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Sketches of Canada for December 17th!

Canadian History for Kids: Mackenzie Bowell

Mackenzie Bowell was the only prime minister of Canada to be forced to resign by his own cabinet, which he called a “nest of traitors.”

December 21st, 1894, Mackenzie Bowell sworn in as Prime Minister of Canada after news arrives of the death of John Thompson. This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of Canada, looks at the career of Mackenzie Bowell.

Bowell was born in Rickinghall, Suffolk, England. In 1832 his family emigrated to Belleville, Ontario, where he apprenticed with the printer at the town newspaper, The Belleville Intelligencer. He became a successful printer and editor with that newspaper, and later its owner.

Bowell was first elected to the House of Commons in 1867, as a Conservative, for the riding of North Hastings, Ontario. He held his seat for the Conservatives when they lost the election of January 1874.

Later that year he was instrumental in having Louis Riel expelled from the House. In 1878, with the Conservatives again governing, he joined the cabinet as Minister of Customs.
In December 1894, Prime Minister Sir John Thompson died suddenly and Bowell, as the most senior Cabinet minister, was appointed in Thompson’s place by the Governor General. Bowell thus became the second of just two Canadian Prime Ministers to hold that office while serving in the Senate rather than the House of Commons. (The first was John Abbott.)
Ruling ineffectively over feuding colleagues and without any personal policy initiatives, it was Bowell’s fate to find himself head of a government embroiled in the defence of education rights of Manitoba’s Catholic francophones.

The Manitoba Schools Question gathered force as the symbol of the great divide in Canadian politics between English and French-Canadians and between federal and provincial rights. Bowell’s government could not deal with the crisis. Bowell was finally forced to resign in 1896, handing over the government to Sir Charles Tupper, Macdonald’s old colleague. Sir Mackenzie Bowell died on December 10, 1917.

And that’s this weeks Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada.

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