Friday, April 15, 2011

Louis St. Laurent

Louis Stephen St. Laurent (1882–1973) was a lawyer, professor, politician and the 12th Prime Minister of Canada from 1948 to 1957. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King recruited St. Laurent into politics appointing him Minister of Justice in 1942. St. Laurent succeeded King as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister in 1948. St. Laurent was known as "Uncle Louis", and was ranked #4 on a survey of the first 20 prime ministers of Canada done by Canadian historians.

During his two terms as Prime Minister, St. Laurent's government:
  • promoted national autonomy with the appointment of the first Canadian-born Governor General, Vincent Massey
  • welcomed Newfoundland as Canada's the tenth province
  • initiated projects such as the Trans-Canada Highway and the St. Lawrence Seaway
  • initiated equalization payments to the provinces
  • introduced family allowances, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions
  • provided financial support for universities and created the National Arts Council
  • oversaw Canada's membership in NATO, sent troops to Korea and peace-keepers to the Suez under UN auspices.
Although his party received the largest number of popular votes in the 1957 federal election, the Liberals won fewer seats than the Progressive Conservatives under John Diefenbaker. St. Laurent was encouraged to either form a minority government or create a coalition majority government with the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). St-Laurent, however, resigned as Prime Minister.

St. Laurent Correspondence

The letter below was addressed to Lady Oakes, Nassau, Bahamas. Lady Eunice Oakes was the widow of Sir Harry Oakes, the richest man in Canada, who was murdered in their Bahamas mansion in 1943.

House of Commons hand cancellation, October 27, 1951
Postage was required on mail to foreign destinations
4 cents (G overprinted stamp) preferred surface letter rate to the Bahamas.

St. Laurent initials handstamp in black ink

Embossed on the back of the envelope

The second letter was mailed from the Prime Minister's office to Argentina.

Ottawa "Free" machine cancellation, May 20, 1954 to Rosario, Argentina
5 cent official stamp affixed on top of the word FREE and visible portions of the word on both sides of the stamp handstamped.
5 cents was the preferred surface letter rate to South America (from April 1, 1954)

St. Laurent initials handstamp in blue

Office of the Prime Minister on the back flap

Mme Jeanne St. Laurent (nee Renault)

Louis St. Laurent married Jeanne Renault in 1908. The couple had 5 children. In 1948, Mme St-Laurent became the first spouse of a Prime Minister since 1926, following 22 years of bachelor Prime Ministers.

In the spring of 1949, Prime Minister St. Laurent, his wife Jeanne, and daughter attended a luncheon of the Lady Laurier Club in Vancouver. Mme St. Laurent mailed this thank you note to Mrs. Albert Hill.

Ottawa (House of Commons) to Vancouver, May 6 (probably an inverted 9), 1949
4 cent domestic letter rate
OHMS perfin

May 9, 1949

Dear Mrs. Hill:

My husband and daughter join me in sending warmest thanks for the effective work you did in connection with the arrangements for the luncheon of the Lady Laurier Club, during our recent visit to Vancouver.

With kindest regards,
Yours sincerely

Jeanne R. St. Laurent

Retirement from Politics

In 1958 St. Laurent retired from politics and returned to private life in Quebec City. Even in retirement, he remained the respected elder statesman. This courteous, dignified and humane man continued to retain the esteem and affection of Canadians. Louis Stephen St. Laurent died in July 1973.

On April 8, 1974, Canada Post Office issued a 7 cent definitive postage stamp in honour of Louis St. Laurent. The stamp was an addition to the pen and ink line drawing Prime Minister "Caricature" series.

Canadian Bank Note, April 8, 1974