The Man from Halifax: Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister

By P.B. Waite

© 1985

Sir John Thompson was prime minister of Canada for two years during the period between the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and the advent to power of Sir Wilfred Laurier in 1896. In some ways he was greater than either of them although his term as prime minister was relatively brief. He died in office at the tragically early age of forty-nine, at Windsor Castle during a visit to Queen Victoria.
Thompson was born and raised in Halifax and is buried there. In between he attained nearly all the offices a young Canadian lawyer could aspire to: attorney-general of his native province, justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, minister of justice in the Conservative government in Ottawa for nine years, and finally prime minister. His name was soon forgotten. Yet a man so distinguished by decency and knowledge, with so strong a grasp of his duty, a man so committed to Canada, cannot be easily dismissed. He had perhaps the most formidable intellect of any of the prime ministers.
Unlike most of them, Thompson was a family man, passionately devoted to his wife, Annie, and their five children. When away from his wife, Thompson used to say, he was like Charles II of Spain – nasty, disagreeable, and dangerous. But during such times the couple wrote each other every day, a practice that resulted in the richest personal correspondence of any Canadian prime minister. With the help of these letters, Professor Waite has ably and intimately portrayed the private life of a late-Victorian politican: the sacrifice of home comforts, the loneliness of Ottawa, and the sense of public duty that drive Thomson, despite his natural inclinations, to persist in government service.
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Product Details

  • Series: Heritage
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 576 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
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  • PUBLISHED DEC 1985

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Professor Waite has ably and intimately portrayed the private life of a late-Victorian politican: the sacrifice of home comforts, the loneliness of Ottawa, and the sense of public duty that drive Thomson, despite his natural inclinations, to persist in government service.

The Man from Halifax: Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister

By P.B. Waite

© 1985

Sir John Thompson was prime minister of Canada for two years during the period between the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and the advent to power of Sir Wilfred Laurier in 1896. In some ways he was greater than either of them although his term as prime minister was relatively brief. He died in office at the tragically early age of forty-nine, at Windsor Castle during a visit to Queen Victoria.
Thompson was born and raised in Halifax and is buried there. In between he attained nearly all the offices a young Canadian lawyer could aspire to: attorney-general of his native province, justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, minister of justice in the Conservative government in Ottawa for nine years, and finally prime minister. His name was soon forgotten. Yet a man so distinguished by decency and knowledge, with so strong a grasp of his duty, a man so committed to Canada, cannot be easily dismissed. He had perhaps the most formidable intellect of any of the prime ministers.
Unlike most of them, Thompson was a family man, passionately devoted to his wife, Annie, and their five children. When away from his wife, Thompson used to say, he was like Charles II of Spain – nasty, disagreeable, and dangerous. But during such times the couple wrote each other every day, a practice that resulted in the richest personal correspondence of any Canadian prime minister. With the help of these letters, Professor Waite has ably and intimately portrayed the private life of a late-Victorian politican: the sacrifice of home comforts, the loneliness of Ottawa, and the sense of public duty that drive Thomson, despite his natural inclinations, to persist in government service.
Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Heritage
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 576 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    'An absolutely first-rate biography.'


    Senator Eugene Forsey

    'Let us be clear from the outset. This is by far the best political biography of a Canadian figure to appear for some time.'


    Julian Gwyn
    Ottawa Citizen

    'So absorbingly written that you really live the whole thing.'


    Charles Ritchie

    'Waite has written a biography that not only reads like a novel, but carries such a detailed knowledge of 19th-century political and social history that it will leave professional historians salivating. Indeed, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this book is worth ten thousand pictures.'


    Colin Howell
    Atlantic Provinces Book Review

    'Elegant biography -- as witty and compassionate as it is scholarly and measured.'


    Henry Bruce
    Montreal Gazette

    'Peter Waite is the most elegant stylist now writing Canadian history in English. His talent has never shown to better advantage than in this excellent biography of Canada's fourth Prime Minister. The wit and charm of the author's prose ornament this study of SIr John Thompson, perhaps the most gracious biography to appear since Creighton's Macdonald.'


    J.E. Rea
    Manitoba History
  • Author Information

    Peter Waite is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at Dalhousie University.

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