Andrew Bonar Law

Infobox Prime Minister
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable

name = Andrew Bonar Law
honorific-suffix =

caption =
office = Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
term_start = 23 October 1922
term_end = 22 May 1923
monarch = George V
predecessor = David Lloyd George
successor = Stanley Baldwin
office2 =Chancellor of the Exchequer
term_start2 = 10 December 1916
term_end2 = 10 January 1919
primeminister2 =David Lloyd George
predecessor2 = Reginald McKenna
successor2 = Austen Chamberlain
birth_date = Birth date|1858|9|16|df=yes
birth_place = Rexton, New Brunswick, Canada
death_date = death date and age|1923|10|30|1858|9|16|df=y
death_place = London, United Kingdom
nationality = British
spouse = Annie Pitcairn Robley
party = Conservative
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater = University of Glasgow, United Kingdom (night classes)
occupation =
profession = Banker
religion = Presbyterian

website =
footnotes =

Andrew Bonar Law (16 September 1858 – 30 October 1923) was a Canadian-born British Conservative Party statesman and Prime Minister. He is the only British Prime Minister to have been born outside the United Kingdom.

Early life

Of Ulster Scots and Scottish descent, Andrew Bonar Law was born in Rexton, a small village in eastern New Brunswick, Canada. He was the son of the Reverend James Law of Portrush, County Antrim and Annie Kidston, who belonged to a Glaswegian banking family. [cite book |last=Allen |first=Sam |title=To Ulster's Credit |year=1985 |pages=pp. 116 |location=Killinchy, UK ] In 1860, Law's mother died in childbirth. He worked as a boy on his father's smallholding and for some years after his mother’s death he was in the care of his maternal aunt, Janet Kidston, who lived in her brother-in-law's household until his remarriage, when she decided to return to her native Scotland. She suggested that it might be to her nephew's advantage if she were to take him back to Scotland with her, where he would receive a good education, as the Kidstons were a much wealthier and better connected family than the Laws.

At the age of 12, Law left to live with his late mother's three male cousins, who were rich merchant bankers in Glasgow. As they were all either unmarried or childless, they saw him as a substitute son and heir. He was educated at Gilbertfield School in Hamilton (1870-1873), and then at Glasgow High School (1873-1875).

The Kidstons did not wish him to continue to university, and so at the age of 16 he was employed in the offices of their bank. He did later attend night classes at the University of Glasgow, which gave him an interest in politics and debating. At some time during his life time he lived in the presbyterian Manse on Abbey Street in Coleraine, County Londonderry, belonging to 1st Coleraine Presbyterian Church.

He read voraciously, but had a particular fondness for Dickens, Carlyle, Disraeli and Gibbon. He also became a very able chess player.

Bonar Law's business career went from strength to strength, and well before he was thirty, he had acquired the reputation of a shrewd man of business, who drove others hard but himself far harder. In 1885, he purchased a partnership in William Jacks & Co., a Glasgow firm concerned in the financing of the iron trade. In 1890, at the age of thirty-two, Bonar Law, already a settled and successful man, became engaged to Annie Robley, whom he married in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire on 24 March 1891.

The marriage was to prove very happy and they had seven children, although the first was stillborn. Law’s interest in politics had grown stronger as the 1890s went by, and after he inherited a very large sum on the death of one of the Kidstons, he was able to consider running for Parliament. One of Law's children, Isabel H. Law, married Major General Sir Frederick Sykes, the military commander, politician and statesman. Two of his sons were killed in World War I - Charles Law with the King's Own Scottish Borderers at the Battle of Gaza on 1917 and James Law with the Royal Flying Corps, shot down over the Western Front also in 1917. His youngest son was Richard Law, 1st Baron Coleraine.


He was elected to Parliament for Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown as a Conservative in 1900. He associated himself with the Protectionist wing of the party led by Joseph Chamberlain, and after Chamberlain withdrew from politics in 1906, Law came to lead that wing of the party along with Chamberlain's son, Austen. He had a reputation for honesty and fearlessness, and was well regarded as an effective speaker. These qualities helped him to be appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in 1902.

He lost his seat to future Labour leader George Nicoll Barnes in the anti-Conservative landslide 1906 General Election, but he returned to represent Dulwich at a by-election later that year. Though hit hard by the death of his wife, he continued his political career; after leaving the House of Commons at the December 1910 election, he returned as MP for Bootle at a by-election in 1911.

Conservative Leader

Arthur Balfour resigned the leadership of the Conservative Party (known at that time, following the formal merger with the Liberal Unionists, and until Irish Independence in the early 1920s, as "the Unionist Party") in 1911 amid widespread dissatisfaction with his actions over the Parliament Act, which had eliminated the veto of the House of Lords. Following a deadlock between Austen Chamberlain and Walter Long, the two candidates agreed to stand down in favour of Bonar Law, who became Leader as a compromise candidate. Law's closest associate was his fellow Canadian (and New Brunswicker), newspaper mogul William Maxwell Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook). In the years prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Law focused most of his attention on the tariff issue and on Irish Home Rule. Now that the House of Lords had lost its power to veto legislation, the latter had become inevitable, but along with much of his party Bonar Law furiously opposed the Liberals' plans to coerce the Ulster Protestants into a Home Rule Ireland; at a time when the latter were moving towards armed resistance, Bonar Law said that "there were no lengths" to which Ulster could go and not receive his support.

The Great War

He entered the coalition government as Colonial Secretary in 1915, his first senior Cabinet post, and, following the resignation of Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Herbert Asquith, was invited by King George V to form a government, but he deferred to Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War and former Minister of Munitions, who he believed was better placed to lead a coalition ministry. He served in Lloyd George's War Cabinet, first as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. His promotion reflected the great mutual trust between both leaders and made for a well co-ordinated political partnership; their coalition was re-elected by a landslide following the Armistice. Law's two eldest sons were both killed whilst fighting in the war. In the 1918 General Election, Law returned to Glasgow and was elected as member for Glasgow Central.

Post War and Prime Minister

At war's end, he gave up the Exchequer for the less demanding sinecure office of Lord Privy Seal, but remained Leader of the Commons. In 1921, ill health forced his resignation as Conservative leader and Leader of the Commons in favour of Austen Chamberlain. His departure weakened the hardliners in the cabinet who were opposed to negotiating with the IRA, and the Anglo-Irish War ended in the summer.

By 1921-2 the coalition had become embroiled in an air of moral and financial (eg. the sale of honours) corruption. Besides the recent Irish Treaty and Edwin Montagu's moves towards greater self-government for India, both of which dismayed rank-and-file Conservative opinion, the government's willingness to intervene against the Bolshevik regime in Russia also seemed out of step with the new and more pacifist mood. A sharp slump in 1921 and a wave of strikes in the coal and railway industries also added to the government's unpopularity, as did the apparent failure of the Genoa Conference, which ended in an apparent rapprochement between Germany and Soviet Russia. In other words, it was no longer the case that Lloyd George was an electoral asset to the Conservative Party.

Lloyd George, Birkenhead and Winston Churchill (still distrusted by many Conservatives) wished to use armed force against Turkey (the Chanak Crisis), but had to back down when offered support only by New Zealand, but not Canada, Australia or South Africa; an anonymous letter appeared in "The Times" supporting the government but stating that Britain could not "act as the policeman for the world", and it was an open secret that the author, "A Colonial", was in fact Bonar Law. At a famous meeting at the Carlton Club Conservative backbenchers, led by the President of the Board of Trade Stanley Baldwin and influenced by the recent Newport by-election which was won by a Conservative standing against the Coalition, voted to end the Lloyd George Coalition and fight the next election as an independent party. Austen Chamberlain resigned as Party Leader, Lloyd George resigned as Prime Minister and Bonar Law returned on 23 October 1922 in both jobs.

Many leading Conservatives (eg. Birkenhead, Arthur Balfour, Austen Chamberlain, Robert Horne) were not members of the new Cabinet, which was contemptuously referred to as "the Second Eleven". Although the Coalition Conservatives numbered no more than thirty, they hoped to dominate any future Coalition government in the same way that the similarly-sized Peelite group had dominated the Coalition Government of 1852-5 - an analogy much used at the time.

Parliament was immediately dissolved, and a General Election ensued. Besides the two Conservative factions, Labour were fighting as a major national party for the first time and indeed became the main Opposition after the election; the Liberals were still split into Asquith and Lloyd George factions, with many Lloyd George Liberals still unopposed by Conservative candidates (including Churchill, who was defeated at Dundee nonetheless). Despite the confused political arena the Conservatives were re-elected with a comfortable majority.

Questions were raised about whether the elderly Conservative Party Treasurer, Lord Farquhar, had passed on to Lloyd George (who during his premiership had amassed a large fund, largely from the sale of honours) any money intended for the Conservative Party. The Coalition Conservatives also hoped to obtain Conservative Party money from Farquar. Bonar Law found Farquar too "gaga" to properly explain what had happened, and dismissed him.

One of the questions which taxed Bonar Law's brief government was that of inter-Allied war debts. Britain owed money to the USA, and in turn was owed four times as much money by France, Italy and the other Allied powers, although under the Lloyd George government Balfour had promised that Britain would collect no more money from other Allies than she was required to repay the USA; the debt was hard to repay as trade (exports were needed to earn foreign currency) had not returned to prewar levels. On a trip to the USA Stanley Baldwin, the inexperienced Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreed to repay £40 million per annum to the USA rather than the £25 million which the British government had thought feasible, and on his return announced the deal to the press when his ship docked at Southampton, before the Cabinet had had a chance to consider it. Bonar Law contemplated resignation, and after being talked out of it by senior ministers, once again vented his feelings in an anonymous letter to "The Times".

Resigns due to ill health, dies later that year

Bonar Law was soon diagnosed with terminal throat cancer and, no longer physically able to speak in Parliament, resigned on 22 May 1923. George V sent for Baldwin, whom Bonar Law is rumoured to have favoured over Lord Curzon. However Law did not offer any advice to the King.Alan Clark, "The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998) page 25 ISBN 0-75380-765-3] Bonar Law died later that same year in London at the age of 65.

Bonar Law's estate was probated at £35,736.

Bonar Law was the shortest serving PM of the twentieth century. He is often referred to as "the unknown Prime Minister", not least because of a biography of that title by Robert Blake; the name comes from a remark by Asquith at Bonar Law's funeral, that they were burying the Unknown Prime Minister next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

He is also the only British Prime Minister to have been born outside the British Isles.

A tiny hamlet (unincorporated village) named Bonarlaw is named after the British Prime Minister. It was formerly known as "Big Springs" and then "Bellview" and is located in the municipality of Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario, Canada.

Bonar Law's Government, October 1922 - May 1923

"For a full list of Ministerial office holders, see Conservative Government 1922-1924"
*Andrew Bonar Law - Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
*Lord Cave - Lord Chancellor
*Lord Salisbury - Lord President of the Council and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
*Stanley Baldwin - Chancellor of the Exchequer
*William Clive Bridgeman - Secretary of State for the Home Department
*Lord Curzon of Kedleston - Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the House of Lords
*The Duke of Devonshire - Secretary of State for the Colonies
*Lord Derby - Secretary of State for War
*Lord Peel - Secretary of State for India
*Lord Novar - Secretary for Scotland
*Leo Amery - First Lord of the Admiralty
*Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame - President of the Board of Trade
*Sir Robert Sanders - Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
*Edward Frederick Lindley Wood - President of the Board of Education
*Sir Montague Barlow - Minister of Labour
*Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen - Minister of Health


*April 1923 - Griffith-Boscawen resigns as Minister of Health after losing his seat and is succeeded by Neville Chamberlain.



*Adams, R. J. Q. "Bonar Law", London: John Murray, 1999. ISBN 0-7195-5422-5
*Blake, Robert "The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923", London: 1955.
*Smith, Jeremy "Bluff, Bluster and Brinkmanship: Andrew Bonar Law and the Third Home Rule Bill" pages 161-178 from "Historical Journal", Volume 36, Issue #1, 1993.
*Deane, Ciarán "The Guinness Book of Irish Facts & Feats". Guinness Publishing 1994 ISBN 0851127932

Popular Culture

Bonar Law plays a supporting, if off-screen role in Upstairs, Downstairs. He is even said to have recommended family patriarch, Richard Bellamy, to be offered a seat in the peerage.

External links

* [ More about Andrew Bonar Law] on the Downing Street website.
* ['BL'&dsqCmd=Show.tcl The Bonar Law Papers] at the UK Parliamentary ArchivesPersondata
NAME=Law, Andrew Bonar
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
DATE OF BIRTH=16 September 1858
PLACE OF BIRTH=Rexton, New Brunswick, Canada
DATE OF DEATH=30 October 1923
PLACE OF DEATH=London, England

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Andrew Bonar Law — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Andrew Bonar Law Andrew Bonar Law …   Wikipedia Español

  • Andrew Bonar Law — (* 16. September 1858 in Kingston, New Brunswick, Kanada; † 30. Oktober 1923 in London, England) war ein britischer Politiker und Premierminister. Er gehörte der Conservative Party …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Andrew Bonar Law — Mandats 54e Premier ministre du Royaume Uni 23  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bonar Law —   [ bəʊnə lɔː], Andrew, britischer Politiker, Law, Andrew Bonar …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Law, (Andrew)Bonar — Law, (Andrew) Bonar. 1858 1923. Canadian born British politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1916 1918) and prime minister (1922 1923). * * * …   Universalium

  • Law, (Andrew) Bonar — born Sept. 16, 1858, Kingston, N.B., Can. died Oct. 30, 1923, London, Eng. Prime minister of Britain (1922–23), the first born in a British overseas possession. Reared in Scotland, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1900 and became leader… …   Universalium

  • Law, Andrew Bonar — ► (1858 1923) Político británico. Primer ministro en 1922 23 …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Law, (Andrew) Bonar — (16 sep. 1858, Kingston, Nuevo Brunswick, Canadá–30 oct. 1923, Londres, Inglaterra). Primer ministro de Gran Bretaña (1922–23), el primero nacido en una posesión británica de ultramar. Criado en Escocia, fue elegido a la Cámara de los Comunes en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Annie Bonar Law — Annie Bonar Law, née Annie Pitcairn Robley (died 1909) was the wife of British Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law.She was the daughter of Mr. Harrington Robley of Glasgow.In 1890 she became engaged to local businessman Andrew Bonar Law, and they… …   Wikipedia

  • Bonar — may refer to:* Andrew Bonar Law, British Prime Minister from October 1922 May 1923 * Horatius Bonar, a nineteenth century poet and minister in the Free Church of Scotland * his brother Andrew Bonar, also a minister * Thomas Bonar, an early… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.