Canadian Military History Samuel Hughes Thesis

Pages: 7 (2334 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

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Introduction to Sam Hughes

If Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hughes, also known as Sir Samuel Hughes and Sam Hughes, is one of the true scoundrels in Canadian history, why are scholars and historians continually bringing his name up and reviewing his life? If Sam Hughes is truly an embarrassment to the dignity of Canada, and a black mark on the otherwise sterling reputation of Canadian political and military history, why then do authors who bring old issues back to life write books and article about him? Could it be that no matter that Hughes engaged in skullduggery, brash arrogance, illegal activities and that from time to time he used questionable judgment, his name still reflects derring-do in a memorable way because of his political and military accomplishments? This paper will delve into those questions and also dig out facts and events that Hughes was involved in and with to present a thorough picture of this Canadian character.

A review of Hughes' early life - prior to his reported pomposity and arrogance branded him as a nave - is a worthy contribution to this paper. According to author Ronald G. Haycock in his book, Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916, Hughes was " of the most colourful, even bizarre, figures in Canadian history" (Haycock, 1986). Haycock paints a portrait of Hughes as a "poor backwoods Ontario farm boy" who worked his way up from working on a farm to being a schoolteacher, and from there to being a newspaper editor and on to become a national political figure. His "two abiding preoccupations" Haycock writes on page 1 of his Introduction were "federal Conservative politics" and the "Canadian militia" (Haycock, p. 1).Download full
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TOPIC: Thesis on Canadian Military History Samuel Hughes Assignment

Sam Hughes was a believer in the values of "hard work, competition, and strength," Haycock writes on page 1. His image of what "every man should be" was that of a "highly masculine outdoorsman," Haycock continues in his Introduction. And in some respects Hughes was typical of Canadians during the period he was alive in that he had a "tenacious and often one-sided view" several basic ideas, Haycock continues. One of those basic ideas was that the citizen-soldier / volunteer had a "natural superiority" over regular soldiers - notwithstanding the professional soldier's "elitist characteristics" (Haycock, 1). This passion for the supreme authenticity and legitimacy of the citizen soldier was to be Hughes' mantra throughout his military career - and Hughes believed that "martial training created better citizens and loyal subjects," Haycock continued on page 2 of his Introduction.

What got Hughes into "continuous controversy" was his penchant for combining his "military, imperial, and political ideas" into his approach to every issue that came before him (Haycock, 2). Meantime, his "twin forces" of "personal ambition" along with a "desire for political power" never "abated" Haycock explains.

The Literature That Best Describes Sam Hughes & His Career

According to the Trent University Archives, Hughes was born on January 8, 1853, and was educated at the Toronto Model and Normal School and later attended the University of Toronto. He received "honour certificates in English, French, German and History" (,becamea champion in lacrosse, taught school and was a Member of Parliament for Victoria North in 1892. In 1892, the archives explain, Hughes went to the Boer War in South Africa "from which he was dismissed for military indiscipline" (Trent).

The journal the Canadian Historical Review published a piece that compared and contrasted Sam Hughes and Sir Arthur Currie, two military leaders at loggerheads during their careers; the author asserts that Hughes has been depicted as a "scheming, egotistical politician who oscillated between fits of exuberance and insanity" albeit Hughes did make a "significant impact in Canada primarily because" he had an ability to "cajole more money for defence" than most politicians. Hughes had a "quick temper," he was generally "loud and boisterous" and "craved" to become the center of attention wherever he went (Cook, p. 694).

What was the controversy during which Hughes was removed from his position during World War II? As background, Cook explains that Hughes was appointed minister of the Department of Militia and Defence in 1911, and immediately began raising the budget for the militia (Cook, 695). By the time WWI was beginning, Hughes "engendered" a lot of headlines due to his "diatribes and hyper-patriotic speeches," and moreover, he insisted on commanding the Canadian troops in the war, a very unusual request for a politician in Canada at that time (Cook, 695). Of course the Canadian militia would be fighting alongside the British in WWI, and so when they heard that Hughes wanted to lead the forces, the British brass, remembering Hughes' arrogance and pushy attitude in the war in South Africa, "recoiled from the very thought" (Cook, 695).

The incidents in South Africa are brought to light in a research piece in the journal Beaver, titled "The Obsessions of Sam Hughes." As an intelligence officer and chief scout, Hughes (in 1900) "...led a dashing raid on an enemy stronghold that captured over two hundred Boers"; however he had "disobeyed the orders" of a general whose honesty and "competence" Hughes had questioned in the press. After disobeying orders from a man he had publicly chastised, Hughes was dismissed for "insubordination," Stewart writes.

It does seem that the more power Hughes obtained, the more "unstable" he became, Cook continues; and that instability led Hughes to, on occasion, "break down in weeping fits," a sight that shocked those who saw Hughes as a competent if self-absorbed military leader. In the summer of 1916, for example, when Hughes began performing "erratically" as leader of the Canadian forces in England, Prime Minister Borden was "forced to remove power from Hughes" (Cook, 697). In his postwar memoirs, Borden wrote that Hughes had "committed countless indiscretions"; he also said Hughes had "absurd vanities" had an "erratic temperament," lacked any "systematic capacity" and on "matters which touch his insane egotism he is quite unbalanced" (Cook, 697).

Part of Hughes' problem with the Canadian war effort was that he insisted the troops be armed with the Ross rifle, "even after it had failed its first battlefield performance at Ypress," Cook writes. The Ross rifle "jammed repeatedly" and as a result Canadian soldiers "lost faith in their rifle and their minister [Hughes]" (Cook, 699).

Author Robert Stewart sheds light on the Ross rifle episode, going back to the time when Hughes was sent packing from South Africa for insubordination. Back home in 1901, in his position as parliamentary committee member, he became "smitten" by the Ross rifle. Hughes test fired the prototype and liked it more than the Lee-Enfield rifle, a British weapon. After modifications to the Ross rifle - requested by the committee - it was again tested against the Lee-Enfield; this time the British rifle performed "smoothly," Stewart writes, while the Ross rifle "repeatedly seized up and overheated" (Stewart, 2). Hughes was obsessed with Canada having its own rifle because it would mean, "...thumbing a nose at the British"; he was still "fuming" over being basically kicked out of the war in South Africa and being deprived of the Victoria Cross, the highest award given by Britain for bravery.

The Ross rifle turned out to so full of flaws it was "dangerous" (Stewart, 3). In fact, one marksman was blinded, and "explosions" in the Ross rifle's breach killed another soldier, the author writes. The rifle had to be adjusted many times and resulted in "production delays" and "cost overruns," not to mention dissatisfaction among the men in the field of battle that had to depend on it for their safety.

A bit more background into the disastrous Ross rifle is pertinent; Stewart (5) explains that the First Canadian Division had its initial battle near Ypres, Belgium. The Canadians fought off the Germans "...even though the bolts of their overheated Rosses seized up in the mud and had to be hammered open with boot heels or shovels" (Stewart, 5). Men were picking up the Lee-Enfields from the "heaps of British dead around them"; and of the 5,000 First Division infantrymen who survived that "slaughter," Stewart writes that 1,452 had "rearmed themselves" with the British rifles because their Ross rifles had failed.

The Web site "CNDMilitary" ( hassome very harsh criticism for Hughes, starting out with a condemnation of Hughes' insistence on average citizens being trained in the military. The article writes that Hughes was wrong for putting together "a large group of poorly trained average citizens, who did not know much of military drill..." The problems that Hughes caused leading up to the Canadian effort in WWI included the selection of officers who would lead the troops. Hughes put his own friends in places of high responsibility because he "knew the military capability of every single person" (, in many cases, "the most capable leaders, who were trusted and respected by their men, lost their commands to officers with minimal military knowledge and experience" simply because Hughes put his own friends and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Canadian Military History Samuel Hughes.  (2009, March 17).  Retrieved January 16, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Canadian Military History Samuel Hughes."  17 March 2009.  Web.  16 January 2022. <>.

Chicago Style

"Canadian Military History Samuel Hughes."  March 17, 2009.  Accessed January 16, 2022.