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Dear Mr. Prime Minister
R.B. Bennett personally answers hundreds of letters from desperate Canadians during the Depression
As Canadas economic crisis deepened in the early 1930s, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett appeared to show little sympathy for the plight of his fellow Canadians. Bennetts government failed to come up with any far-reaching policy to alleviate the suffering caused by the Great Depression.
During the Depression, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett personally answered hundreds of letters from desperate Canadians requesting his help. (National Archives of Canada, P04753)
During the Depression, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett personally answered hundreds of letters from desperate Canadians requesting his help. (National Archives of Canada, P04753)

But the tough-talking bachelor had a far different private face. Bennett was a kindly and generous man who donated $25,000 a year to numerous charities. And during the darkest days of the Depression, Bennetts compassion and humanity shone through.

The Prime Minister received hundreds of letters from desperate Canadians requesting help. Alone in his seventeen-room suite at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Bennett worked through the night, trying to keep up with an endless chorus of heartbreak and despair.

Here are samples of letters to R.B Bennett exactly as written:

Dear Sir,
I am writing to see if their is any help I could get.
As I have a baby thirteen days old that only weighs
one pound and I have to keep in cotton Wool & Olive Oil,
and I havent the money to buy it, if their is any help I could get
their will be two votes for you next election
Hoping to hear from you soon
Yours Truly,
Mrs. Jack OHannen
Murray Harbour, PEI

Her letter to the Prime Minister was Mrs. Jack OHannens last hope. When he received it, Bennett opened his wallet and sent the young mother five dollars - enough money to cover groceries for about a month..

Dear Mr. Bennett,
I believe you to be good as well as a great man
therefore I am appealing to you to save my home.
Picture yourself, through no fault of your own,
homeless with sons willing, but unable to provide for you.
Please help me or tell me what I can do.
Yours Sincerely and hopefully, Laura Bates.
Toronto Sept 3, 1933

Dear Madam,
I am certainly willing to help you and if you will be good enough to let me know what company holds the mortgage on your home I will look into the matter and see if anything can be done to straighten out your difficulties.
yours faithfully,
R.B. Bennett

Dear Sir,
Three little baby boys were born to Mr. and Mrs. Samuels in our vicinity.
Like many others they have had some very bad luck.
The parents are a very fine type, not the kind with the hand out for help.
We hope you will feel toward these unfortunate people the way we do.
Yours truly,
Elizabeth Ratray
Welsley Ont,
Sept. 27,1933

Dear Mr. and Mrs Samuels,
I am enclosing herewith a 20 dollar bill, which I trust may be of some little service to you during the Christmas season.
I learned the other day that one of the triplet boys had passed away and I extend to you my sincerest sympathy,
With best wishes, believe me I am
yours faithfully
RB Bennett Ottawa
Oct 13, 1933

Dear Prime Minister RB Bennett,
It is with a very humble heart that I take the opportunity of writing this letter to ask you if you will please send for this underware for my husband from the Eaton catalog. I can manage but my husband has arthritis very bad at times in his arms and shoulders. I have patched and darned his old underwear for the last two years, but they are completely done now. If you cant do this I really dont know what to do.
Mrs. Thomas Perkins
Kingdom Saskatchewan
Sept 28, 1933

Prime Minister RB Bennett
dear Sir received your kind favour of underware for my husband. We wish to thank you very much for it. We sure are thankful for your kindness
Mr and Mrs. Thomas Perkins
Kingdom, Saskachewan
Nov 15 1933

Dear Mr. Bennett,
I am a litte boy eight years old and Im in Grade III at school. Ive wanted a littel red wagon to hich my dog to for so many year, but daddy has no money. Please, Mr. Bennett would you send me enuff money to buy my wagon. Thank you so much.
Your very good friend,
Maurice Stanley

Dear Mr. Bennett,
Thank very much for the money. Im going to get the wagon. Mamma said I could.
Ardath Sask
Aug 31, 1935

R.B Bennett personally answered many of the hundreds of letters he received during the Great Depression, often giving money from his own pocket to needy Canadians. The Prime Minister received little public recognition for his private kindness.

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