Blake, a Liberal, was recruited to active politics in 1867 by the redoubtable George Brown, proprietor of the Toronto Globe, who commented that "Edward Blake is ready and will be a boost. As a lawyer he is admirable - excellent common sense, immense industry and great pluck.
Blake, EdwardEdward Blake, lawyer, politician, premier of Ontario (b in Adelaide Twp, Upper Canada 13 Oct 1833; d at Toronto 1 Mar 1912), son of William Hume BLAKE. Edward was an unhealthy child and received, according to his mother, "a desultory sort of education for some years - and in the morning while dressing [his father] gave him his Latin lesson." A tutor and his mother taught him other subjects. Blake then attended Upper Canada College and University of Toronto, receiving a BA in 1854 and an MA in 1858. He studied law simultaneously and was admitted to the bar in 1856, becoming a successful and wealthy equity lawyer in Toronto. In 1858 he married Margaret Cronyn, daughter of the first Anglican bishop of Huron.
Blake, a Liberal, was recruited to active politics in 1867 by the redoubtable George Brown, proprietor of the Toronto Globe, who commented that "Edward Blake is ready and will be a boost. As a lawyer he is admirable - excellent common sense, immense industry and great pluck. Not much of a politician, but anxious to learn and as sharp as a needle." He held South Bruce provincially 1867-72 and sat in the federal House of Commons 1867-91.
In 1868 he became leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and in 1871 ousted Premier John Sandfield MACDONALD to become the second premier of Ontario. He left provincial politics in 1872, but during his brief tenure as premier established the Liberal dynasty that ruled Ontario from 1871 to 1905. In 1873 Blake refused the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, but agreed to join Canada's first Liberal government under Alexander MACKENZIE.
Minister without portfolio (1873-74), minister of justice 1875-77) and president of the Privy Council (1877-78), he succeeded Mackenzie as party leader in 1880 but lost the elections of 1882 and 1887, resigning the leadership in 1887 and leaving Canadian politics in 1891. In 1892 he entered the British House of Commons as an Irish Nationalist MP. Blake retired to Canada in 1906 and for many years served U of T as senator and chancellor (from 1873).
The only Liberal leader who never became prime minister, Blake never attained the prominence his abilities warranted. Part of his lack of success was poor luck: as Liberal leader in the federal elections of 1882 and 1887 he was required to face John A. Macdonald, then at the height of his popularity. At the same time, he authored some of his own problems. Blake, as party leader, was excessively dominant in party matters and parliamentary activity. He often gave long speeches - up to 6 hours in length - that left little for his colleagues to say and consequently left them minimal opportunity to display leadership, gain experience or please the electorate.
The result was a somewhat alienated Liberal high command, a problem illustrated by the eminent Liberal front-bencher, Sir Richard CARTWRIGHT, who noted in his memoirs that in the House of Commons Blake routinely left "nothing for his supporters to say." Cartwright described this syndrome as a problem which "became almost a positive disease," and described Blake further as a man of great "general ability," but "intensely ambitious,""exceedingly sarcastic," and "absurdly sensitive to criticism," who "often behaved like a spoilt child."
John Charles DENT, perhaps Canada's best 19th-century historian, suggested that Blake possessed "a manner as devoid of warmth as is a flake of December snow, and as devoid of magnetism as is a loaf of unleavened bread." However, Edward Blake did leave his mark, encouraging the CANADA FIRST movement and English Canadian nationalism, and recruiting Oliver MOWAT (his successor as premier of Ontario) and Wilfrid LAURIER (his successor as federal leader), 2 of Canada's most effective and electorally successful politicians.
M.A. Banks, Edward Blake (1957); F.H. Underhill, "Edward Blake," in C.T. Bissell, ed, Our Living Tradition (1957); Joseph Schull, Edward Blake (2 vols, 1975-76).