Newton Wesley Rowell

Newton Wesley Rowell, lawyer, politician, churchman (b at Arva, Ont 1 Nov 1867; d at Toronto 22 Nov 1941).

Rowell, Newton Wesley

Newton Wesley Rowell, lawyer, politician, churchman (b at Arva, Ont 1 Nov 1867; d at Toronto 22 Nov 1941). After articling in a London, Ontario, law firm, Rowell was called to the bar in 1891 and soon became a leading member of the Toronto legal profession and of the Liberal Party and the Methodist Church. Leader of the Liberal opposition and MLA for North Oxford (1911-17) in the Ontario legislature, his party became committed to PROHIBITION and a platform more focused on urban issues, but made few gains from the WHITNEY Conservative government.

During WWI Rowell, an early crusader for CONSCRIPTION, joined the UNION GOVERNMENT as president of the privy council (1917-20). He chaired the war committee of the Cabinet and at the end of the war was the first federal minister of health. The postwar Liberal Party had no place for Rowell, whose association with conscription, advocacy of a program of social insurance and of a positive role in external relations made him anathema in Québec and to some English Canadians who abhorred "the politics of uplift."

As one of the Canadian delegates, Rowell took a prominent part in the first assembly of the LEAGUE OF NATIONS and subsequently helped to found and develop the work of the LEAGUE OF NATIONS SOCIETY and the CANADIAN INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS. He was president of the Toronto General Trust Corp (1925-34) and the leading layman in the formation of the UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA. Rowell appeared before the JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL in several important constitutional cases, including the PERSONS CASE, representing the women appellants. In 1936 he was appointed chief justice of Ontario and in 1937 chairman of the Royal Commission on DOMINION-PROVINCIAL RELATIONS (Rowell-Sirois), but in 1938 ill health forced his resignation from both.


Further Reading

  • Margaret Prang, N.W. Rothwell: Ontario Nationalist (1975).