Biography of Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923)

British politician born in Kingston (New Brunswick, Canada) on 16 September 1858 and died in London on October 30, 1923.

Biographical synthesis

Member of the conservative party, in addition to various posts in several Governments was briefly British Prime Minister between 1922 and 1923, the only one born outside the British Isles.

First political work and studies

He was the son of the Reverend Presbyterian James Law of Northern Ireland origin; had four brothers (three men). He/She was educated in Canada for three years, before moving to Scotland to live with a rich aunt after the death of his mother in 1870. In Glasgow, he/she completed his secondary studies; These completed, at age 16 he/she began working as accountant in banking business from her aunt, while attending night classes from the University of Glasgow on economy that moreover made him interested in politics. In 1885 he/she was hired by the company William Jacks & Co., which was dedicated to the trade of iron; Thanks to his work a few years later it had enriched. Attained economic independence, joined the conservative party, and elections generals of 1900 was elected to the Parliament by Blackfriars (Glasgow), adhering to the imperialist faction of Joseph Chamberlain.

Thanks to its qualities was considered by Arthur James Balfour, when this was appointed Prime Minister in 1902, August 8 Bonar Law appointed to the post of Secretary of the Board of Trade ('Minister of trade'), from which defended economic protectionism. Abandoned the post on December 18, 1905, in 1906 he/she lost his parliamentary seat along with other many conservatives after a great liberal triumph. That same year he/she recovered it being chosen by Dulwich. On leaving Balfour the Party Presidency in 1911, Bonar Law became election Manager of the same to avoid internal clashes between the other two candidates, Joseph Austen Chamberlain (son) and Walter Long; then he/she dates his friendship with William Maxwell Aitken, which for a time was its Secretary. I was also since then leader of the opposition in the British Parliament, focusing again on the question of trade tariffs and also in the granting or not of autonomy to Ireland, which was firmly opposed.

Of the Government coalition to the post of Prime Minister

The start of the first world war in 1914 put in an embarrassing situation, because even little before his family had sold iron to Germany. The international situation led him to offer the services of the conservative party to the liberal government. Thus, in the Coalition cabinet formed by the Herbert Henry Asquith liberal in 1915, he/she was Secretary of State for the Colonies ('Minister of colonies', from May 25, as such close relations with their country of birth, Canada) and member of the Committee of war in 1916 Asquith, thanks in part to its intrigues, was replaced by the also liberal David Lloyd George and Bonar Lawwhich he/she had declined to lead the Government in favour of that, he/she was appointed on December 10, Chancellor of the Exchequer ('Finance Minister') and head of the House of Commons (this last position took it until 1922). This meant to occupy the second position in the Government, which remained until the 10 January 1919 (after he/she defeated the coalition in the elections of 1918), all this time working closely with Lloyd George. It approved the National Savings (savings system) and arrived to sign part of the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of the Prime Minister.

The following three years he/she had a position of less importance, that of Lord Privy Seal. In March 1921 he/she left to preside over the conservative party to recover from their health problems in the South of France. When many members of his party considered the idea of leaving it and form together with Lloyd George a new Law made them to abandon this idea and persuaded them to leave the coalition Government. Lloyd George had to resign and on October 23, 1922 King Jorge V appointed Prime Minister to Bonar Law, confirmed by the broad conservative triumph in general elections on November 15 (344 seats by 142 of the Labour Party and the Liberals 115). He/She also reoccupied the Presidency of the conservative party. He/She was opposed to the negotiations of the Minister of finance, Stanley Baldwin, to satisfy British war debts with United States, but finally had to accept them. It also broke diplomatic relations with France by their occupation force in the German region of the Ruhr, to collect coal reparations imposed on Germany. His physical condition deteriorated even more and a few months later, on May 20, 1923, he/she resigned: had only been Prime Minister 209 days.

He died in October of the same year from throat cancer. He/She was 65 years old. Bonar Law (which did not use his first name, Andrew) was as politically eloquent, capable, honest, tolerant but firm in their principles, persevering and daring. From his marriage to an English woman had five children (three boys and two girls); his wife died in 1909, and lost his two sons in the first world war. In 1925 was dedicated a monument in place of birth, Rexton; also restored his birthplace. It retains part of its correspondence in the national archives of Canada.


ADAMS, R.J.Q. Bonar Law. (London, J. Murray: 1999).

BLAKE, R. The Conservative Party from Peel to Major. (Arrow Books, London: 1998).

BLAKE, R. The Unknown Prime Minister; the life and times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923. (London, Eyre & Spottiswoode: 1955).

ENGLEFIELD, D.T. Facts about the British prime ministers: a compilation of biographical and historical information. (New York, H.W. Wilson: 1995).

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