Richard John Cartwright

Richard John Cartwright

Sir Richard John Cartwright, P.C., G.C.M.G. (December 4 1835 – September 24 1912) was a Canadian businessman and politician. He was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario in a United Empire Loyalist family, the son of Harriet Dobbs Cartwright and the grandson of Richard Cartwright. He was a major landowner in the area, and became prominent in Kingston's financial community as president of the Commercial Bank of Canada. He suffered a major blow when his bank failed in 1867.

Cartwright entered politics when he was elected as a Conservative Party member and supporter of John A. Macdonald in the Province of Canada's legislative assembly in 1863. In 1867, the Province of Canada became part of the new Canadian confederation. Cartwright was elected to the newly-formed Canadian House of Commons, again as a Tory. In 1869, he broke with the Conservatives over Macdonald's appointment of Sir Francis Hincks as Minister of Finance, and crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party of Canada.

With the Liberal party's victory in the 1874 election, Cartwright was appointed Minister of Finance by Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie. He supported free trade, but sought limited tariffs as a means of government revenue. Cartwright returned to the opposition bench when the Liberals were defeated in the 1878 election. As a recognition of his service, he was awarded a knighthood in 1879. From the 1887 election, he represented the ridings of Oxford South.

In the 1890s, the Liberals moved away from support for unrestricted reciprocity with the United States, and Cartwright's influence in the party diminished.

With the victory of Wilfrid Laurier's Liberals in the 1896 election, Cartwright returned to Cabinet. Laurier denied Cartwright the finance ministry as a way of assuring Canada's business community that the government was not going to adopt free trade. Instead, he appointed Cartwright Minister of Trade and Commerce. He also served as a Canadian member of the Anglo-American Joint High Commission to resolve diplomatic problems between Canada and the US in 1898. Cartwright was appointed to the Imperial Privy Council in 1902, which allowed him to use the honorific "Right Honourable".

In 1904, he was elevated to the Canadian Senate, but remained Trade and Commerce minister until the fall of the Laurier government in the 1911 election. In this position he introduced, in 1908, a limited system of old age annuities. Additionally, he served as Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1909 until 1911, and as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1911 until his death in 1912.

In the Kingston, Ontario area, Cartwright Street and Cartwright Point are named for him and his family, in recognition of their longstanding contributions to the region.

External links

* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ Political biography from the Library of Parliament]

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