Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Sir Oliver Mowat liked to refer to himself as a "Christian statesman". And this was the attitude that dominated his political career, one of the longest and most important in Canada's history.

He was born in Kingston, Ont., July 22, 1820, to parents who had come from Scotland. In 1841, he was called to the bar of Upper Canada and started practice in his home town. In 1857 he entered the legislative assembly of Canada as a Liberal member for South Ontario. Within a year he had become provincial secretary. In 1863 and 1864 he was postmaster-general but resigned to take the judicial post of vice-chancellor of Upper Canada. When Edward Blake resigned as premier of Ontario in 1872, Mowat took office as premier and was elected to the legislature for North Oxford.

 In his long term of office - until 1896 - he proved a steady thorn in the side of Sir John A. Macdonald over the matter of provincial rights. Privy Council decisions upheld most of Mowat's claims, notably in the case of the Ontario-Manitoba boundary dispute. In 1896, Mowat, who had been knighted in 1892, joined Sir Wilfred Laurier's "ministry of all talents" holding the justice portfolio. The work load was too heavy however, and Sir Oliver resigned in 1897 to take the largely ceremonial office of lieutenant-governor of Ontario. He died at Toronto April 19, 1903.