69 Days as Prime Minister: The Legacy of Sir Charles Tupper

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.

Newspaper clipping showing a sketch of a man.

Daily Province clipping about Sir Charles Tupper (MIKAN 125260)

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.

Poster with text outlining Sir Charles Tupper’s election platform for the Cumberland County election in Nova Scotia

Election campaign poster for Sir Charles Tupper’s run in the 1855 Cumberland County election (MIKAN 3822971)

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.

Image of old document tied with a string on the left side. In the middle of the page there is a typewritten title “A bill, Entitled, An Act for the better encouragement of Education” and the page is covered with handwritten marks.

An act for the better encouragement of Education (MIKAN 3823196)

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.

Black and white photograph of a middle-aged man wearing a suit and standing next to a table.

Hon. Charles Tupper, M.P. (Cumberland, N.S.), April 1870, Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada (MIKAN 3497149)

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.

Newspaper clipping showing a sketch of a man.

Veteran statesman who has passed away in 1915 (MIKAN 125260)

Related Resources


Mariam Lafrenie is an undergraduate student summer research fellow from Queen’s University working in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada

2 thoughts on “69 Days as Prime Minister: The Legacy of Sir Charles Tupper

  1. While short and precise this presentation summed up this politician’s passion and contributions to our beautiful country as well as this mans key accomplishments most adequately. It left me wanting to know more about the man himself not just his works.

  2. Pingback: Canadian History Roundup – Week of August 21, 2016 | Unwritten Histories

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