Hughes, Sir Samuel

Sir Samuel Hughes, teacher, journalist, soldier, politician (born at Darlington, Canada W 8 Jan 1853; died at Lindsay, Ont 24 Aug 1921). A Conservative and an enthusiastic supporter of Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, Sam Hughes was elected to Parliament for Victoria North in 1892. Vain, colourful, charming and splenetic, Hughes made a 30-year public career of politics and militia service. A longtime proponent of the volunteer militia and the imperial connection, he helped force Prime Minister Laurier to send Canadian troops to the South African War in 1899. Hughes was dismissed from that war for military indiscipline and public exposure of incompetent British generalship. These experiences produced a Canadian nationalist slant to Hughes's imperialist leanings. By 1911, with years of solid caucus and parliamentary service - including 10 years as Opposition militia critic - and personal loyalty to R.L Borden behind him, Hughes won the militia portfolio in Borden's new government. Hughes promoted citizen-soldiers over professionals (to the latter's detriment), and preached the social value of military training and national preparedness.

Early in WWI, Hughes was hailed as the genius of the war effort. Unfortunately, favouritism, confused civil-military functions, disrespect of Cabinet, administrative incompetence and scandals such as the Ross Rifle fiasco (see Armaments) forced Borden to fire Hughes in November 1916. He died in 1921, a reluctant and sometimes bitter Conservative-Unionist MP for Victoria-Haliburton. Although Hughes was a sincere Canadian and a successful constituency politician, his erratic talents never matched the demands of high office during total war.