Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Sir Charles Tupper

Prime Minister of Canada (1896)



Tupper, Sir Charles, Bart. (18211915), prime minister of Canada (1896), was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, on July 2, 1821, the son of the Rev. Charles Tupper and Miriam Lockhart. He was educated at Horton Academy , Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and he studied medicine at Edinburgh University (M.D., 1843). He obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843; and on his return to Nova Scotia, he practised medicine in his native town. From 1855 to 1867 he represented Cumberland in the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia; from 1856 to 1860 he was provincial secretary in the Johnston government; and from 1864 to 1867 he was prime minister of Nova Scotia . He took a leading part in the Confederation movement, was a delegate to the Charlottetown, Quebec, and London conferences, and replied to the anti-confederation campaign of Joseph Howe in his Letter to the Earl of Carnarvon (London, 1866). It was mainly through his efforts that Nova Scotia was brought into the union of 1867.


From 1867 to 1884 he represented Cumberland in the Canadian House of Commons. But in the first government of the Dominion he was not included, having stood aside, with T. D'Arcy McGee, in order to make way for Edward Kenny, a Roman Catholic from Nova Scotia . In 1868 he was instrumental in defeating the attempts of the anti-confederationists in Nova Scotia to obtain repeal of the union, and in persuading Joseph Howe to enter the government. In 1870 he himself entered the cabinet as president of the council; and in 1872 and 1873 he held the portfolios of minister of inland revenue, and minister of customs. From 1873 to 1878 he was the right-hand man of Sir John Macdonald, while in opposition; and when the Conservatives were returned to power in 1878, he became minister of public works. From 1879 to 1884 he was minister of railways and canals, and as such had supervision of the arrangements for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1883 he was appointed high commissioner for Canada in London ; and, apart from a period of sixteen months in 1887-8, during which he held the portfolio of minister of finance in the Macdonald government, he retained the high commissioriership until 1896. He was then recalled to Canada, and assumed the leadership of the Conservative party, shortly before the general elections of that year. Not even his dauntless energy, however, sufficed to revive the fallen fortunes of the party, and he was defeated at the polls after only six months' tenure of office. From 1896 to 1900 he led the Conservative opposition in the Canadian House of Commons; but in the general elections of 1900 he was defeated in Cape Breton, and he thereupon retired to private life.


He died at Bexley Heath, Kent, England, on October 30, 1915, the last of the "Fathers of Confederation" to pass away. In 1846 he married Frances Amelia (d. 1912), daughter of Silas Hibbert Morse, of Amherst, Nova Scotia ; and by her he had three sons and three daughters. He was created a C.B. in 1867, a K.C.M.G. in 1879, a G.C.M.G. in 1886, and a baronet of the United Kingdom in 1888. He was also an LL.D. of Acadia College, of Cambridge University, and of Edinburgh University. Just before his death he published his Recollections of sixty years ( London, 1914).


See E. M. Saunders, The life and letters of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper, Bart. (2 vols., London , 1916; supplement ed. by Sir C. H. Tupper, Toronto, 1926); W. A. Harkin (ed.), Political reminiscences of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper, Bart. (London, 1914); J. W. Longley, Sir Charles Tupper (Toronto, 1917); and C. Thibault, Biography of Sir Charles Tupper (Montreal, 1883).


Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., "Sir Charles Tupper, Bart.," The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. VI, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., pp. 178-179.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College