William Lyon Mackenzie King

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William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, OM, CMG (December 17, 1874 – July 22, 1950) was the dominant Canadian political leader from the 1920s to the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926; September 25, 1926 to August 6, 1930; and October 23, 1935 to November 15, 1948. A Liberal with 21 years in office, he was the longest-serving Prime Minister in British Commonwealth history. He is commonly known either by his full name or as Mackenzie King.[1] Trained in law and social work he was keenly interested in the human condition; as a boy his motto was "Help those that cannot help themselves". He had a quick temper, but he was kindhearted and dreamed of shaping Canada for the better.

According to his biographers, Mackenzie King lacked the typical personal attributes of great leaders, especially in comparison with Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S., Winston Churchill of Britain, Charles de Gaulle of France, or even Joey Smallwood of Newfoundland. Voters did not love him. He lacked charisma, a commanding presence or oratorical skills; he did not shine on radio or in newsreels. His best writing was academic.[2] Cold and tactless in human relations, he had allies but no close personal friends; he never married and lacked a hostess whose charm could substitute for his chill. His allies were annoyed by his constant intrigues. He kept secret his beliefs in spiritualism and use of mediums to stay in contact with departed associates and particularly with his mother, and allowed his intense spirituality to distort his understanding of Adolf Hitler.[3]

Historians conclude that Mackenzie King remained so long in power because he had remarkable skills that were exactly appropriate to Canada's needs.[4] He was keenly sensitive to the nuances of public policy; he was a workaholic with a shrewd and penetrating intelligence and a profound understanding of how society and the economy worked. He understood labour and capital. He had a pitch-perfect ear for the Canadian temperament and mentality, and was a master of timing. A modernizing technocrat who regarded managerial mediation as essential to an industrial society, he wanted his Liberal party to represent liberal corporatism to create social harmony. Mackenzie King worked tirelessly to bring compromise and harmony to many competing and feuding elements, using politics and government action as his great instrument. He led the Liberal party over 29 years, and established Canada's international reputation as a middle power fully committed to world order.[5][6][7]

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