ANDREW BONAR LAW
SON of the Rev. James Law, M.A., and Eliza, daughter of
the late Mr. William Kidston, iron merchant, Glasgow, the late Parliamentary
Secretary to the Board of Trade was born in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1858. Part
of his school-time was spent in the colony, but at the age of twelve he came to
Glasgow, and for four years attended the High School in John Street. In 1874 he
began commercial life in the office of William Kidston & Sons, iron merchants
and Colonial exporters, of which firm his uncle was head. At the same time he
improved the morning hours by attending classes at Glasgow University, and in
the evenings he indulged his taste for politics, and practised his powers of
speech, by taking part in the proceedings of Glasgow Parliamentary Debating
When he had been twelve years engaged in business, Mr. Bonar Law became a partner of the firm of William Jacks & Co., iron merchants in Glasgow. The head of this firm, the late Mr. William Jacks, was at that time M.P. for Leith, and though his politics were of the opposite kind from those of his junior partner, his example had no doubt its due weight with the younger man. The latter's experience in his own trade of the harmful effects of hostile foreign tariffs led him to reconsider seriously the soundness of the doctrines of Free Trade, and he kept himself in touch with political life by speaking occasionally at Conservative gatherings. So high was the opinion of his capabilities among those of his own business that in 1898 he was elected Chairman of the Iron Trade Association of Scotland.
Two years later he retired from commercial life, and set forth upon a political career by contesting Blackfriars Division against Mr. A. D. Provand. Somewhat to his own surprise he converted Mr. Provand's previous Literal majority of 481 into a minority of 990, and attained the distinction of being the first Conservative to sit for the constituency. His maiden speech in the House of Commons, in defence of the Government's conduct of the war against an attack by Mr. Lloyd George, attracted the attention of the Whips and of some members of the Government, and his next speech, on the coal duty, showed him to be acquainted at first hand with the facts, while a subsequent contribution which he made to the discussion of the coal tax drew cordial congratulations from Mr. Balfour. As a result of his clear commercial knowledge and practised powers of debate, when Lord Dudley was appointed Viceroy of Ireland in 1902, Mr. Bonar Law was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. After that he spoke less in the House, but always with effect, and one of his efforts in particular, on the Sugar Bounty Convention, was characterised by Mr. Chamberlain as "one of the most admirable speeches to which he had ever listened in the House of Commons."
At the General Election in 1906 Mr. Bonar Law lost his seat, but he did not remain long out of the House, being returned for a fresh constituency in May of the same year.
Mr. Bonar Law is personally popular on both sides of the House, and has the reputation for hard-headed shrewdness and an infinite capacity for work. His favourite recreations are golf and chess, and during the intervals of political work he is a familiar figure on the Prestwick Links. He married, in 1891, Annie Pitcairn, daughter of Mr. Harrington Robley, Glasgow.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)