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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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Banner: First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics
Sir John Sparrow David Thompson banner


A prime minister's secret code

Canadian state secrets written in code? Clandestine strategies disguised from the prying eyes of the Opposition? How about love letters from a future prime minister written to his fiancée? Long before he had any aspirations to be a politician, let alone prime minister, John Sparrow David Thompson, a humble Halifax lawyer, courted his future wife, Annie Affleck, under the pretext of teaching her French and shorthand. Thompson's father had learned shorthand for his job as a reporter for both the court and the provincial assembly. He taught this skill to his son, who wrote his love notes to Annie in shorthand to evade the disapproving eyes of her parents. The Afflecks, who were Catholic, objected to her suitor because Thompson was a Methodist. But he persisted, and Thompson and Annie eventually married. A few months after the wedding, he converted to Catholicism. In December 1892, Thompson became Canada's fourth, and first Catholic, prime minister. Throughout their marriage, Thompson and Annie maintained a daily correspondence whenever they were apart, and the shorthand continued to serve as a convenient cover for the amorous content of their letters!

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

Thompson: main page

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