Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

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


William Stevens Fielding


Fielding, William Stevens (1848-1929), finance minister of Canada (1896-1911 and 1921-5), was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on November 24, 1848, the son of Charles Fielding. He was educated at Halifax, and in 1864 he entered the office of the Halifax Morning Chronicle. He was on the staff of this paper for twenty years, and became its managing editor. From 1882 to 1896 he represented Halifax in the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, and from 1884 to 1896 he was Liberal prime minister of the province. In 1896 he deserted the provincial arena to become minister of finance in the Dominion government formed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier; and from 1896 to 1911 he held the portfolio of finance in this government, representing Shelburne and Queens in the House of Commons. In 1910-11 he played a leading part in the negotiations for reciprocity in trade with the United States ; and in the general elections of 1911 he was defeated. In 1917 he broke with Sir Wilfrid Laurier over the question of compulsory military service, and in the elections of that year he was returned to the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal Unionist. He did not enter the Unionist cabinet formed by Sir Robert Borden; but he gave it a general support. At the end of the war, he reverted to the Liberal party; and after the death of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1919, he was a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal party, but his age and the desertion of the party in 1917 told against him, and he failed to gain a majority of votes in the Liberal convention of 1920. In 1921, however, he again took office as finance minister in the Mackenzie King government, and he retained this portfolio until 1925, when he retired on an annuity voted him by parliament. He died at Ottawa on June 23, 1929 . In 1876 he married Hester, dauther of Thomas A. Rankine of St. John , New Brunswick ; and by her he had one son and four dauthers. He was created an imperial privy councillor in 1923; he was a D.C.L..of Acadia University and an LL.D. of Queen's, McGill, Dalhousie, and McMaster Universities . See B. Russell, Recollections of W. S. Fielding (Dalhousie Review, 1929).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II. Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 332-333.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College