Andrew Bonar Law

Andrew Bonar Law (September 16, 1858 – October 30, 1923) was a Conservative British statesman and Prime Minister.

Although born in Kingston, New Brunswick, Canada, son of a Presbyterian minister, Law was raised by wealthy Scottish cousins. Law eventually became a partner in a Glasgow iron-working firm, and was elected to parliament 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.

In 1911, Balfour resigned as leader of the Tories, and after a deadlock between Chamberlain and Walter Long, Law was elected Leader as a compromise candidate. Law’s closest associate was his fellow Canadian, 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 the issue of Irish Home Rule, which he furiously opposed.

He entered the Coalition government as Colonial Secretary in 1915, and actually had a chance to be prime minister in 1916 but deferred to Lloyd George. He served in Lloyd George’s War Cabinet first as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons.

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 Tory leader and Leader of the Commons in favor of Austen Chamberlain, but he returned in October 1922 to become Prime Minister when Tory backbenchers led by Stanley Baldwin forced the Conservatives to leave Lloyd George’s coalition as a result of the complete failure of the Lloyd George government’s policies in Turkey. He was replaced in May of 1923 by Baldwin (whom he hated) because he was suffering from terminal throat cancer, of which he died later in the year in London.

Scroll to Top