuilt the party, which had lost power and influence after the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891, and in 1911 he swept to power, campaigning against Sir Wilfrid Laurier's plan for free trade in natural products with the United States. Borden and the Conservatives argued in favour of Imperial preference which would use tariffs to diminish imports from outside the British Empire.
As Prime Minister of Canada during the First World War Borden transformed his government to a wartime administration passing the War Measures Act in 1914. Borden committed Canada to provide half a million soldiers for the war effort. However, volunteers had quickly dried up when Canadians realized there would be no quick end to the war, but Borden's determination to meet that huge commitment led to the Military Service Act and the Conscription Crisis of 1917, which split the country on linguistic lines. The unpopular conscription issue would likely have meant defeat in the election of 1917, but Borden recruited members of the Liberals (with the notable exception of Wilfrid Laurier) to create a Unionist government. The 1917 election saw the "Government" candidates crush the Opposition "Laurier Liberals" in English Canada resulting in a large parliamentary majority for Borden.
The war effort also enabled Canada to assert itself as an independent power. Borden wanted to create a single Canadian army, rather than have Canadian soldiers split up and assigned to British divisions. Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia, assured that Canadians were well-trained and prepared to fight in their own divisions, and Arthur Currie provided sensible leadership for the Canadian divisions in Europe, although they were still under overall British command. Nevertheless Canadian troops proved themselves to be among the best in the world, fighting at the Somme, Ypres, Passchendaele, and especially at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
In world affairs Borden played a crucial role in transforming the British Empire into a partnership of equal states, the Commonwealth of Nations, a term that was first discussed at an Imperial Conference in London during the war. Borden also introduced the first Canadian income tax, which at the time was meant to be temporary, but was never repealed.
Convinced that Canada had become a nation on the battlefields of Europe, Borden demanded that it have a separate seat at the Paris Peace Conference. This was initially opposed not only by Britain but also by the United States, who perceived such a delegation as an extra British vote. Borden responded by pointing out that since Canada had lost more men than the U.S. in the war she at least had the right to the representation of a "minor" power. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George eventually relented and convinced the reluctant Americans to accept the presence of separate Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations. Not only did Borden's persistence allow him to represent Canada in Paris as a nation, it also ensured that each of the dominions could sign the Treaty of Versailles in its own right and receive a separate membership in the League of Nations.
At Borden's insistence, the treaty was ratified by the Canadian Parliament. Borden would be the last prime minister to be knighted after Parliament abolished all future titles for Canadians in 1919 by passing the Nickle Resolution.
That same year, Borden approved the use of troops to put down the Winnipeg General Strike.
Borden's government also nationalised the Canadian Northern Railway to create what would become the Canadian National Railway,
Sir Robert Borden retired in 1920 and died in Ottawa on June 10, 1937. He is buried in the Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario.
Sir Robert Borden is depicted on the Canadian hundred-dollar bill.