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DRUMMOND, JOHN DOUGLAS FRASER, farmer, politician, and office holder; b. 23 April 1860 in McGillivray Township, Upper Canada, son of Duncan Drummond and Margaret Fraser; m. 1891 or 8 Dec. 1892 Catherine McEwen, and they had three sons; d. 24 May 1925 in Ottawa and was buried near Nairn in Middlesex County, Ont.

A son of Scottish immigrants, John Drummond began farming after his public school education. Upon his father’s death in 1883, he took over the family farm in McGillivray, north of Ailsa Craig; he would attain moderate success in mixed farming and raising Durham cattle. A freemason and member of the Ailsa Craig Presbyterian Church, in public affairs he served McGillivray as a councillor (1891–94), deputy reeve (1895), reeve (1896–98, 1902), and township clerk (1906–21). In addition, he was auditor of the Ailsa Craig Farmers’ Co-operative Association, held stock in the United Farmers’ Co-operative Company, and sat on the local executive of the United Farmers of Ontario, who had come to power in 1919 under Ernest Charles Drury*.

Despite his experience in local politics, Drummond was not anxious to seek higher office. At a United Farmers meeting at Strathroy in 1921, however, out of a sense of duty and in response to “strenuous urging,” he accepted nomination as the Progressive party’s candidate for Middlesex West in the upcoming federal election. At the time, farmers in Ontario and the west were publicly rethinking political, economic, and social issues. Challenging what they saw as autocratic domination by the “big interests,” they fielded candidates federally as well as provincially. Established in 1920 as the federal wing of the agrarian movement and led by Thomas Alexander Crerar*, the Progressives entered the 1921 contest calling for tariff reform, public ownership of natural resources, utilities, and financial institutions, and the adoption of such popular democratic panaceas as the initiative, referendum, and recall.

At age 61, Drummond ran an effective campaign, pointing to his municipal experience and attacking the pro-tariff government of Arthur Meighen*. He charged that the tariff “had allowed the big interests to get the farmers by the throat.” As well, he called for the greater involvement of women in politics and the eradication of blind party loyalty. He won easily, one of 64 Progressives elected, but overall the Liberals were victorious and formed a government under William Lyon Mackenzie King*.

Though quietly attentive to constituency business and of dry humour, Drummond – reputedly the tallest member of the House of Commons at the time – was not known for making speeches. Concerned, however, about the effect of Liberal tariff and tax policies on farmers and consumers, he did deliver insightful critiques of William Stevens Fielding’s budgets of 1922 and 1923. In his charge of 21 May 1923 the somewhat idealistic mp deplored the broken electoral promises of King and Meighen. He was irked too by Meighen’s casting of the Progressives, and agrarian politicians in general, as a “menacing enemy.” It was those in agriculture, he proudly responded, who filled the “precious railways and precious merchant marine which are standing monuments of the want of foresight of both the old political parties.” In a rare display of eloquence, he concluded “strong in the hope that there is somewhere in the distance . . . a hill top radiant with the sunshine of something for the agricultural people, a hill top radiant with the glory of equal opportunity to all and special privileges to none.”

Although the Progressives held the balance of power in parliament, they proved unsuccessful in having their platform implemented by the Liberals. Their belief in constituency autonomy, for instance, meant that they did not always act in unison in the house, and their apparent impotence there alienated many adherents.

In the spring of 1925 Drummond underwent minor surgery, but pneumonia set in and he died. Tributes in the commons uniformly expressed respect for his principled behaviour and concern for his riding. Representative of agrarian activism during the 1910s and 1920s, he had joined a movement that proved unable to advance its agenda for change. If he could not help usher in the Progressive platform, Drummond was determined at least to represent his constituents to the best of his ability, and in that he was successful.

Kerry Badgley

AO, RG 22-321, no.17048; RG 80-8-0-988, no.9386. Farmers’ Sun (Toronto), 28 May 1925. London Advertiser (London, Ont.), 18, 23–24 Nov. 1921; 25–26 May 1925. London Free Press, 7 Dec. 1921, 25 May 1925. Ottawa Evening Journal, 25 May 1925. Parkhill Gazette (Parkhill, Ont.), 28 May 1925. Kerry Badgley, “Ringing out the narrowing lust of gold, ringing in a common love of good: the United Farmers of Ontario in Lambton, Simcoe and Lanark counties, 1914–1926” (phd thesis, Carleton Univ., Ottawa, 1996). Can., House of Commons, Debates, 1922: 2272–74; 1923: 2973–76; 1925: 3475–76. CPG, 1922. McGillivray Township remembers, 1842–1992 (Ailsa Craig, Ont., 1992). W. L. Morton, The Progressive party in Canada (Toronto, 1950). L. A. Wood, A history of farmers’ movements in Canada (Toronto, 1924; repr., intro. F. J. K. Griezic, Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1975).

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Cite This Article

Kerry Badgley, “DRUMMOND, JOHN DOUGLAS FRASER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/drummond_john_douglas_fraser_15E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/drummond_john_douglas_fraser_15E.html
Author of Article:   Kerry Badgley
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2005
Year of revision:   2005
Access Date:   May 18, 2024