Richard Bedford Bennett fonds

fonds MG H 96
[187-?] - 1946, predominant 1930 - 1935

ca. 175 m  textual records
ca. 700 photographs : b&w
ca. 20 artifacts

Administrative history or biographical sketch

Richard Bedford Bennett was born on 3 July 1870, at Hopewell Hill, NB to Henry John Bennett and Henrietta Stiles. Bennett received local schooling, and at age 15 enrolled in the New Brunswick Department of Education's teacher training school in Fredericton, obtaining a second-class teaching certificate. At 17, Bennett campaigned for the Conservatives in the 1887 federal election. He briefly taught elementary school, and obtained his first-class teaching certificate, and was appointed school principal at Douglastown. He then began to study law, first with L.J. Tweedie of Chatham, NB, and obtained his law degree from Dalhousie University in 1893. Bennett returned to Chatham and became a partner at Tweedie's firm, with his friend Max Aitken employed as an office aide. In 1897, Bennett accepted an offer to become the junior law partner of Senator James Lougheed in Calgary, Alberta. A successful law practice, coupled with shrewd investments and a substantial inheritance from the Estate of Jennie Shirreff Eddy, enabled Bennett to become extremely wealthy.

After a brief, successful foray into territorial and provincial politics (he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories in 1898, and in 1905, as the Alberta Conservative leader, won a seat in the provincial legislature), Bennett was first elected to Parliament in 1911 as the member for Calgary West. Although he declined to participate in the Union Government during the First World War, he returned to Parliament in the 1925 election and remained until his retirement in 1938. In 1926 Bennett was appointed Minister of Finance, and the following year was elected leader of the Conservative Party and automatically became Leader of the Opposition.

Victory in the 1930 federal election made him Prime Minister of Canada. While in this office, Bennett was also Minister of Finance, 1930 - 1932, and Secretary of State for External Affairs, 1930 - 1935. Economic problems stemming from the Depression dominated his time in office. He vigorously promoted a system of empire trade preferences at the Imperial Economic Conference which Canada hosted in 1932. He hoped to penetrate the lucrative British market for raw materials while retaining a measure of protection for Canadian manufacturers. When that failed to achieve the desired results, he turned to legislative means, introducing a package of regulations and controls, popularly known as Bennett's New Deal. Under this rubric, a series of measures were passed which were intended to deal with the economic crisis through control of competition. Legislation included the Natural Products Marketing Act (1934) and, a year later, the Minimum Wage Act, the Limitation of Hours of Work Act, the Dominion Trade and Industry Act and the Employment and Social Insurance Act. Eventually most of this legislation was disallowed by the British Privy Council as being outside the constitutional powers of the federal government.

In 1935, Bennett's inability to overcome the effects of the Depression led to his defeat in the federal election which marked the return to power of Mackenzie King. Four years later, Bennett retired to Juniper Hill, his English estate, where he lived until his death on 26 June 1947. On 12 June 1941, Bennett became the first and only former Canadian Prime Minister elevated to the British House of Lords, receiving the title of Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell.


Bennett, R. B. (Richard Bedford), 1870-1947.

Custodial history
After R.B. Bennett's death, his papers were bequeathed to his brother, Ronald V. Bennett, who was approached by Lord Beaverbrook suggesting that the papers be deposited at the University of New Brunswick.

Scope and content
This fonds largely consists of the prime-ministerial papers of Richard Bedford Bennett, 1930 - 1935. There is documentation for almost all of Bennett's adult life in this fonds, although the amount for his early periods in New Brunswick and Alberta is minimal. With the Depression, the prime consideration during the Bennett's time in office, there is a considerable amount of material on banking, the Conservative Party, farm relief, finance, the Imperial Conferences of 1930 and 1932, railways, tariff revisions, trade and unemployment relief.

Source of supplied title
Title is based on the name of the creator.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
The Bennett Papers were given to the University of New Brunswick in 1949 by Ronald V. Bennett. In 1965 UNB loaned the papers to the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) to be arranged, microfilmed, and indexed. The papers were returned in 1976.

Availability of other formats
Available on microfilm from the Harriet Irving Library at UNB, and Library and Archives Canada.

Finding aids
Compiled by the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada), a complete finding aid (24 volumes in total), consisting of lists of file titles for all four series and two keyword indexes, one alphabetical and one by volume number is available in the UNB Archives. The finding aid is also searchable via the Library and Archives Canada site.

General note
There is a PDF of some of the LAC indexing available here:
Some of the finding aid has been digitized and is available at the following address:

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