William Lyon Mackenzie King

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Photo: King sitting on a chair
William Lyon Mackenzie King (1947)

William Lyon Mackenzie King , PC , OM , CMG (born December 17, 1874 in Berlin (now Kitchener) , Ontario , † July 22, 1950 in Kingsmere near Gatineau , Québec ) was a Canadian politician . He is one of the most important politicians in his country in the first half of the 20th century. He was politically active at the federal level for 32 years, including 22 years as Prime Minister . During this time Canada transformed from a semi-colonial dominion of theUnited Kingdom becomes an autonomous state within the Commonwealth . King led the country through the expansive period of the 1920s, the Depression of the 1930s, and World War II .

After a career as a civil servant , he entered politics in 1908. From 1909 to 1911 he was the first labor minister in his country. In 1919 he was elected chairman of the Liberal Party and remained so until 1948. King ruled the country from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926, then from September 25, 1926 to August 6, 1930 and finally from October 23, 1935 until November 14, 1948. With the exception of the last two years in office as head of government, he was also active as foreign minister. No other prime minister in the Commonwealth has been in office longer than him.

He is generally known by his full name or as Mackenzie King . (Mackenzie, his mother's last name, is his middle name and not part of his own last name). The name "William King" is unusual.

Early years

King was born in Berlin (renamed Kitchener in 1916 ) in the province of Ontario. His maternal grandfather was William Lyon Mackenzie , the first mayor of Toronto and leader of the failed Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Mother Isabel Mackenzie was born while he was in exile in the United States . Father John King was a somewhat unsuccessful lawyer who struggled with financial problems as the numerous German immigrants in Berlin preferred German-speaking lawyers. In 1893 the family moved to Toronto; the father was a lecturer at Osgoode Hall Law School but was not called to be a professor.

Photo: King reading a book
While studying at Harvard (1899)

"Willie" King, as he was called in his youth, had two sisters and a brother. He attended elementary school and high school in Berlin, and in 1891 he began to study political science at the University of Toronto . During his studies he obtained five university degrees. He received three of them from the University of Toronto: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1895, Laws Bachelor (LL.B.) in 1896 and Magister Artium (MA) in 1897. In Toronto he met nine of his future ministers, who like him all of them Affiliate of Kappa Alpha Society ; his nickname was Rex . He also made the acquaintance of his future rival Arthur Meighen , but the two men did not get along very well from the start. He started calling himself Mackenzie (after his famous grandfather) and signed with WL Mackenzie King.

After a brief stay at the University of Chicago , King studied at Harvard University and received an MA in economics in 1898 . In 1909 he also received his doctorate (Ph.D.) after he still submitted his doctoral thesis on the situation of workers in the textile industry, which he had written nine years earlier. In the summer of 1899 he was the private tutor of Peter G. Gerry , the future Senator of the US state of Rhode Island . The money he earned enabled him to travel to Europe for several months. So in the spring of 1900 he stayed for two months in the German capital Berlin , where he was doing research for his doctoral thesis.

Professional and political career

King with his parents (1911)

While studying in Toronto, King worked as a journalist for the Toronto Globe newspaper . In 1900 he received from William Mulock , the chairman of the Canadian Federal Post Office, the offer to enter the public service. King has been named vice minister of the newly created Department of Labor. He soon gained a reputation for being a problem solver. Due to his negotiating skills, mediating industrial disputes was one of his most important tasks. King's close friend Henry Albert Harper died in December 1901 while trying to save the daughter of Railroad Secretary Andrew George Blair , who fell while ice skating in the Ottawa River . King then suggested erecting a statue in Harper's honor. The Galahad statue, modeled on him , was unveiled in 1905 at the main entrance to the parliament building. The following year King wrote a heroic biography of Harper.

In 1907, King drafted the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act . This new law stipulated that strikes in public companies or mines had to be postponed until a mediating commission had heard the complaints. In the same year he was commissioned to investigate the consequences of the violence instigated by the Asiatic Exclusion League in Vancouver against the Chinese and Japanese. He also had to examine claims for damages. One of those demands came from Chinese opium traffickers , which prompted King to investigate drug use in Vancouver. When he learned that not only Chinese people consumed opium but also women of European descent, he initiated the process that led to the passage of Canada's first drug illegalization laws.

For the general election in October 1908 , King ran in the constituency of Waterloo North as a candidate for the Liberal Party and moved into the lower house after a narrow victory . In June 1909, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier appointed him the country's first labor minister. According to the electoral law, new ministers had to be re-elected after their appointment. Since there were no opposing candidates, re-election by acclamation was only a matter of form. The September 1911 election ended in defeat for the Liberals, and King also lost his seat.

King (left) with John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1915)

After being voted out of office, King accepted an invitation from the Rockefeller family and worked for the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States . There he headed the newly created department for industrial research. He worked closely with the head of the family, John D. Rockefeller Jr. , and provided advisory services on industrial relations issues. Various circles criticized the fact that King did not volunteer for the First World War . But at the beginning of the war he was already 40 years old and not in the best physical condition, and in retrospect he also proved to be far more useful in coordinating war industries.

King returned to Canada to run in the December 1917 election in the York North constituency in the Toronto agglomeration . The main topic of the election campaign was the introduction of conscription . Here, too, he succumbed, this time because of his refusal of conscription; future conscription was supported by the majority of British Canadians, by the majority of French Canadians but firmly rejected (see Conscription Crisis of 1917 ). King published the book Industry and Humanity: A Study in the Principles Underlying Industrial Reconstruction in 1918 , which received little attention at the time, but set its political goals, which he later set for the most part implemented over the next 30 years. The book is considered to be one of the most important works written by a Canadian statesman.

After Wilfrid Laurier's death, the Liberal Party needed a new leader. For the first time in the party's history, the parliamentary faction did not elect the successor; instead, the election took place at a delegates' assembly. On August 7, 1919, King narrowly prevailed in the fourth ballot, where he could mainly count on the conscription-critical delegates from Québec , who stood united behind him.

After the First World War, Canada was a politically deeply divided country. The Unionist Party of Robert Borden , an uncertain coalition of conservatives and liberals who had supported conscription broke. Workers' unrest broke out in several industrial cities, while farmers, suffering from falling prices and high export tariffs, became radicalized. King tried to bind these discontented people to the Liberal Party by promising tariff cuts and social reforms, but without angering the powerful industrialists. For this reason he wanted to move back into parliament. Since he would have faced a candidate of the new protest movements - United Farmers and Progressive Party - in by-elections in Ontario and Western Canada and would have lost, he was elected in October 1919 in the relatively safe Prince constituency in Prince Edward Island .

First term as Prime Minister (1921–1926)

The country's turmoil became particularly evident in the election in December 1921 . King's Liberal Party became the strongest force, missing an absolute majority by only one seat. However, over half of the Liberal MPs came from Quebec (where they had won in all constituencies), while the party was barely represented in the West. Arthur Meighen's previously ruling Conservatives lost over two-thirds of their seats, dropping to third place. King, who had run again in the constituency of York North , then formed an informal alliance with the second largest faction, the Progressive Party. He secured a majority in the House of Commons and was sworn in as Prime Minister on December 29, 1921. In order to bridge the gap between the language groups, he appointed several French Canadians to important ministerial posts.

Despite lengthy negotiations, King did not succeed in winning the progressives over to join his government. But after the legislative period began, he relied on their support to fend off votes of no confidence by the conservatives. However, this was a balancing act. On the one hand, he had to lower tariffs enough to appease the progressives advocating Western Canada's agriculture. On the other hand, the tariffs could not be dismantled too much, otherwise the populous provinces of Ontario and Québec, the industrial centers of the country, would have withdrawn their support. King and opposition leader Meighen fought incessantly bitter arguments in the House of Commons.

Visit of the Prince of Wales to Ottawa in 1924

As King's tenure continued, the progressives gradually weakened. Its effective and passionate chairman Thomas Crerar resigned and was replaced in November 1922 by the inconspicuous Robert Forke . The socialist reformer James Shaver Woodsworth gained influence and King managed to reach an understanding with him, as the two had similar ideas on numerous issues.

One of King's long-term goals was to steadily increase Canada's independence from Great Britain and to gradually transform the country from a semi-colonial dominion with independent government into an autonomous nation within the British Commonwealth . While Canada unconditionally followed the British motherland during the First World War, the first signs of emancipation appeared during the Chanak crisis in 1922. King refused to provide the British with troops to defend the neutral zone around the Dardanelles in western Turkey without first consulting Parliament . The British government was disappointed with his response, but King saw himself confirmed when the crisis was resolved through negotiations.

Second term and King Byng Affair (1926)

King in 1926

In 1924, the liberal government managed to generate a surplus in the state budget despite some tariff cuts. King was sure the voters would appreciate these efforts, which is why he had Parliament dissolved. But the subsequent election in October 1925 ended in disappointment. The Liberal Party lost seats and fell back to second place behind the revitalized Conservatives (although the latter just missed an absolute majority). King himself was voted out of office in his York North constituency . But instead of resigning and leaving the Conservative Arthur Meighen as prime minister, he formed a minority government with the tolerance of the progressives. In February 1926 King was able to win a lower house mandate again, in a by-election in Prince Albert ( Saskatchewan ).

A few months after the beginning of the legislative period, a corruption scandal was uncovered in the Customs Ministry. The conservatives saw this as an opportunity to win the progressives over to their side. King avoided any debate about what was going on in the Customs Department for as long as possible. However, when after the publication of the investigation report in June 1926 threatened a vote of no confidence , he called on Governor General Lord Byng to dissolve parliament and call for an early election .

Byng refused the request; to date it is the only time in Canadian history that the Governor General has exercised this right. Then King resigned on June 28, 1926 and Byng hired Arthur Meighen to form a government. Just four days later, Meighen's government lost a vote of no confidence in the lower house because numerous progressive MPs were unwilling to cooperate with the conservatives. Byng responded to Meighen's request and still dissolved Parliament.

In an aggressively conducted election campaign, King described what he saw as the very partisan approach of the Governor General as unconstitutional and as inadmissible interference by a British man in Canada's domestic politics. He promised to work towards ensuring that the office of Governor General would in future be occupied by Canadians rather than British lords (in fact, this did not happen until 1952, over a year after King's death). He managed to divert voters' attention away from the corruption scandal and present himself as a defender of Canadian autonomy.

Third term: Canada's growing autonomy (1926–1930)

Reich Conference 1926 in London
Standing v. l. to r .: Walter Stanley Monroe (Newfoundland), Gordon Coates (New Zealand), Stanley Bruce (Australia), Barry Hertzog (South African Union), William Thomas Cosgrave (Irish Free State)
. l. To right: Stanley Baldwin (United Kingdom), King George V , Mackenzie King (Canada)

The September 1926 election resulted in a victory for the Liberal Party. Although their share of the vote was smaller than that of the Conservatives, they won more seats, even if the absolute majority was narrowly missed. This distortion of the majority electoral law came about due to tactically clever electoral alliances that the Liberals had entered into with several smaller parties: In controversial constituencies, only the most promising candidate of the alliance competed against the conservative candidate, so that the opposition was not split up.

Shortly after the election, King went to London for the Imperial Conference , a meeting of the heads of government of the Dominions, where he campaigned for greater autonomy. The final document of the conference, the Balfour Report , for the first time recorded the equality of the Dominions with Great Britain, in keeping with King’s intention. No member of the British Commonwealth , now so called, was superior or subordinate to the others, but was linked by loyalty to the crown. The Westminster Statute , passed in 1931, formally confirmed full legislative independence from the British Parliament . Constitutional amendments were excluded (in the case of Canada until 1982).

The greater autonomy made an independent foreign policy possible. In November 1926, King Vincent Massey was named Canada's first ambassador with full diplomatic status , and the first embassy was opened in Washington, DC . Domestically, King's third term in office was not particularly outstanding; the government was more or less limited to the administration of the country. The only significant new law was the introduction of an old-age pension in 1927. After the Justice Committee of the British Privy Council on the Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General) had finally decided that women may also belong to the Senate , King appointed Cairine Wilson as the first female senator in February 1930 .

The relatively good economic situation in the second half of the 1920s made it possible to cut taxes and reduce the national debt. However, from 1928 the economy began to weaken. When the speculatively overvalued US stock market collapsed on October 24, 1929, Black Thursday , King was unimpressed. He considered the global economic crisis , which was slowly emerging, only for a short period of recession, especially since unemployment did not begin to rise until 1930.

Opposition leader during the Great Depression (1930-1935)

painted election poster: King forges a large chain, the links of which are labeled with the names of the Canadian provinces
Election poster: King as the blacksmith of unity (1930)

In the election campaign leading up to the general election in July 1930 , King insisted on his position that Canada's prosperity was not endangered. He described calls for aid measures as part of a "conservative conspiracy theory". It was the first choice in which radio played an important role. Conservative chairman Richard Bedford Bennett made a far more determined impression on the audience than the more deliberate King. The rural part of Québec, whose agriculture was increasingly struggling, turned its back on the Liberals and the Conservatives managed to gain an absolute majority. King remained in office until August 6, 1930, when he assumed the role of opposition leader.

In the meantime, the effects of the global economic crisis were clearly felt: industrial production fell, agriculture suffered from sharply falling export prices and unemployment rose sharply. Bennett had promised the solution to these problems. But the Conservative prescription, high tariffs and directing trade towards the Commonwealth of Nations, had no effect. Heavy riots and the emergence of numerous protest parties put the conservatives under increasing pressure. Meanwhile, King proved to be an effective opposition leader and was able to position the Liberal Party as the only serious alternative to the incumbent government.

In January 1935 Bennett made a radical change of course and tried to adapt the New Deal of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Canadian conditions. But these measures took effect far too late. The October 1935 election ended in debacle for the Conservative Party, which lost over a third of its electorate to protest parties. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, benefited from the fragmentation and won 173 of the 245 seats in the lower house despite a slight decrease in the voter share. King was sworn in again as Prime Minister on October 23, 1935.

Fourth term: focus on foreign policy (1935-1940)

Conversation with Franklin D. Roosevelt (July 1936)

When King took office again, the worst of the Depression was over, except for the Prairie Provinces , where the Dust Bowl hit agriculture hard. The government implemented aid programs such as the National Housing Program and the National Employment Commission. She founded the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1936 , Trans-Canada Airlines (predecessor of Air Canada ) in 1937 and the National Film Board of Canada in 1939 . In 1938 it put the previously private Bank of Canada under state control, and in 1940 it introduced unemployment insurance.

In response to the occupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, King sent a message to the British government through the Canadian High Commissioner that Canada would remain neutral if Great Britain should declare war on the German Reich because of this incident . During the Imperial Conference in June 1937, when the coronation of George VI. When the Commonwealth Prime Ministers met in London, King informed British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that Canada would only enter the war in a direct attack on Britain; if Britain were to become involved in a war on mainland Europe, he could not count on Canadian support.

Photo: King in the midst of people stretching out their arms in the Hitler salute
King (front left) visits Berlin in 1937

Immediately after the conference, King visited the German Empire. In Berlin he met Hermann Göring and then, as the first and only North American head of government, Adolf Hitler . He wrote about the German Chancellor in his diary: “He really is someone who loves his fellow men and his country and would make any sacrifice for their good.” He predicted that the world would “see Hitler as a great man. (...) I cannot get anything from National Socialism - the paternalism, inhumanity, oppression of the Jews, attitude towards religion etc. - but one day Hitler will be, like Johanna von Orléans, the redeemer of his people. "

King showed an ignorant attitude towards the situation of the Jews . When he met the German Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath in June 1937 , he told King that the Jews had to be removed so that the Germans themselves could determine the fate of their city. King advised him that everyone should try to overcome prejudice and promote goodwill. King later noted in his diary that Neurath was "very nice and pleasant" . This kind of ignorance was also reflected in the attitude of the Canadian government towards accepting Jewish refugees from Europe. In early 1939, King told a Jewish delegation that “Crystal Night” could “possibly turn out to be a blessing.” In June of the same year, the government, in agreement with Cuba and the USA, refused to accept 900 Jewish refugees on board the St. Louis ship . The decision sparked an outcry in the press, and one historian later remarked that King owned "a wind vane where most people have a heart."

During the Sudeten crisis , which first led to the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and finally to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 , King informed the British government that Canada would remain neutral if war should break out over Czechoslovakia . Personally, he was very critical of Chamberlain 's policy of appeasement . He felt that Britain and ultimately the entire Commonwealth would be drawn into a dispute that did not affect them at all.

King with Queen Elizabeth and King George VI. in Banff (May 1939)

To demonstrate the solidarity of the Commonwealth of Nations (and also to counter the strong isolationist tendencies in the Canadian public), King George VI visited. together with his wife Elizabeth in the spring of 1939 Canada. It was the first visit by a reigning monarch to this country. The Prime Minister accompanied the royal couple during the extended trip through several provinces. When the King personally received and accepted the letter of appointment for the new Canadian Ambassador to the USA in Rideau Hall , he officially declared that the Westminster Statute stipulates that the Canadian monarchy is legally separate from the British.

King recognized the inevitability of World War II before the German invasion of Poland and began mobilizing on August 25, 1939. But unlike during the First World War, when Canada automatically became a war party when Great Britain entered the war, he waited for a vote in the House of Commons on September 10, 1939 before declaring war - a whole week after Great Britain. In doing so, he explicitly emphasized Canada's foreign policy independence; In addition, he was able to circumvent the then still valid US arms export ban to warring states for a few days (a measure that became obsolete with the lifting of the embargo in November 1939).

Fifth term: Canada in World War II (1940–1945)

In the run-up to World War II, King pursued a double strategy domestically. On the one hand, he promised the Anglo Canadians that Canada would undoubtedly go to war if Britain did. On the other hand, he assured the French Canadians that Canada would only enter the war if it was in its own interest. Ernest Lapointe , King's Special Advisor for Québec, also gave the French Canadians an assurance that conscription would not be introduced and that military service would remain voluntary. Thus, King slowly prepared the country for entry into the war without creating a conflict between the two major language groups.

King casts his vote in the conscription referendum

King's promise not to introduce conscription contributed to the defeat of Maurice Duplessis' isolationist Union nationale in Québec's provincial election in 1939 . It also secured the victory of the Liberals in the general election in March 1940 , who were able to increase their majority a little. After France surrendered in June 1940, the government introduced compulsory military service for domestic service, while only volunteers were sent overseas. King tried to avoid a repetition of the conscription crisis of 1917 . But in 1942, after the loss of two battalions in Hong Kong , the military put great pressure on King to send conscripts to theaters of war overseas. For example, on April 27, 1942, he had a referendum held on the subject , in which he asked the nation to release the government from its election promise. Kings campaign was under a motto that his ambivalence symbolized aptly: "conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription" ( conscription if Necessary, but not Necessarily conscription ).

The French Canadians overwhelmingly voted against the expansion of conscription, but the Anglo-Canadians were equally in favor, giving a majority of 64.5%. A few hundred conscripts were sent to the Battle of the Aleutians in 1943 - the Aleutians are in North America, which is why this operation was not considered an “overseas operation” from a legal point of view - but the Japanese had already withdrawn when they arrived. Otherwise, King tried to get around the issue of conscription as much as possible by running a massive volunteer recruitment campaign. After heavy losses in the attack on Dieppe in 1942, the invasion of Italy in 1943 and the Battle of Normandy in 1944, Defense Secretary James Ralston came to the conclusion that the only way to compensate for the losses was to send conscripts to Europe. When some ministers critical of conscription threatened to resign, Ralston was replaced by General Andrew McNaughton in November 1944 (see also the conscription crisis of 1944 ). The war ended a few months later, so that only about 2500 conscripts reached the European theaters of war. Through his persistent hesitation, King achieved that the French Canadians ultimately (if only very reluctantly) supported conscription and thus avoided a split in the country.

Quadrant Conference 1943:
V. l. To the right: WL Mackenzie King, Franklin D. Roosevelt , Winston Churchill , Governor General Lord Athlone
King and actress Shirley Temple at an event in Ottawa (October 1944)

Canada made a comparatively large contribution to the Allied war effort, but both US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill viewed King as a marginal political figure. From September 1939 to December 1941 King acted as a liaison between the two countries, but his position became superfluous after the United States declared war. His most important contribution to war diplomacy was in June 1940 drawing up a plan to take on a possible British government in exile and transfer the British fleet to Canada. In August 1943, he hosted the Quadrant Conference in Quebec City .

After the attack on Pearl Harbor , the Japanese-born Canadians ( Nisei ) living on the west coast were seen as a threat to the country's security. Although senior officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the military were convinced that they posed no threat, the federal government gave in to growing public pressure in the province of British Columbia and that of Minister Ian Mackenzie . She drove around 22,000 people from their homes on the coast and sent them to internment camps and shack villages inland, on the grounds of reducing the threat allegedly posed by Japanese spies. Their possessions were confiscated and auctioned off at below market value while the Navy sank hundreds of fishing boats. After the end of the war, the federal government decided to deport the Nisei . Only after 4,000 had been transferred to Japan did she stop deportations in the face of massive protests. Most of the Nisei moved to provinces further east. It was not until 1949 that they were given full right of residence again, and it was not until 1988 that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized (combined with financial compensation).

During the war, King's government significantly expanded the responsibilities of the National Research Council . The state research authority turned increasingly to nuclear physics and the commercial use of nuclear energy . On the advice of Energy Minister CD Howe , King ordered the transfer of nuclear research from Montreal to Chalk River in Ontario in 1940, as well as the construction of the Chalk River Laboratories and the planned city of Deep River . Canada became one of the leading countries in the field of nuclear research; commissioned in 1947, the NRX reactor was for a short time the only nuclear reactor outside the United States.

Sixth term and resignation (1945–1950)

The end of the war presented the government with new challenges. She feared that the decline in military industrial production and the return of nearly a million soldiers to civilian life would drag the country into recession. To face the growing competition from the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the Liberal Party slipped to the left. In the spirit of Keynesianism , she advocated increased government spending to create urgently needed jobs; further social measures should stimulate consumption. In the June 1945 election, the Liberals lost more than 11 percent of the vote and over a third of their seats, but because of the fragmentation of the opposition they remained the strongest force and only narrowly missed the absolute majority of seats. King lost to the CCF candidate in Prince Albert. Thereupon the MP for the constituency of Glengarry in Ontario gave up his seat in favor of Kings, who decided the by-election on August 6, 1945 for himself.

Together with Lester Pearson , the ambassador to the United States at the time, King attended the San Francisco Conference, the founding assembly of the United Nations . He judged the future possibilities of the organization rather pessimistic and largely left the direction of the delegation to Pearson. When Igor Gusenko , a cryptographer at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, defected and helped uncover a spy ring in September 1945 , the government was confronted with the beginning of the Cold War . King did not want to be drawn into the case because he still viewed the Soviet Union as an ally, but Undersecretary Norman Robertson defied the Prime Minister's request and granted Gouzenko and his wife asylum. King felt increasingly overwhelmed by foreign policy and the increasingly complex international relations: In September 1946 he handed over the post of foreign minister, which he had previously held alongside his work as prime minister, to Louis Saint-Laurent .

Photo: Delegation in front of a large map of Canada
Negotiations for the admission of Newfoundland (June 1947)

In 1946 the federal government enacted the Canadian Citizenship Act , which came into effect on January 1, 1947. The new law explicitly defined Canadian citizenship for the first time. Previously, Canadians were legally considered British nationals living in Canada. On January 3, 1947, King received Citizenship Certificate No. 0001 in the Supreme Court . The most important domestic political issue of the post-war period was the negotiations on the admission of Newfoundland to the Canadian Confederation . Newfoundland did not join the new Canadian state in 1867, initially remained a British colony and became an independent Dominion in 1907 . Due to a severe economic and political crisis, Newfoundland was returned to direct British control in 1934. After the war, a political process began that finally led to negotiations with the Canadian government in 1947. In two referendums in June and July 1948, 52% of the population of Newfoundland voted in favor of joining Canada; this took place on March 31, 1949.

The workload had an increasingly negative impact on King's health. In May 1948 he informed Louis Saint-Laurent that he would no longer run in the next election. On August 7, 1948, he resigned as chairman of the Liberal Party, and on November 14 as prime minister. Saint-Laurent took over both offices from him.

In total, King had been a member of the House of Commons for 32 years, including 22 years as head of government. He had planned to write his memoirs, but rarely got around for health reasons. On July 22, 1950, he died 75-year-old at his country estate northwest of Ottawa at a pneumonia . He was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

Private life

Most of the information about King's personal life is taken from his diaries, which range from 1893 to his death in 1950. CP Stacey, one of his biographers, called these diaries “the most important political document in the history of Canada in the 20th century” because they not only give a unique insight into his world of thought, but also describe in detail his political considerations and motivations during the Second World War .

King was seen as a cautious politician who often based his policies on prevailing opinions and was careful to seek compromises whenever possible. “Parliament will decide,” he used to say when urged to act. In contrast to the rather staid public image, his private life was sometimes eccentric. King interviewed spirits, including those of Leonardo da Vinci , Wilfrid Laurier , his dead mother, and several of his Irish Terrier dogs, all of whom were called "Pat". He also communicated with the ghost of his close friend Franklin D. Roosevelt . In many situations he sought confirmation from them that the hereafter was watching over him. But politics was almost never an issue at the séances , as he trusted his own analyzes much more in this area. In fact, after his death, one medium said she did not know he was a politician. King's interest in the occult remained largely hidden during his years in office and only became known to a broader public in the 1970s after his diaries were evaluated.

King never married, but he had several close friends. Among them was the married Mary Joan Patteson, with whom he often spent his free time. Some historians have interpreted passages in his diaries to mean that he had regular sexual contact with prostitutes . Others interpreted the same passages to mean that he was secretly in love with Lord Tweedsmuir , whom he had proposed as Governor General in 1935 .

The Farm , King's last residence

His greatest passion was nature. In 1903 he bought a small piece of land at Lac Kingsmere, a lake about 14 km northwest of Ottawa in the province of Québec. He had a summer house built there and over the years his country estate, known as Kingswood , expanded to 231 hectares. He spent almost every summer in this almost pristine area, doing landscaping. In 1928 he moved into the neighboring Cottage Moorside , where he received guests like Winston Churchill and Charles Lindbergh , built romantic artificial ruins and laid out forest paths. Also in the immediate vicinity he bought a farmhouse in 1927 and expanded it into his permanent residence in 1943; there he died in 1950. King's residence in the capital Ottawa was from 1923 the Laurier House , in which his predecessor Wilfrid Laurier had lived. King bequeathed the house to his widow, which he renovated and refurbished with financial support from fellow party members.


The face of William Lyon Mackenzie King adorns the front of the current $ 50 bill; the reverse shows events in Canada's human rights history. The banknote is part of a series that was circulated between 2001 and 2004. The other notes in this series show Wilfrid Laurier ($ 5), John Macdonald ($ 10), Queen Elizabeth II ($ 20) and Robert Borden ($ 100).

Statue on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

In his will, King bequeathed his Kingsmere estate to the Canadian people. Much of it has been opened to the public as the Mackenzie King Estate . It is located in Gatineau Park , a 363 km² nature reserve near Gatineau . King's last residence, The Farm, is now the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons. A Victorian house in Kitchener , in which King's family lived from 1886 to 1893, is listed along with the 4.65 acre allotment as Woodside National Historic Site . According to King's will, the Laurier House town residence also came into the possession of all Canadians and has been open to visitors since 1951.

The 5048 km² Mackenzie King Island , which belongs to the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is named after him . The polar explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson discovered it in 1915, but it was not recognized until 1947 as an island separate from Borden Island and was later named after the Prime Minister. Statues of Mackenzie King can be found in Kitchener, his hometown, and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

A branch of the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin-Schmargendorf , which had been used until then after the occupation of Germany , was initially captured by the Canadian armed forces in 1945 and renamed Mackenzie King Barracks . A little later, the British Armed Forces took over the property and used it until 1951. It kept its name over the entire period.


King's life is the subject of the fictional and surrealist biopic The Twentieth Century , released in 2020 . Directed by Matthew Rankin , the role kings was taken on by Dan Beirne .

See also

Works by Mackenzie King

  • Industry and humanity: A study in the principles underlying industrial reconstruction . University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1918. ISBN 0-8020-6174-5 (1973 reissue)
  • Canada and the fight for freedom. Macmillan Co. of Canada, Toronto 1944
  • Canada at Britain's side. Macmillan Co. of Canada, Toronto 1941
  • The secret of heroism: A memoir of Henry Albert Harper . FH Revell Co., Toronto 1906


Web links

Commons : William Lyon Mackenzie King  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ferns, Ostry, p. 105
  2. Mackenzie King Slept Here: Newport, Rhode Island ( December 19, 2010 memento in the Internet Archive ), Mackenzie King's Diary, Library and Archives Canada
  3. a b c d Mackenzie King in Berlin ( Memento from October 31, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), Mackenzie King's diary, Library and Archives Canada
  4. H. Blair Neatby: Harper, Henry Albert . In: Dictionary of Canadian Biography . tape 13: 1901-1910 . University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1994, ISBN 0-8020-3998-7 ( English , French ).
  5. Hutchison, pp. 28-33
  6. ^ M. Green: A History of Narcotics Control: The Formative Years , University of Toronto Law Review, 1979, p. 37.
  7. Hutchison, p. 34
  8. Hutchison, pp. 34-35
  9. Hutchison, pp. 38-44
  10. Hutchison, pp. 66-76
  11. Hutchison, pp. 76-78
  12. Div. Authors: Canada, A Nation Unfolding. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Whitby 1994. ISBN 0-07-552662-X .
  13. ^ King-Byng Affair , Canadian Encyclopedia
  14. Minutes of the imperial conference 1926 (Balfour report) (PDF; 81 kB)
  15. ^ Text of the Statute of Westminster
  16. ^ A b P. B. Waite: Bennett, Richard Bedford, 1st Viscount Bennett . In: Dictionary of Canadian Biography . tape 17: 1941-1950 . University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2016 ( English , French ).
  17. Who we are ( Memento December 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), Bank of Canada
  18. ^ JT Emmerson: The Rhineland Crisis 7 March 1936: A Study in Multilateral Diplomacy (p. 144). Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa 1977.
  19. Keith Middlemas: Diplomacy of Illusion (pp. 21-23). Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London 1972.
  20. None Is Too Many: A Cause For Canadians To Repent ( Memento from December 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  21. ^ Valerie Knowles: Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy , Dundurn, Toronto 1997.
  22. ^ Will Ferguson: Bastards and Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders Past and Present , Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver 1999, p. 168.
  23. ^ Erik Goldstein, Igor Lukes: The Munich Crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II , Routledge, New York 1999, pp. 320-325. ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 .
  24. ^ William Galbraith: Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1939 Royal Visit ( Memento of March 26, 2005 in the Internet Archive ), Canadian Parliamentary Review 12 (3), 1989.
  25. ^ Conscription if necessary ... , everything2.com
  26. ^ Foreign relations of the United States. Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943 , United States Department of State
  27. ^ Japanese Internment , CBC History
  28. ^ Robert Bothwell: Nucleus: The History of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited , University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1988.
  29. ^ Amy Knight: How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies , Carroll & Graf, New York 2006. ISBN 0-7867-1816-1 .
  30. ^ The first officially Canadian citizens , CBC Archives
  31. ^ Newfoundland Joins Canada (1946-1949) , Newfoundland History, Marianopolis College
  32. Stacey, p. 9
  33. Stacey, p. 194
  34. Ian Jarvis, David Collins: Willie: Canada's Bachelor Prime Minister. Butterfly Productions, Toronto 1992.
  35. ^ Page no longer available , search in web archives: Mackenzie King Estate , National Capital Commission@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.capitaleducanada.gc.ca
  36. a b Laurier House National Historic Site ( Memento of 21 December 2007 at the Internet Archive ), Parks Canada
  37. 1935 series ( Memento from May 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  38. ^ The Farm ( Memento December 28, 2012 on the Internet Archive ), National Capital Commission
  39. Woodside National Historic Site ( Memento of 28 September 2006 at the Internet Archive ), Parks Canada
  40. ^ Additional Information , Parliament of Canada
  41. Mackenzie King Barracks. BAOR locations, accessed on March 27, 2018 .
  42. Carsten Schanz: The mysterious barracks . In: GUARD REPORT . Issue 78 (March 2018). Berlin, S. 1-4 .