Sir Robert Bond (February 25, 1857 – March 16, 1927) was the last Premier of Newfoundland Colony from 1900 to 1907 and the first prime minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland from 1907 to 1909 after the 1907 Imperial Conference conferred dominion status on the island. He was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as the son of merchant John Bond. Bond grew up in St. John’s until 1872 when his father died and left the family a good deal of money. He went to England where he was educated and came back to Newfoundland and articled under Sir William Whiteway.
He got involved in politics in 1882 when he ran for the House of Assembly in Fortune Bay. He was speaker of the House of Assembly before the Whiteway government was defeated in 1885. When Whiteway came back into power in 1889; Bond was made Colonial Secretary. He tried to negotiate free trade with the United States but it failed because of Canada’s objection.
The government was defeated by judicial means in 1894 but came back to power shortly after because of the bank crash of 1894. Bond became leader of the Liberal Party after Whiteway lost the 1897 election. He became Premier in 1900 after the Conservatives under Sir James Winter lost a vote of confidence. As Prime Minister he once again tried to negotiate free trade with the United States. It failed because of the objections of US senator Henry Cabot Lodge. Teddy Roosevelt tried to intervene but was not successful and it ended the friendship between the two nations. Relations between the United States and Newfoundland deteriorated to the point where in November 1905 in Bonne Bay local fisherman clashed with Americans trying to buy bait on shore. In 1904 Bond was re-elected with a clear majority. He went on to settle the French Shore issue which gave Newfoundland full control over the island. Following the 1907 Imperial Conference, Newfoundland and the other self-governing British colonies were given dominion status and Bond formally became the first prime minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland.
In 1907, his Attorney General Sir Edward Patrick Morris walked across the floor and started his own party called the Peoples Party. In the 1908 election the two parties came to a tie getting 18 seats each out of the 36 seats. Bond was asked by the Governor if he could form a government and said that he could not because he would have to elect a government member as Speaker. Morris was asked and said he could and was sworn in as Prime Minister. His government failed as soon as Parliament was convened.
In the 1909 election Morris won because he controlled government funds. Bond again led the Liberals into election in 1913 in an alliance with the Unionist Party of William Coaker. They failed to defeat Morris and Bond resigned as Liberal Leader in January 1914. In 1919 and again in 1923, the Liberals tried to persuade him to return. Bond responded with the prophetic response “If only I had the strength, how the fitters would fly; My poor country Newfoundland, the last stage”. Bond died on his country estate in Whitbourne at the age of 70.
Bond received several honours during his premiership. On 24 October 1901 Bond was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) during the visit to St John’s of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary), and in 1902 he was sworn to the imperial Privy Council. He was also given the freedom of the city of Edinburgh in 1902 and of the City of London, Manchester, and Bristol in 1907. On 26 July 1902 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. by the University of Edinburgh.