Blake, Edward (1833–1912), politician and lawyer, was born 13 October 1833 in Adelaide, Upper Canada, the eldest son of William Hume Blake, chancellor of Upper Canada, of Cashel Grove, Co. Galway, and Catherine (Hume) Blake of Humewood, Co. Wicklow. He received his early education at Upper Canada College and later studied law at the University of Toronto, graduating MA in 1858. He was called to the bar in 1856 and established his own legal company, Blake, Cassels and Graydon. In 1867 he began his political career as a Liberal MP for West Durham in the Dominion house of commons and in the Ontario legislature representing South Bruce, becoming leader of the opposition in 1869 and prime minister of Ontario in 1871. He resigned within a year, choosing to devote himself to federal politics. He became minister for justice (1875–77) during the Liberal administration of Alexander McKenzie and used the opportunity to reduce the powers of the governor general. He succeeded McKenzie as leader of the Liberal opposition (1880–87), but resigned after two general election defeats, and retired from Canadian politics in 1892.
The Blake family had maintained their links with Ireland and Edward had visited Irish relations on several occasions since his childhood. He began what was effectively a second political career as a nationalist MP for South Longford in 1892. A strong advocate of home rule for Ireland and other imperial possessions, he believed that increased local self-government would strengthen the empire. He brought a wealth of political experience to the Irish parliamentary party, and campaigned tirelessly for home rule. Maintaining strong connections with the Irish-Canadian community, he secured many large donations during return trips to Canada in the 1890s. In 1893, when the Irish parliamentary party was financially pressed, he made a donation of £7,500 towards its expenses. A colleague later wrote that ‘the sacrifices made by that gentleman in the cause of the country of his ancestors has not often been equalled and scarcely ever excelled by any of our race or creed’. His efforts at fund raising were greatly hampered by factionalism within the party, a fact that he regularly highlighted. He himself supported the majority faction of anti-Parnellites, led by Justin McCarthy (qv) and later John Dillon (qv). Respected and feared as an orator in the commons, when appointed to the South African Committee in 1895, he subjected Cecil Rhodes to severe questioning. He finally retired from politics in 1907, and died 2 March 1912 in Toronto.
In 1858 he married Margaret Cronyn, daughter of Bishop Cronyn of Huron, Canada. They had three sons and one daughter. Their main residences were at Hume Wood, Toronto, and Murray Bay, Quebec. His portrait is in the Canadian Portrait Gallery and a substantial collection of his papers is in the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa.