Nathan, Henry

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NATHAN, HENRY (1842–1914), Canadian politician. Nathan was born and educated in London, England, and as a young man of 20 moved to Victoria, British Columbia. In Victoria he established himself as an importer and wholesale merchant, also taking an active interest in public affairs. In 1865 he was elected master of the local Masonic lodge. With the support of prominent politicians, in 1870 Nathan ran successfully for a seat in British Columbia's last legislative assembly before the colony entered the Confederation of Canada. He was strongly in favor of the union of British Columbia with Canada and urged such measures as increased representation, responsible government, and greater nonsectarian education. In November of 1871, shortly after b.c. became part of Canada, Nathan was elected one of the new province's first six members of Parliament, becoming the first Jew to sit in the Canadian House of Commons. As an mp, he was a staunch supporter of Prime Minister John A. MacDonald's government, using his position as the representative of Victoria's business interests to urge that the terminus of the Trans-Canada Railway be built as close as possible to the provincial capital. Nathan was re-elected in 1872 and served until 1874, when he retired from politics. Although the national railway was never extended to Victoria, Nathan is widely credited as being a prime mover in bringing British Columbia into the Dominion of Canada.

[Barbara Schober (2nd ed.)]