Canadian Masons

Royal Arch Mason – Spring 1975

Freemasons in both Canada and the United States are proud of the fact that six of the 14 Prime Ministers of Canada have been members of the Fraternity. The Canadian government has issued stamps honoring its Prime Ministers. The sixth was John G. Diefenbaker, 13th Prime Minister (1957-62), for whom no stamp has been issued. Canada does not honor living persons with stamps, with the exception of royalty.


Sir John A. Macdonald, who served as Canada’s first Prime Minister from 1867-73 and again from 1878 until his death in 1891, is probably the most outstanding man in the modern history of Canada. It was Macdonald who was largely responsible for forming a confederation of the provinces in 1867 – an extremely difficult job of pulling together people of widely varied ethnic, political and religious backgrounds to form a nation. Macdonald was an active Freemason and proud of his association with the Fraternity.

Born January 11, 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland, his family emigrated to Canada in 1820 and settled initially at Glenora, Ontario, and later at Kingston, where he received his education. He was admitted to the bar and established a lucrative practice, which enabled him to become active in politics, public affairs and governmental posts.

As a Canadian Conservative politician, Macdonald was Attorney-General for Canada West (an office which he repeatedly held) in 1854, and Premier of Ontario, 1857-58. He was responsible for the building of the great Canadian Pacific Railway and the opening of the Canadian Northwest Territory. One of his outstanding accomplishments was the creation of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). He was one of the British commissioners who signed the Treaty of Washington. He was created K.C.B. in 1867 and G.C.B. in 1884. He died in Ottawa on June 6, 1891 while still in office as Prime Minister.

He was initiated at the age of 29 in St. John’s Lodge No.758 (EC) at Kingston on March 14, 1844, passed April 22, 1844 and raised June 27, 1844. In 1857 he affiliated with Zetland Lodge No.326, Toronto, Ontario, and dimitted in 1884. He was a life member in 1888 of Dalhousie Lodge No.52, Ottawa, Ontario.

He affiliated with Ancient Frontenac Royal Arch Chapter No.1, Kingston, and was an honorary life member (1871) of Lafayette Chapter No.5, R.A.M., WashingtQn, D.C. He became a Knight Templar in 1854 in Hugh de Payens Encampment No.22, resigning in 1884.

Macdonald is depicted on the Canada issue of October 1973, one-cent orange; also on the three-cent brown of September 1917; the two-cent green “The Fathers of the Confederation” and the 12-cent green.


On November 3, 1952, a three-cent rose-lilac stamp was issued by Canada honoring Bro. Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott (1821-93), who was Canada’s third Prime Minister in 1891-92. Born March 12, 1821 in St. Andrews, Quebec, he was educated there at McGill College (now University), Montreal, receiving the degree of Doctor of Civil Law in 1847 and being admitted to the bar. He was dean of the law faculty at McGill from 1855 to 1880.

Brother Abbott’s political career began in 1849 and except for the years 1874-80, when he was out of Parliament, he represented Argenteuil, Quebec, first in the legislative assembly of Lower Canada, and then in the House of Commons from 1857 until his appointment as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council and the Senate in 1887.

He was counsel to the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1880-87. After being made a government leader in the Senate he joined Macdonald’s cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio. On Macdonald’s death in 1891, Abbott was chosen to succeed him as Prime Minister. His conduct of the government was marked by great astuteness, but ill health compelled him to resign in November 1892, and he died at Montreal on October 30, 1893. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1892. From 1887-89 he was mayor of Montreal and served as president of both the Fraser Institute and Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Abbott was initiated at the age of 25 in St. Paul’s Lodge No.374 (EC), Montreal, Quebec, on January 26, 1847; passed March 9 and raised April 13, the same year. He retired in 1848, rejoined in 1856 and retired again in 1859.

Bro. Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1823-1917) was Canada’s fifth Prime Minister, serving from 1894 to 1896. He was born December 27, 1823 at Rickinghall, Suffolk, England, of Irish-Protestant stock, and moved with his parents to Canada in 1833. A journalist, he was editor and publisher of the Belleville, Ontario, Daily Intelligencer for many years. It also had a weekly edition.

As a Canadian Conservative politician, he served in Parliament at Ottawa from 1867 to 1892 when he was appointed to the Senate. He saw service in the Fenian Raids, retiring from the militia in 1874 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. At an early age he joined the Loyal Orange Lodge, and for many years he was grand master of the Orange Association of British North America and its spokesman in the Canadian Parliament, where he sat as a Conservative member of North Hastings, Ontario, from 1867 to 1892.

In the Macdonald government of 1878-91, he was Minister of Customs and had the task of putting the national policy of protective tariffs into operation. He was Minister of Militia in Sir John Abbott’s cabinet and Minister of Trade and Commerce under Sir John Thompson’s term as Prime Minister. Brother Bowell became Prime Minister upon Thompson’s death in December 1894. Bowell was called to the Senate in 1892 and was government leader between 1893 and 1896. From 1896 to 1906 he was the leader of the Opposition, resigning in the latter year to private life. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1895.

His failure to be accepted by a Belleville lodge in 1862 because of politics resulted in his joining in another Masonic jurisdiction. At the age of 40 he was initiated August 2, 1864 in St. Lawrence Lodge No.640 (EC) (now No.14 under G.R.Q.), of Montreal. He was passed on September 21 and raised September 28 of the same year. In 1897, when he was 73, he affiliated with Belleville Lodge No.123, Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario, and remained a member there throughout his life. On his 90th birthday the three lodges of Belleville gave a banquet in his honor. He died December 10, 1917 and was buried with Masonic honors.

His portrait is depicted on a five-cent light blue stamp issued by Canada on November 1, 1954.

Canada’s eighth Prime Minister, who served 1911-20, was Bro. Sir Robert Laird Borden. Born June 26, 1854 at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, he was educated at Acacia Villa Academy, Norton, Nova Scotia, and later taught school. He began the study of law in 1874 and was admitted to the bar in 1878. He developed a large practice in Nova Scotia.

The years of World War I were unquestionably the great years of Borden’s career. He was a devoted and courageous Prime Minister. He inspired and directed an immense Canadian war effort, claiming and securing the recognition and influence abroad that this effort justified. In 1917, when Lloyd George summoned the Dominion prime ministers to London, Borden spent the months from February to May in the deliberations of the Imperial War Cabinet and the Imperial War Conference. His influence was so great, at this time, that the Borden conception of the Commonwealth was established.

At the end of WWI, Borden was instrumental in having the peace treaties signed separately by Canada and represented Canada at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Also, Canada was admitted as an original member of the League of Nations, with separate representation in the League Assembly and in the International Labor Organization.

Brother Bordon represented Canada at the Washington Conference in 192122. He had been chancellor of McGill University in 1918-20 and became chancellor of Queen’s University from 1924-30. He died June 10, 1937 in Ottawa.

He received his degrees in St. Andrew’s Lodge No.1, Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the age of 25. His degree dates were May 4, 1880, July 27, 1880 and May 21,1881. Actually, he was a Mason for only seven years, for he dimitted in April of 1888.

Borden is depicted on the three-cent issue of October 1973. This Canadian brown stamp was a sketch portrait of Borden. He was previously honored with a three-cent issue in June 1951 of turquoise green.

Canada’s 12th Prime Minister was Viscount Richard Bedford Bennett (1870-1947), who served in that office from 1930-35. He was born July 3,1870 in Hopewell Hill, Albert County, a small village in southern New Brunswick.

He graduated from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He settled in Chatham, New Brunswick, as a young school teacher and soon began to “read law” with a local lawyer. He was admitted to the New Brunswick bar in 1893. From 1920-39 he was governor of Dalhousie University. As a Canadian Conservative, Brother Bennett served in the local legislature, going on to become Minister of Justice, Attorney General, Minister of Finance and Prime Minister. He also held the portfolio as Minister of External Affairs. In 1930 he led the Canadian delegation to the Imperial Conference in London. He secured for Canada amended terms of the statute of Westminster in 1931 and presided at the Imperial Economic Conference in Ottawa in 1932. In 1933 he led the Canadian delegation to the World Economic Conference in London and acted as chairman of the Wheat Conference.

His government negotiated with the U.S. concerning the St. Lawrence Seaway, and in 1932 signed a treaty that was later rejected by the American Senate. He represented Canada at the League of Nations assembly in 1934.

Bennett was a very generous man and donated large sums to religious and philanthropic causes. He retired to Great Britain in 1939, where he became a member of the House of Lords. In 1941 he was created Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell. In 1944 he gave $750,000 to Dalhousie University. His death came on June 26, 1947 at Mickleham, Surrey, England.

Brother Bennett was initiated February 18, 1896 at the age of 25 in Miramichi Lodge No.18, Chatham, New Brunswick. He was passed March 19 and raised May 19 of the same year. He never took a dimit and remained in good standing until his death. When he moved to Calgary, Alberta, he affiliated with Ashlar Lodge No. 28 of that city.

Several of the Provincial Premiers were, or are, Masons. Among them are John Buchanan, Tommy Douglas, William Davis, Peter Lougheed, Joey Smallwood and Ross Thatcher.

Royal Arch Mason – Spring 1975 Freemasons in both Canada and the United States are proud of the fact that six of the 14 Prime Ministers of Canada have been members of the Fraternity. The Canadian government has issued stamps honoring its Prime Ministers. The sixth was John G. Diefenbaker, 13th Prime Minister (1957-62), for…