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Robert Laird Borden.


"The nightmare is removed"

In 1911, Sam Hughes is the Minister of Militia and Defence. He is an able politician and a loyal supporter of the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, but Hughes is also boastful and unpredictable. When war is declared in 1914, the question is: will it bring out the best or the worst in Sam Hughes? The answer is both. Within three months of the start of war, Hughes has raised, trained, and armed 33,000 Canadian soldiers and accompanied them to Britain -- a remarkable achievement. But the rifle he insists they use is faulty. It frequently jams in the field and it costs men's lives. Hughes' role with regard to the British army is limited, but he insists on meddling with the chain of command. The Canadian army is his empire and Hughes is the Emperor! Borden has to weigh carefully the value of this man. His behaviour is erratic and troublesome, yet Hughes is a popular figure in the eyes of the public. His dismissal would reflect badly on the government. Borden continues to give him more rope....

The final straw comes in September 1916 when Hughes disregards the explicit instructions of the prime minister. His duties are immediately given to two other ministers. When Hughes protests angrily to Borden, he receives a letter demanding his resignation.

You must surely realize that I cannot retain in the government a colleague who has addressed to me such a communication. I regret that you have thus imposed upon me the disagreeable duty of requesting your resignation as Minister of Militia and Defence.

As one of Hughes' Cabinet colleagues remarked, "the nightmare is removed."

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

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