By Mariam Lafrenie
“[Tupper’s chief characteristic] was courage; courage which no obstacle could down, […] courage which battered and hammered, perhaps not always judiciously, but always effectively; courage which never admitted defeat and which in the midst of overwhelming disaster ever maintained the proud carriage of unconquerable defiance.” – Sir Wilfrid Laurier, House of Commons Speech (1916)
What is rarely noted about the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Tupper is his short term in Office. To date, Tupper’s prime ministership is still the shortest in Canadian history, lasting from May 1, 1896 to July 8, 1896. Despite his brief stint as prime minister, Tupper is remembered for his role as a Father of Confederation and for his vast contributions as a statesman, a great orator and a nation builder.
Sir Charles Tupper entered into the public sphere during the 1855 Cumberland County election, where he defeated the popular candidate, the Hon. Joseph Howe. It was this election which set Tupper’s 40-year political career on course to achieve such feats as Confederation, the signing of the Fisheries Treaty, and many ministerial appointments including, but not limited to, the Minister of Railways and Canals, the Minister of Finance, and the Prime Minister of Canada.
As Premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to1867, Tupper actively engaged with his province and always kept the needs of Nova Scotians central to his actions and policies. This is true of his resolution of the Nova Scotia School Question, in which he fought to establish a free public school system so as to make education more accessible and consistent across the province.
While acting as Premier of Nova Scotia, Tupper also sought to unify the provinces of British North America. He attended all three of the Confederation Conferences: the first held in Charlottetown (September 1864); the second held in Quebec City (October 1864); and the third held in London, England (December 1866 – March 1867). Without Tupper’s steady leadership and consistent debunking of the Hon. Joseph Howe’s anti-confederation rhetoric, Nova Scotia would not have been one of the four founding provinces of the Dominion of Canada.
To Britons and Canadians alike, Tupper has been remembered as patriotic, loyal and first and lastly, as a Nova Scotian. Beyond his sixty-nine days as prime minister, Tupper’s legacy focuses on his unwavering dedication to a united Canada.
- Sir Charles Tupper fonds
- Charles Tupper Flickr album
- Portrait of Sir Charles Tupper
- Biographical article on Sir Charles Tupper in the Canadian Encyclopedia
Mariam Lafrenie is an undergraduate student summer research fellow from Queen’s University working in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada