William Stevens Fielding
William Stevens Fielding, premier of Nova Scotia.jpg
7th Premier of Nova Scotia
In office
July 28, 1884 – July 18, 1896
Lieutenant GovernorMatthew Henry Richey
Archibald McLelan
Malachy Bowes Daly
Preceded byWilliam Thomas Pipes
Succeeded byGeorge Henry Murray
MLA for Halifax County
In office
June 20, 1882 – July 18, 1896
Preceded byCharles J. MacDonald
John F. Stairs
William D. Harrington
John Pugh
Succeeded byWilliam Bernard Wallace
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Shelburne and Queen's
In office
August 5, 1896 – September 21, 1911
Preceded byFrancis Gordon Forbes
Succeeded byFleming Blanchard McCurdy
In office
December 17, 1917 – October 29, 1925
Preceded byFleming Blanchard McCurdy
Succeeded byDistrict abolished
Personal details
Born(1848-11-24)November 24, 1848
Halifax, Nova Scotia
DiedJune 23, 1929(1929-06-23) (aged 80)
Political partyNova Scotia Liberal Party
Other political
Unionist Party
Hester Rankine
(m. 1876)
Children4 daughters and 1 son
Alma materDalhousie University
CabinetMinister of Finance (1896–1911) (1921–1925)
Minister of Railways and Canals (acting) (1903–1904) (1907)

William Stevens Fielding, PC (November 24, 1848 – June 23, 1929) was a Canadian Liberal politician, the seventh premier of Nova Scotia (1884–96), and the federal Minister of Finance 1896–1911 and 1921–25.

Early life

Fielding as Halifax Morning Chronicle reporter, around the time he reported on the SS Atlantic disaster, 1873
Fielding as Halifax Morning Chronicle reporter, around the time he reported on the SS Atlantic disaster, 1873

He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fielding became leader of the Anti-Confederation Party (Nova Scotia Liberal Party). In 1884, he became Premier and won the 1886 election on a pledge to remove Nova Scotia from confederation. When he failed to do this, he turned to economic matters including developing the coal industry.

The Liberal Party of Nova Scotia fared poorly in national elections during the 1880s and early 1890s. The national party advocated policies that would discontinue the national coal subsidy and, for all practical purposes, eliminate Catholic schools in Manitoba, policies disliked by provincial coal miners and Catholics respectively. Fielding forged a more moderate coal policy and defused the school issue, winning back Catholics. Thus in 1896 the provincial Liberals improved their showing in the national election.[1]

Federal politics

In 1896, he left provincial politics to become Minister of Finance in the Liberal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. In 1910, he negotiated a reciprocity or free trade agreement with the United States which led to the government's defeat in the 1911 general election. Fielding lost his seat, and became editor of the Daily Telegraph of Montreal.

First World War

Fielding supported the Unionist government of Sir Robert Borden during the Conscription Crisis of 1917 and returned to the House of Commons as a Liberal-Unionist member.

Liberal leadership convention, 1919

Fielding had widely been seen as Laurier's successor but his split with the party over the conscription issue cost him the 1919 Liberal leadership convention where he lost to William Lyon Mackenzie King by 38 votes.

Service in Mackenzie King's first Administration

He served again as Minister of Finance in King's first government formed after the 1921 election.

Later life

Fielding caricatured by WHO for Vanity Fair, 1909
Fielding caricatured by WHO for Vanity Fair, 1909

He retired from politics in 1925.

In 1923, Fielding was sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom allowing him to be styled as Right Honourable, a rare privilege among Canadians who have not served as Prime Minister, Governor-General, or Chief Justice of Canada.

He died in Ottawa.


  1. ^ K. M. McLaughlin, "W. S. Fielding and the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia, 1891–1896," Acadiensis, Spring 1974, Vol. 3#2 pp 65–79