David Laird

David Laird

Served during the following dates: 1872-00-00;1873-00-00

LAIRD, P.C., HONOURABLE DAVID, journalist and public servant; b. 12 March 1833 in New Glasgow, son of Alexander Laird and Janet Orr; m. 30 June 1864 Mary Louisa Owen, and they had six children: David Rennie, Mary Alice, Arthur Gordon, William Charles, James Harold, and Fanny Louisa; Presbyterian; d. 12 January 1914 in Ottawa.        Laird, a Liberal, was first elected to the House of Assembly in the general election of 1872 for 4th Queens. He was re-elected in the general election of 1873. He was defeated in the general elections of 1867 and 1870. He was a member of Executive Council in the Haythorne Administration from 1872 to 1873, and was a delegate to Ottawa to negotiate the terms of union in 1873.In the special federal election of 29 September 1873, Laird was elected to the House of Commons for Queen’s. He was re-elected in a by-election on 3 December 1873, after accepting a position as a Member of the Privy Council on 7 November. Laird's early days in Ottawa were significant in that his vote helped bring down the Conservative government of Sir John. A. Macdonald, as a result of the Pacific scandal in the fall of 1873. Laird served as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent General of Indian Affairs from 7 November 1873 until 6 October 1876, when he resigned. At this time, he accepted the position of Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories, holding that office from 7 October 1876 until 2 December 1881. In 1882 Laird returned to the Island and was defeated as a candidate for Queen’s in that year’s federal election. He offered as a candidate in the newly created riding of Saskatchewan (Provisional District) in the 1887 federal election, but was defeated. He was then appointed Indian Commissioner for the North West Territories, Manitoba, and Keewatin on 4 October 1898. In 1909 he returned to Ottawa as an advisor to the government on aboriginal issues.        Laird, like his older brother Alexander" and his younger brother William*, was first educated at the local school in New Glasgow and later at Charlottetown’s Central Academy. He attended Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Truro, Nova Scotia. After graduation in 1859, Laird returned to Prince Edward Island and entered the same field as Alexander, becoming a journalist and editor of the Charlottetown Patriot, originally known as the Protestant and Evangelical Witness. In the 1860s he was a trustee and elder in the Presbyterian Church, a member of the Auxiliary Bible Society, and vice-president of the Young Men’s Christian Association and Literary Institute. He served as a member of Charlottetown City Council. Laird was a member of the Charlottetown Board of Education and Board of Governors for Prince of Wiles College.        Laird was considered a successful negotiator. He was trusted and respected by the Aboriginal populations in the west and north of Canada. While serving in federal office, Laird concluded several land treaties with the aboriginal populations and was known among them as “The Big Chief.” He wrote a book about these experiences entitled Our Indian Treaties. In 1909 The Globe and Mail described him as one of Canada’s nation builders. Laird, a significant contributor to the Confederation debate, was opposed to Confederation until the reality of the railway debt convinced him to change his position. David Laird died 2 January 1914.        Mary Laird was the daughter of Thomas Owen and Ann Campbell. She was a sister of Lemuel Cambridge Owen*, premier from 1873 to 1876.

References: CDP p. 315; DCB XIV 19| 1-1920 pp. 578-81; MWOT p. 628; PARO: Hon. David laird Family File. Guide to abbreviations

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