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A biography of william lyon mackenzie king a dominant political leader of canada

William Lyon Mackenzie King William Lyon Mackenzie King 1874-1950 was prime minister of Canada for more than 21 years, a longer period in office than any other first minister in the history of countries in the British Commonwealth. Mackenzie King was born at Berlin later KitchenerOntario. His maternal spiritual inheritance was of some significance to King and may help to explain his lifelong ambivalence between his urge to be a reformer and his craving for social respectability.

King graduated from the University of Toronto in 1895, undertook postgraduate studies at Chicago, and secured a doctorate in political economy from Harvard.

W.L. Mackenzie King

In Chicago he was associated with Jane Addams 's work at Hull House, an experience which strengthened his interest in social reform. In the prewar years he achieved considerable prominence in Canada as a labor conciliator and was chiefly responsible for drafting and presenting to Parliament the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act 1907 and the Combines Investigation Act 1910. These measures revealed King's tenaciously held faith that exposure of the facts of any situation to public scrutiny would create a public opinion strong enough to ensure the resolution of social problems.

During World War I King worked for the Rockefeller Foundation on labor research and served as an industrial counselor to the Rockefeller interests. His views on industrial relations were expounded vaguely and verbosely in Industry and Humanity 1918. He became prime minister in 1921 as the result of an election which brought an end to the two-party system in federal politics. A large part of his support then and later lay in a solid block of conservative French-Canadian members of Parliament.

William Lyon Mackenzie King

While keeping their allegiance he endeavored to woo the 65 members of the second largest group in Parliament, the agrarian Progressive partywhom King described as "Liberals in a hurry," temporarily adrift from their true political home. By 1924 most of the Progressives had returned to the Liberal fold, thanks mainly to King's judicious concessions in the direction of a lower tariff.

By adroit maneuvering rather than through any correct constitutional interpretation, King survived the "King-Byng constitutional crisis" of 1926 and held office again after a few weeks in opposition until he was defeated in 1930, an event he later perceived as good fortune since it labeled the victorious Conservatives for years to come as the "party of depression. He was not unwilling to use the existence of the new socialist group to strengthen reform elements within his own party.

By the end of World War II he was genuinely alarmed by the apparently growing threat presented by the CCF, and this awareness did much to push through a program of postwar reconstruction measures, including the extension of social insurance and the establishment of family allowances.

Foreign Relations In external relations King was a steady proponent of Canadian autonomy, and during his years in office complete sovereignty within the British Commonwealth was achieved. He exercised this sovereignty with great caution, pursuing a policy of "no commitments" in the League of Nations and toward collective security generally. As the threat of war increased in the 1930s, King consistently refused to declare Canadian policy beyond the assertion that "Parliament will decide.

Under King's leadership Canada moved into a new era of closer relations with the United Statesnotably during World War IIwhen the Ogdensburg Agreement of 1940, establishing the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, was followed by the Hyde Park Agreement of 1941, to promote cooperation between the two countries in defense production.

King's enormous skill as a politician was never better demonstrated than during the war, when he managed to prevent the conscription question from tearing the nation apart as it had in 1917.

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It was perhaps his greatest achievement that he brought French and English Canadians through the war in relative harmony. Indeed, the most consistent theme in King's political philosophy and practice was his commitment to Canadian unity, and increasingly he saw the unity of the Liberal party as synonymous with national unity.

King had no personal magnetism, he was no orator, and he aroused little affection even in his warmest supporters. His political longevity was due to his acute political sense and, sometimes, to his ruthlessness. He never married, and in his loneliness he confided his perpetual self-doubt and his ambitions to his voluminous diaries. He died 2 years after his retirement at Kingsmere, his country home near Ottawa, on July 22, 1950.

Further Reading Two excellent volumes of the official biography of King have been published: A Political Biography, 1874-1923 1958and H. The Lonely Heights, 1924-1932 1963. Bruce Hutchinson, The Incredible Canadian 1952is a popular biography by a good journalist.

Pickersgill and Donald F. McGregor, The Fall and Rise of Mackenzie King, 1911-1919 1962recounts in detail King's work as a labor conciliator and his rise to party leadership. The Rise of the Leader 1955gives a less flattering account of roughly the same years. Additional Sources Ferns, H. Macmillan of Canada, 1977. Macmillan of Canada, 1976. Teatero, William, Mackenzie King: