He was born and educated in Grand Pre Nova Scotia, an agricultural community at the northern end of the Annapolis Valley where his great-grandfather Perry Borden, Sr. of Tiverton, Rhode Island had taken up Acadian land in 1760. Perry had accompanied his father, Samuel Borden, the chief surveyor chosen by the government of Massachusetts to survey the former Acadian land and draw up new lots for the Planters in Nova Scotia. His father Andrew Borden was judged by his son to be "a man of good ability and excellent judgement", of a "calm, contemplative and philosophical" turn of mind, but "He lacked energy and had no great aptitude for affairs". His mother Eunice Jane Laird was more driven, possessing "very strong character, remarkable energy, high ambition and unusual ability". Her ambition was transmitted to her first-born child who applied himself to his studies while assisting his parents with the farm work he found so disagreeable.
He was elected as a Member of Parliament for Halifax in the 1896 federal election, the same election in which Laurier became PM. Borden became leader of the Conservative opposition in 1901. He slowly rebuilt the party, which had lost power and influence after the defeat of Sir Charles Tupper in 1896. In the 1911 election, he swept to power, campaigning against Sir Wilfrid Laurier's plan for free trade in natural products with the United States. Borden and the Conservatives argued in favour of Imperial preference which would use tariffs to diminish imports from outside the British Empire.
Sir Robert Borden retired from office in 1920. He was the Chancellor of Queen's University from 1924 to 1930, and stood as president of two financial institutions. Borden died in Ottawa on June 10, 1937. He is buried in the Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario.