LAW, ANDREW SONAR (1858-1923), British states man, was born in New Brunswick, Canada, on Sept. 16, 1858, the son of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. James Law, by his mar riage with Eliza, daughter of William Kidston of Glasgow. A Scot on both sides, he came to Scotland when still a boy and finished his education at Glasgow High school. After acquiring a sufficient competence in business, he went into parliament in 1900 as Con servative member for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow.
His commercial experience had led him to the conclusion that free trade, in the Cobdenite sense, was no longer beneficial for Great Britain. A speech made on April 22, 1902, in favour of Hicks-Beach's corn duty, led to his appointment as parliamentary secretary to the board of trade in the Conservative Government. When Chamberlain started his tariff reform movement in 1903, he found a supporter in Bonar Law.
Bonar Law shared in the general conservative rout in Jan. 1906, and had another electoral mishap in Dec. 1910; but in each case came back to the House shortly at a by-election, and took his full share in the opposition attack on Lloyd George's 1909 budget and on the Parliament Bill. He kept aloof from the "Die-hard" movement, and warmly defended his leader, Balfour, from the re proaches cast upon him. This loyal attitude, no doubt, was one of the reasons, and his strong tariff reform programme was another, which recommended him to his party as Balfour's successor in the leadership when the claims of Austen Chamberlain and Walter Long appeared to divide the Conservatives pretty evenly. Both the rivals stood aside, and on Nov. 13, 1911, Bonar Law was unanimously elected leader in the Commons, Lord Lansdowne continuing to lead the party in the Lords.
As opposition leader, Bonar Law was very trenchant in his criticism of the Government, and put up a strong fight against the Home Rule bill on Ulster's behalf, when civil war was ahead or threatened. At Easter 1912 he went to Belfast, and, at a great demonstration which was presided over by Carson, he encouraged the Ulstermen to trust to themselves; and at a large unionist gathering at Blenheim on July 27 he said that the Ulster people would submit to no ascendancy, and that he could imagine no lengths of resistance to which they might go in which he would not be ready to support them, and in which they would not be supported by the overwhelming majority of the British people. Meanwhile, he had to deal with differences inside his own party as to the extent to which the tariff reform policy should be car ried. A considerable section, especially strong in Lancashire, was
definitely against any duties on food ; and the assurances which Bonar Law gave in a speech at Ashton-under-Lyne on Dec. 16, 1912, did not convince them that there was no possibility of food taxes being imposed without reference to the people. As the party dreaded a split, Bor ar Law and Lord Lansdowne, in response to a general appeal, gave on Jan. 14, 1913, a formal promise that food duties should not be imposed without the approval of the electors at a subsequent general election. The imminent danger of the Ulster problem, on which Bonar Law had insisted for two years, brought ministers in 1914 to express a readiness for com promise; but no settlement, satisfactory to the opposition, had been formed when the World War supervened.
Directly the crisis became acute Bonar Law wrote, on Aug. 2, on behalf of Lord Lansdowne and their colleagues, tendering to Asquith the unhesitating support of the opposition in any measures necessary to support France and Russia ; and when hostilities began he aided the national cause and promoted recruiting by speeches at the Guildhall, London, and in Belfast and elsewhere. Even when criticism of the management of the war began legiti mately to spring up in the early months of 1915 he used his influ ence to repress or moderate its expression in parliament. He promptly accepted Asquith's proposal in 1915 to assist in forming a Coalition Government and brought seven of his colleagues into the cabinet, himself accepting the colonial secretaryship. He took charge in the House of Commons of the first military service bill in Jan. 1916 and got it through all its stages with little difficulty. He promoted the economic conference in Paris in June 1916 and, as principal representative of his country, was largely influential in carrying through the co-operative and protective resolutions then adopted. He was a member of the War Committee of the cabinet, but, like Lloyd George, he was far from satisfied with its organization and powers. It was natural therefore that he should be one of the four persons, besides Lloyd George, to whom that statesman, forcing the issue on Dec. 1, 1916, asked Asquith to confide the absolute conduct of the war. In the confused crisis which followed, the premiership was offered to Bonar Law; but he recognized that Lloyd George was the prime minister whom the nation demanded, and to a ministry formed under him, the Con servative leader brought the full co-operation of his party.