Andrew Bonar Law

Andrew Bonar Law

Andrew Bonar Law, the son of Rev. James Law, was born in Rexton, New Brunswick (now a part of Canada) in 1858. He moved to Glasgow in Scotland after the death of his mother and at sixteen started work in the family's ironwork business.

Bonar Law joined the Conservative Party and in the 1900 General Election was elected to represent Glasgow Blackfriars. He impressed Arthur Balfour and when he formed a government in 1902 he appointed him as his Secretary to the Board of Trade. Bonar Law, like many Conservative MPs, lost his seat in the 1906 General Election. However, later that year won a by-election at Dulwich.

When Arthur Balfour resigned in 1911 Bonar Law became the new leader of the Conservative Party. The outbreak of war was embarrassing for Bonar Law because it was claimed that his family firm had been selling iron to Germany for its armaments programme until August 1914.

When Herbert Asquith formed a coalition government in May 1915, Bonar Law became Secretary of State for the Colonies and a member of the War Committee. David Lloyd George replaced Asquith in 1916 and Bonar Law was offered the more important post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. This effectively made him Lloyd George's second-in-command.

Bonar Law retired as leader of the Conservative Party in March 1921, but despite poor health, agreed to become Prime Minister after David Lloyd George was removed from office in October 1922. His health continued to deteriorate and in May 1923 he was forced to resign. Andrew Bonar Law died on 30th October 1923.

Primary Sources

(1) David Kirkwood, My Life of Revolt (1935)

Mr Bonar Law was Prime Minister. He was one of the greatest men ever I met, very able and very sincere. He was a true House of Commons man. On one occasion we were in a hot debate. I sat for seven hours without leaving my seat.

Bonar Law was there all the time. He was looking ill and languid. Then he rose to reply. Without a note, he took up and answered seven speeches in detail. I could not believe my ears and eyes. He spoke as if he had the speeches in front of him.

A week later we interrupted business for two hours with a constant barracking: "What are you going to do about unemployment?" It was a violent attack. We won some concessions. Bonar Law showed no resentment. He remained calm and unruffled. Afterwards we happened to meet face to face in the Lobby. He stopped and said : "You Clyde boys were pretty hard on me today. But it's fine to hear your Glasgow accent. It's like a sniff of the air of Scotland in the musty atmosphere of this place."