The Right Honourable Arthur Meighen was born in Anderson, Ontario in 1874, the son of a farmer. He studied mathematics at the University of Toronto and graduated in 1896 with a B.A. Meighen worked as a teacher and as a salesman before moving to Winnipeg where he articled with a local law firm. He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1903 after moving to Portage la Prairie to take over an established law practice.
A life-long Conservative, Meighen was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908 and quickly gained a reputation as one of Parliament’s hardest working and most eloquent members. In 1913, he was named Solicitor General and, four years later, Secretary of State. Following the 1917 election Meighen was named Minister of the Interior, a position from which he led the successful effort to pass the contentious Military Service (conscription) Act.
Meighen succeeded Sir Robert Borden as leader of the Conservative Party 1920. He served as Prime Minister from 1920-21 and again in 1926. He left politics in 1927, but returned to Parliament as a Senator in 1932.
In 1941, Meighen became leader of the Conservative Party for the second time. After failing to win a seat in the House of Commons in a 1942 by-election, however, he retired from politics, this time for good.
Widely regarded as the finest orator ever to speak in Canada’s House of Commons, Meighen was well known for his sharp mind and his prodigious work-ethic as a backbench MP and, later, as a Cabinet Minister. Rarely bested in debate, he was admired and feared by both friend and foe alike for his powerful intellect, his eloquence, and his mastery of every policy issue he was confronted with.
Meighen died on August 5, 1960 at the age of 84 years. He is buried in the town of St. Mary’s, Ontario.
Listen to a portion of a CBC Radio broadcast eulogizing Arthur Meighen shorty after his death in 1960. Click on the arrow to play.