Silver and Gold: Bennett and the Great Depression

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Introduction 1989.103.293 1948.18 X10448 X15787 1948.5 1948.31A 1987.17.1185 1987.17.696


The Dominion of Canada was in its infancy when Richard Bedford Bennett (1870-1947) was born at Hopewell Cape, NB on July 3, 1870. The son of a shipbuilder, Bennett grew up with an appreciation for hard work, steadfastness and the British "pluck" that had served his ancestors for generations. A successful teacher, lawyer, businessman and politician, R.B. Bennett was destined to preside over the worst economic crisis in the nation's history.

Elected Prime Minister in a wave of popular support in 1930, R.B. Bennett tackled the early stages of the Great Depression with vigour and dedication. Because of his legal and business background, the Canadian public viewed him as the logical choice to deal with the growing economic crisis. Events, however, have a way of overwhelming the best of political intentions. The economic situation worsened and the fine character qualities of devotion and determination that had been so attractive throughout Bennett's life became viewed as inflexibility and arrogance.

While unemployment increased and drought took over the west, admirers of Bennett from around the world presented him with gifts of gold and silver artifacts, a practice that contrasted sharply with the hard times of the early 1930s. As the Depression deepened, Bennett's wealth became an easy target for those in less fortunate circumstances. By 1935, the staunchly conservative Prime Minister Bennett attempted to make adjustments in his policies, but it was too late. R.B. Bennett was thrown out of office in a wave of rejection in the federal election of 1935.