Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

Biographies of Prominent Quebec and Canadian

Historical Figures

John Wesley Dafoe




Damien-Claude Bélanger,

Department of History,

McGill University

Journalist, was born at Combermere, Canada West. Educated locally, he joined the staff of the Montreal Daily Herald in 1883 and was appointed the paper's parliamentary reporter a year later. In 1885 he became the founding editor of the Ottawa Evening Journal . He left the Evening Journal the following year to join the staff of the Manitoba (later Winnipeg) Free Press. In 1892 he would return east and spend the next several years at the Montreal Herald and at the Montreal Star. He returned to the Free Press in 1901 and would remain its editor until his death in 1944. He attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as a representative of the Canadian press and participated in the founding of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs in 1928. Elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1926, Dafoe had previously declined a knighthood. He was a chancellor of the University of Manitoba from 1934 to 1944 and served as a member of the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations in 1939-1940. John W. Dafoe was perhaps the most influential English Canadian journalist of his time. A staunch liberal, he was a strong supporter of reciprocity and Canadian autonomy. The essence of his thought can be found in the series of lectures he gave at New York's Columbia University in 1934. Later published under the evocative title of Canada: An American Nation (1935), they constitute a syllabus of Canadian continentalism. Dafoe was a regular participant in the biennial conferences on Canadian-American relations organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace between 1935 and 1941. Dafoe was a supporter of the Union Government and of conscription in 1917, breaking with Wilfrid Laurier on these points. He had much to write about Quebec and, at times, engaged in debate with some of the province's leading journalists. In response to O. D. Skelton's admiring Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, he wrote a critical analysis of the career of Wilfrid Laurier (Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics) in which he presented Laurier as a mixture of Machiavelli and Sir Galahad.




© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College