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Provincial Justice

Provincial Justice: Upper Canadian Legal Portraits

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 470
  • Book Info
    Provincial Justice
    Book Description:

    In the formative years of Ontario's history, the law loomed large, as a profession, a preoccupation of legislators, a subject of debate and controversy, and a force that many citizens found themselves up against. Robert Fraser has drawn from the pages of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography the stories of sixty people who played a key role in the legal history of Upper Canada.

    Told in a readable style that has been much praised, these profiles contain information that bears the authoritative stamp of the DCB volumes from which they come. They add a valuable personal dimension to Ontario's legal history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7888-0
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    R. Roy McMurtry

    The purpose of The Osgoode Society is to encourage research and writing in the history of Canadian law. The Society, which was incorporated in 1979 and is registered as a charity, was founded at the initiative of the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, former Attorney-General for Ontario, and officials of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Its efforts to stimulate the study of legal history in Canada include the sponsorship of a fellowship, a research support program, and work in the fields of oral history and legal archives. The Society publishes (at the rate of about one a year) volumes of...

  4. General Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    TheDictionary of Canadian Biographyis pleased to be associated with The Osgoode Society in our first venture into the publication of the-matic volumes. The Osgoode Society has played an indispensable role in encouraging scholarship in the field of legal history. Though the mandate of theDCBis a much broader one, legal figures have always been among the most numerous in our volumes. Bringing a selection of these figures together provides only one illustration of the historical world that the biographies in theDCBhave created.

    Provincial Justice: Upper Canadian Legal Portraits from the ‘Dictionary of Canadian Biography,’selected...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Robert L. Fraser
  6. ‘All the privileges which Englishmen possess’: Order, Rights, and Constitutionalism in Upper Canada
    (pp. xxi-xcii)

    ‘Bears, Wolves, Indians and Unbroken Forest’ – this heading captured the gist of John Ryckman’s recollections of the Hamilton area’s early history. ‘A hale, lively old gentleman of 82 winters,’ he had ambled into the offices of the HamiltonSpectatoron 30 September 1880, pulled up a chair, and reminisced with a reporter about the early days. For the most part, Ryckman, a justice of the peace of impeccable loyalist parentage, stuck to this and related topics. But one subheading (‘Unpleasant Recollections’) offered the newspaper’s readers a more pungent slice of history – his memories of two executions. The first was the...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xciii-cviii)
  8. Officialdom:: The Judiciary and Crown Officers

      (pp. 3-7)

      The Allcock family came from Edgbaston, near Birmingham, and moved to the city in the decade before Henry was born. He began his legal studies at Lincoln’s Inn, London, in January 1785, and was admitted to the bar exactly six years later. He then practised in London specializing in equity law, which deals with matters not covered by the common law. In November 1798 Allcock was appointed a puisne judge of the Upper Canada Court of King’s Bench on the recommendation of his friend, Chief Justice John Elmsley. By early January 1799 he was at York (Toronto), where he took...

      (pp. 8-38)

      Robert Baldwin grew up in an extended, and somewhat closed, world of Willcockses, Russells, and Sullivans. Few institutions were as important to Upper Canadian society as the family, and the Baldwins’ relationships were especially close and affectionate. Unfortunately, the few documents surviving offer only glimpses into Robert’s childhood and adolescence. It is clear, however, from his conduct and utterance as an adult that his character was forged in boyhood under the influence of his urbane and talented father and perhaps more important his mother, whom he once described as ‘the master mind of our family’ and who was probably responsible...

    • D’ARCY BOULTON (baptized George D’Arcy)
      (pp. 39-42)

      When in 1833 William Lyon Mackenzie drew up his list of the ‘family compact’, he began with the name D’Arcy Boulton. Next followed Boulton’s four sons, like their father office holders all, then one son’s brother-in-law, and finally the brother-in-law’s brothers. By underscoring family connections and the monopoly of offices, Mackenzie imparted a literal aspect to the political label he helped popularize. That position in this catalogue of names did not correlate with actual political influence did not matter: a connection had been suggested in a formidable manner. Boulton’s place – at the top – seems, at the very least, symbolically apt....

      (pp. 43-50)

      Henry John Boulton was born at Holland House in a fashionable suburb of London, the son of a London barrister and grandson of Sir John Strange, master of the rolls. His family immigrated in the 1790s to Rensselaer County in New York and about 1800 to Canada, seeking, as Boulton later said, ‘a wider field for our energies,’ Boulton probably attended John Strachan’s school at Cornwall, as did his three brothers, before beginning legal studies in 1807 in York (Toronto) where his father was solicitor general. Boulton went to England in 1811 to continue his law studies at Lincoln’s Inn....

      (pp. 51-63)

      William Campbell was born into a branch of Clan Diarmid that migrated north to Caithness late in the 17th century. His paternal grandfather was a captain in the Royal Navy, and his father owned land at Houstry in the south of Caithness, the possible location of William’s birth. He attended a grammar school at Thurso where classical languages were taught, and studied law briefly at Elgin before the death of his instructor ended his formal education. By then the American colonies had rebelled, and against the advice of his friends Campbell decided to enter the army. He became a volunteer...

      (pp. 64-75)

      Educated by private tuition, William Henry Draper ran away to sea at age 15. He made at least two voyages to India with the East India Company, and in the spring of 1820 emigrated to Upper Canada. Settling in Hamilton Township, he lived with John Covert, a prominent Orangeman of the Cobourg area. He appears to have intended at one point to return to England, but he moved to Port Hope, taught school briefly, then began to study law. After a period in the office of George Strange Boulton, Draper was called to the bar in 1828. He was also...

    • JOHN ELMSLEY (Elmsly)
      (pp. 76-78)

      The Elmslie family came from the parish of Touch, Kincraigie, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where they were small farmers and Quakers. In the mid 18th century Alexander and his brother Peter moved to London, changed the spelling of their name to Elmsly, and joined the Church of England. John Elmsley entered Oriel College, University of Oxford, on 3 Dec. 1782, graduating with a BA in 1786 and an MA in 1789. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 7 May 1790. Through connections with the Home secretary, the Duke of Portland, Elmsley secured the chief justiceship of...

      (pp. 79-82)
      S.R. MEALING

      The son of a Norwich merchant, William Firth became a barrister and in 1803 was appointed steward of the city, a post in which he acted as city counsel and presided over the sheriff’s court. Probably resident in London while he held the stewardship, he resigned soon after being commissioned (19 March 1807) attorney general of Upper Canada through the influence of William Windham, colonial secretary.

      He arrived at York (Toronto) in time to take up his duties in November 1807, with high expectations for what turned out to be a brief and unhappy colonial career. His office had been...

      (pp. 83-84)

      At the outbreak of the American revolution the Gray family fled to the province of Quebec where James Gray was appointed major in the 1st battalion of Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York. At the end of the war Gray received land and took up residence just east of the loyalist settlement of New Johnstown (Cornwall, Ont.). Robert Isaac Dey Gray received his early education and acquired an interest in law at Quebec, probably under the tutelage of his godfather Isaac Ogden.

      Young Gray benefited from the prominence of his father, who had been appointed lieutenant of...

      (pp. 85-99)

      Few individuals in Upper Canada’s at times turbulent political history provoked such extreme hostility as Christopher Alexander Hagerman. Among the men with whom historians have commonly associated him, he was the most obdurate in his defence of church and state. He evinced – by temperament more than by design – the aggressiveness lacking in a John Macaulay and outwardly less evident in a John Beverley Robinson. William Lyon Mackenzie’s biographer Charles Lindsey thought Hagerman showed ‘a disposition to carry the abuse of privilege as far as the most despotic sovereign had ever carried the abuse of prerogative.’ Charles Morrison Durand, a Hamilton...

      (pp. 100-103)

      Of a modest but aspiring family, Robert Sympson Jameson was born in Hampshire and raised and educated at Ambleside in the Lake District. From childhood he was a close friend of Hartley Coleridge, son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and himself a poet, who later dedicated three sonnets to him. Jameson was admitted to study law at Middle Temple, London, in 1818 and was called to the bar in 1823. For the next six years he worked in London as an equity draftsman and during this time co-edited two volumes of bankruptcy case reports, but he continued his literary interests through...

      (pp. 104-114)

      Jonas Jones was raised in an atmosphere of privilege. His father was a loyalist who had risen in wealth and influence after settling in Augusta Township. Young Jonas was educated, as were many children of the province’s early élite, at John Strachan’s grammar school in Cornwall. There he formed friendships with other pupils such as John Beverley Robinson, John Macaulay, George Herchmer Markland, and Archibald McLean. In 1808 Jonas embarked on a career in law as a student in Levius Peters Sherwood’s office at Elizabethtown (Brockville).

      After their school days in Cornwall, the coterie of friends corresponded regularly for a...

      (pp. 115-120)

      James Buchanan Macaulay was born in the fledgling loyalist settlement of Newark to parents recently arrived from England. His father, a British army surgeon, and his mother enjoyed the personal friendship of the province’s first lieutenant governor, John Graves Simcoe, to which the given names of James’s older brother, John Simcoe Macaulay, bear eloquent witness. In 1795 or 1796 the Macaulays followed the seat of government to York near which the doctor had been granted a park lot. This land, stretching north into the edges of uncleared forest, rapidly attained the tag of Macaulay Town and as York grew it...

    • JOHN MACDONELL (Greenfield)
      (pp. 121-126)

      Little is known of John Macdonell’s early life. In 1792 his family immigrated to Glengarry County, Upper Canada, and under his father’s leadership it enjoyed a measure of prominence in the military and political affairs of the county. Some sources suggest that John, like his younger brother Alexander Greenfield, attended John Strachan’s grammar school at Cornwall. This seems improbable. Strachan’s school was established in the summer of 1803 and on 6 April of that year Macdonell became a law student. In 1862 Chief Justice John Beverley Robinson recalled that Macdonell served in the law office of William Dickson at Niagara...

      (pp. 127-128)

      Archibald McLean’s father was prominent in the Eastern District, serving at various times as sheriff, militia colonel, and judge. Archibald attended John Strachan’s school in Cornwall and developed a lifelong friendship with its master. In 1809 McLean articled in law at York (Toronto) under William Firth, then attorney general. The War of 1812 interrupted his legal studies and he became a subaltern in the 3rd Regiment of York militia. At the battle of Queenston Heights on 13 Oct. 1812, McLean was seriously wounded, but he crawled from the battlefield to a nearby village where his wounds were hurriedly dressed. His...

      (pp. 129-134)
      S.R. MEALING

      The elder Osgood (his son added the ‘e’ after 1781) was a Leeds hosier who moved to London and left an estate of about £20,000 when he died in 1767. A friend and patron of John Wesley, he sent William to the Methodist school at Kingswood, near Bath, for a classical education. Osgoode then attended Christ Church College, Oxford (BA 1772, MA 1777), entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1773 and, after a year in France, was called to the English bar on 11 Nov. 1779. In that year he publishedRemarks on the law of descent,a critique of Sir William...

      (pp. 135-152)
      S.R. MEALING

      William Dummer Powell was descended on both sides of his family from 17th-century emigrants to Massachusetts from England. His maternal grandfather, William Dummer, had been lieutenant governor of the colony; his paternal grandfather, John Powell, had come out as Dummer’s secretary. His father, also named John Powell, was a prosperous Boston merchant, the holder for three decades before the American revolution of a naval victualling contract. The Powells had been Anglicans and royalists, the Dummers Presbyterians and parliamentarians. By an agreement between his parents, the second John Powell was brought up in the Church of England, but his two younger...

      (pp. 153-174)

      John Beverley Robinson’s father, a Virginia-born loyalist, had served in the Queen’s Rangers in the closing stages of the Revolutionary War. The regiment was evacuated to New Brunswick and then disbanded in 1783. Christopher Robinson the following year married Esther Sayre, the daughter of a well-known loyalist clergyman, and in 1788 the family moved to Quebec, where John Beverley was born three years later. In 1792 they went to Kingston, Upper Canada, where Christopher was appointed surveyor general of the woods and reserves of Upper Canada; in 1794 he was called to be bar. Then, suddenly, on 2 Nov. 1798...

      (pp. 175-181)

      Peter Russell was the son of an improvident Irish army officer who claimed without much evidence to be related to the Duke of Bedford. His formal education consisted of boarding for four years with the Reverend Barton Parkinson, first at Cork and then at Kinsale, where he shared studies and a bed with his first cousin William Willcocks and where he became ‘a very pretty Schollar’ according to Parkinson. For six months in 1751 he attended St John’s College, Cambridge, but his university career ended abruptly because of his extravagance. He considered entering the army, navy, or trade; he chose...

      (pp. 182-184)

      Aspiring to a position in the British gentry, Thomas Scott first sought to follow in his father’s footsteps by training for the ministry of the established Church of Scotland. When he failed to obtain a posting, he became a tutor in the house of Sir John Riddell in the south of Scotland; in later years he became the Riddells’ benefactor. From an early age he also assumed responsibility for the support of his younger brother, William. These commitments were to intensify his career-long quest for financial security.

      In 1788 he journeyed south to Lincoln’s Inn in London to study law...

      (pp. 185-187)

      Levius Peters Sherwood was educated in the law and called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1803. The following year he was appointed registrar for the counties of Grenville, Leeds, and Carleton and collector of customs, as well as inspector of flour, potash, and pearl ashes. On 16 March 1812 he was appointed surrogate treasurer of the Johnstown District. The coming of the War of 1812 served to increase his influence, both in the Johnstown District and beyond it. In March 1814 he was involved in the naming of magistrates for the district. On 24 May 1816, with the...

      (pp. 188-191)

      Robert Thorpe graduated with a BA in 1788 and an LLB in 1789 from Trinity College, Dublin. He received an LLD in 1801. Admitted to the Irish bar in 1790, he entered the colonial service in 1801 when he was nominated chief justice of Prince Edward Island.

      This colony was governed by the able, if somewhat venal, Edmund Fanning who, through geniality, deft duplicity, and judicious inaction, had successfully steered his way between the demands of local factions and unpopular policies of the Colonial Office since 1786. Fanning was in collusion with the Island’s landed proprietors, as Thorpe was not;...

      (pp. 192-194)

      John White was admitted as a student at the Inner Temple, London, on 17 Oct. 1777. In 1783 his only sister Elizabeth married his fellow student, Samuel Shepherd, who became a distinguished British jurist and throughout his life remained White’s staunch friend and patron. White was called to the bar in 1785 and the following year went to Jamaica, where he practised law without success. In 1791 he was living with his family in Wales, intending to become a clergyman. Shepherd recommended him as a suitable attorney general of Upper Canada to William Osgoode, who had been selected as chief...

      (pp. 195-198)

      William Willis died in 1809 leaving little estate and John Walpole rose by a combination of ambition, legal talents, and charm. He published his first legal work in 1816 and was called to the bar the following year. Willis’ interest in equity led to the publication in 1820 of a book that long remained an authority, and of a third work in 1827. His increasingly successful practice of the law was matched by a profitable advance into established society. These interests converged in 1823–24 when Willis was retained by the 11th Earl of Strathmore. In August 1824 their association...

  9. The Legal Profession

      (pp. 201-221)

      Robert Baldwin Sr was a Protestant gentleman farmer who had, by the time of William Warren Baldwin’s birth, acquired both office and prestige. For a time in the 1780s he published, with his brother, theVolunteer Journal;or,Independent Gazetteer, which William Warren later claimed had been ‘favorably spoken of’ by Charles James Fox. In spite of continuous attention to his estates during his political involvement with the volunteer movement and despite the financial support of his patron, Sir Robert Warren, Robert slid into bankruptcy about 1788 None the less, young William received a proper education. In his will he...

      (pp. 222-224)

      Donald Bethune’s early education was obtained at the grammar school of his brother John in Augusta Township and at John Strachan’s school in Cornwall. Another of Donald’s brothers, Alexander Neil Bethune, was Strachan’s protégé. At age 14 Donald began articling in law under the prominent Brockville lawyer and politician, Jonas Jones, and in 1823 was called to the bar of Upper Canada. In 1826 he was appointed commissioner of customs for the Midland District and between 1826 and 1835 he was twice appointed judge of the Bathurst District Court and once of the Prince Edward District Court. In Kingston, where...

      (pp. 225-233)
      G.M. CRAIG

      Marshall Spring’s father, Barnabas Bidwell, who had been attorney general of Massachusetts, a member of Congress, and an ardent Jeffersonian, was forced to leave his home state in 1810 after he had been accused of malversation of funds. The family settled in Upper Canada at Bath just before the War of 1812. The young Bidwell was educated in the local schools and at home by his father who laid the foundation of his profound legal learning. When he was about 17 Marshall Spring was articled as a student to Daniel Washburn and Daniel Hagerman, barristers and attorneys-at-law in Kingston, where...

      (pp. 234-235)

      Robert Easton Burns (named after the Reverend Robert Easton of Montreal) was the son of a Presbyterian minister of the Associate Synod of Scotland who emigrated to Upper Canada from Pennsylvania in 1804 and settled first in Stamford, then in 1806 at Niagara. Burns was educated at home and later at the Niagara District Grammar School where his father served as master. In 1822, at age 16, he was admitted as a student-at-law with John Breakenridge in Niagara. Burns completed his legal training in 1827 and was admitted to the bar of Upper Canada in that year. He established an...

    • JAMES CLARK (Clarke)
      (pp. 236-238)

      James Clark’s father, a native of Somerset, England, came to Quebec in May 1768 with the 8th Foot. He was posted to Trois-Rivières and served there until 1777, when he was appointed naval storekeeper at Carleton Island (N.Y.). Several of his children, including James, were educated ‘at a French and English Seminary’ and were, as their younger brother John recalled many years later, ‘good scholars for that period.’ According to John’s memoir, James and his elder brother Peter became merchants at Montreal, and Peter appears on the lists of Indian trade passes for 1782 and 1785. In 1785 Clark Sr...

      (pp. 239-242)

      George Mackenzie immigrated to British North America from Scotland before 1823. He settled at Kingston in the mid 1820s after a brief stay in Lower Canada and Ernestown. In 1828 he was called to the bar of the province and immediately went into private practice. Within a couple of years his practice was flourishing and he had staked out a prominent place for himself in Kingston society.

      Along with other leading figures in the town, Mackenzie decried the monopoly of the Bank of Upper Canada and asserted the need for an independent bank in Kingston. At a public meeting there...

      (pp. 243-246)

      William Birdseye Peters was descended on both sides from Puritans who settled in New England in the 1630s. His mother died a few days after his birth; his father was the Church of England minister in Hebron. In September 1774 Samuel Peters’s strong tory views forced him to flee, first to Boston and then to England, leaving his baby son with the boy’s maternal grandparents in Stratford, Conn. William lived with the Birdseyes until he was 14, studying under nearby Congregational and Episcopal ministers. He then joined his father in London, and in 1789 went to school in Arras, France,...

      (pp. 247-249)

      Thomas Mabon Radenhurst’s father came from Cheshire, England, to Lower Canada in February 1776 as storekeeper to the hospital at Trois-Rivières and ten years later married the daughter of a loyalist in Montreal. His death in 1805 left Thomas and his seven brothers and sisters under the sole care of their strong-willed mother. She managed to get commissions in the army for two of her older sons and later to have Thomas accepted at John Strachan’s Home District Grammar School at York (Toronto). From there he went on to study law in the office of his cousin George Ridout. Called...

      (pp. 250-252)

      George Ridout attended John Strachan’s school at Cornwall from 1805 to at least 1807, in company with the sons of many other families prominent in early York (Toronto). He subsequently studied law in the office of John Macdonell, who was appointed attorney general in 1812, and was admitted to the bar 4 Jan. 1813. The next year he attended the court at Ancaster as acting solicitor general. In 1820 he became a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada and continued to serve in this capacity for the next 50 years until his death. He succeeded Dr William Warren...

    • WALTER ROE (Row)
      (pp. 253-255)
      D.R. FARRELL

      Walter Roe was one of the first lawyers to practise in Upper Canada. Apparently an only child, he left home after the death of his father, ‘a man of some means,’ and the subsequent remarriage of his mother. Joining the Royal Navy in 1779, he served for the duration of the American Revolutionary War and attained the rank of warrant officer before taking up residence in Montreal in the mid 1780s. Evidently well educated, he had greatly impressed his commanding officer during the war, and upon leaving the navy he had been persuaded by the same officer to begin the...

      (pp. 256-269)
      G.M. CRAIG

      John Rolph was the second of 18 children. His father, a surgeon, emigrated about 1808, staying briefly at Les Cèdres, Lower Canada, and then settling near Vittoria in Norfolk County, Upper Canada, where he died in 1814. The family was soon respected in the area, and noted for its hospitality. Two of the sons became Church of England clergymen: Romaine studied divinity under John Strachan and served in several parishes in Upper Canada; Thomas lived in England. Another son, George, became a well-known lawyer. A daughter married George Ryerson.

      John Rolph did not accompany his family to Canada, but continued...

      (pp. 270-271)

      James Hunter Samson probably came to the Canadas in 1813, when his father’s regiment, the 70th Foot, began its tour of duty there. At the age of 16 he sought, unsuccessfully, an ensigncy in the 70th. Studying at York (Toronto) in 1818, he became the close friend of Robert Baldwin. In 1819, as a law student in Christopher Alexander Hagerman’s Kingston office, he began a regular correspondence with Baldwin. His letters show Samson as articulate, sensitive, fond of poetry, hard-working, and ambitious, but also insecure, subject to fits of depression, and extremely jealous of anyone who threatened to come between...

      (pp. 272-282)

      Robert Baldwin Sullivan’s father was an Irish merchant and his mother was a sister of William Warren Baldwin. The first member of Robert’s family to come to York (Toronto), Upper Canada, was Daniel, his eldest brother, who became a law student under Baldwin and lived with another uncle, John Spread Baldwin. The rest of the family immigrated in 1819 and the ambitious Daniel Sr established himself as a merchant in York, dealing in soap and tobacco. After a promising beginning, the Sullivans’ aspirations were dashed. In 1821 Daniel Jr died; the following year his father’s death left Robert as the...

      (pp. 283-284)

      The sixth of nine children in a prominent loyalist family, Simon Ebenezer Washburn attended the Kingston grammar school and then served in the militia in the War of 1812. He studied law under Dr William Warren Baldwin in York (Toronto), was called to the bar of Upper Canada in January 1820, and practised in partnership with Baldwin until he established his own office in May 1825. He became a successful and highly respected lawyer. Among those who studied with him were William Hume Blake, George Duggan, and Joseph Curran Morrison.

      Washburn was clerk of the peace for the Home District...

      (pp. 285-286)

      In 1798 William Weekes settled at York (Toronto), Upper Canada, where, having been admitted to the bar, he soon became embroiled in factional politics. Because he was Irish, because he had lived for a time in the United States, and because he became a fierce critic of the provincial government, it has sometimes been suggested that he sympathized with the cause of Irish independence, admired the republican and democratic institutions of the United States, and was predisposed to the pursuit of radical politics in Upper Canada. This was not the case. The ‘blessings’ of the United States, he wrote privately...

  10. The Accused

      (pp. 289-292)

      Elijah Berkley’s life in Upper Canada is little more than a series of fragments highlighted by his trial for sedition during the War of 1812. In 1799 Samuel Bently, a blacksmith and scythe-maker, probably from Rhode Island or Massachusetts, led his sons Reuben, Elijah, and Ira and two sons-in-law into Upper Canada. Reuben and Elijah brought their families; the others planned to return for theirs upon obtaining land. Elijah farmed briefly on a rented lot in Clinton Township and in 1801 received a grant, which he patented, in Markham Township, also the choice of the rest of his family. When...

      (pp. 293-295)

      Born about 1792, William Brass was the son of a respectable and wealthy loyalist settler at Kingston. In 1821 William received a grant of land north of the town, in Loughborough Township, where he carried on business as a merchant and fur trader. Little is known about his life except that he spent considerable time trading among the Indians. After one such expedition, in 1834, he was reported to have been devoured by wolves – part of a skull and some bones were found 12 miles from Kingston and identified as his. The rumour proved false, but is illustrative of his...

      (pp. 296-300)

      Although executions in Upper Canada were infrequent, those that did occur provided an extraordinary entertainment for pioneer society. From the standpoint of the law, moreover, the spectacle of the gallows produced a salutary impression on the public and, especially important, on the potential criminal. Yet the lesson could be reinforced. Upper Canada being an essentially religious society, it was felt to be necessary that the offender atone for his misdeeds, explain his immoral behaviour, and acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ. Thus the gallows address usually took the form of a confession whereby all concerned could be assured that justice...

    • JOSHUA GWILLEN (Gillam) DOAN (Done)
      (pp. 301-302)

      Before the War of 1812 Jonathan Doan and his family emigrated from Pennsylvania to the Niagara District, where Joshua Gwillen was born. In 1813 the Doans moved to Yarmouth Township, near the future site of Sparta. Jonathan, an agent for the Baby family’s lands in the township, settled a number of Pennsylvania residents on them. He became a ‘respectable farmer’ as well as a miller and a tanner. A prominent Quaker, he had the local meeting-house on his farm.

      Joshua also took up farming; then, when his brother Joel P. opened a new tannery in 1832, he joined the enterprise....

      (pp. 303-305)

      The details of William Kain’s life can be found in a short biography published just after his execution for murder. When he was three years old, he emigrated from St Vincent to Kingston with his hard-drinking father, who was serving in the 70th Foot; his mother, reportedly either French or West Indian, did not accompany them. In Kingston, William was educated at the regimental school until the age of 14, when his father was discharged. Of necessity, he went to work and was soon in constant demand for his great strength and skill at hunting, fishing, farming, and lumbering; he...

      (pp. 306-309)

      The emigration boom of the early 1830s added a new dimension to the social structure of the villages of Hamilton and Dundas – a large population of Irish Roman Catholics. Mired in poverty in what the local priest, John Cassidy, described as a ‘rude and toilsome mission,’ the Irish seemed particularly prone to the petty violence that characterized frontier towns. Indeed, from the 1830s to the 1850s, the face of such crime in the Gore District was Irish. For Cassidy, the ‘poverty and the vices’ of his flock were a burden. In 1834 he was anxious about the forthcoming St Patrick’s...

      (pp. 310-313)

      One of the significant aspects of the 19th-century loyalist account of Canada’s origins is the role of Upper Canadians and the militia in successfully repelling American invaders during the War of 1812. In fact, however, this loyalist myth (long since discredited) was in part generated by contemporaries such as John Strachan who feared that the province would be lost by the actions of the disloyal. Since at times the foremost problem of civil government and military command was disaffection, it is not surprising that an outstanding demonstration of loyalty, no matter how suspect, could be its own reward in a...

      (pp. 314-315)

      The early years of Peter Matthews’s life are obscure. His mother was from a loyalist family and his father was probably a loyalist. It is difficult to determine where his family lived because records are incomplete and Peter’s father was rather careless about patenting his lands. Thomas Matthews apparently was granted land in Marysburgh Township and then in Sidney Township. By 1799 he also had been granted 350 acres in Pickering Township, and Mary 200 acres.

      In Pickering the Matthews family was quite public-spirited, contributing to the building of a school and working to improve the major road in the...

    • MARY OSBORN (London)
      (pp. 316-319)

      In the early years of Upper Canadian settlement major crimes were infrequent and cases resulting in capital convictions rare. Attorney General John White complained in 1795 to the French traveller La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt that, although one or two people had been tried for murder in every district of the province, ‘they were all acquitted by the jury, though the evidence was strongly against them.’ Convictions were indeed difficult to obtain. But the sparing ways of the juries aside, between August 1792 and September 1800 there were six cases ending in capital convictions: four for burglary, one for forgery, and one for...

    • JACOB OVERHOLSER (Oberholser)
      (pp. 320-326)

      Jacob Overholser led a life that in most respects was singularly unexceptional. A simple man, probably illiterate, he immigrated to Upper Canada with his wife and children about 1810 and settled in Bertie Township, where in 1811 he bought a farm. From all accounts he appears to have worked hard, made friends with his neighbours, and enjoyed a moderate degree of prosperity. Unlike officials at York (Toronto), the mercantile élite of the Niagara peninsula was not over concerned by the presence of American settlers, and Overholser seems to have met with the approval of John Warren of Fort Erie, the...

      (pp. 327-331)

      About 1815, because of her ‘good natural qualities,’ Angelique Pilotte was engaged as a servant to a woman on Drummond Island (Mich.). She accompanied her mistress on a trip to France but when the latter died suddenly, Pilotte returned, landing at Quebec on 4 June 1817 and making her way back to Drummond Island. With ‘strong recommendations in her favour,’ she was hired as a ‘waiting woman’ to Elizabeth Ann Hamilton, also of Drummond Island, and they left almost immediately on a three-week voyage to the home of John Ussher (Usher) of Chippawa, Upper Canada, arriving on 29 July 1817....

    • GEORGE POWLIS (Powles)
      (pp. 332-336)

      The presence of Indians in Upper Canada posed special problems at times in the application of the law. Until 1825 the judiciary considered them to have – by virtue of their treaty rights and unceded lands – a legal immunity from prosecution for crimes committed by one of their number against another. Even when the law could be applied, there was an appreciable cultural problem and the case of Angelique Pilotte in 1817 illustrated the intrinsic difficulties in judging the customs of one society by the laws of another. The judicial basis for the Indians’ immunity was reinforced by the military threat...

    • NILS VON SCHOULTZ (baptized Nils Gustaf Ulric)
      (pp. 337-339)

      Surely no more delightful or respected scoundrel ever set foot in Canada or left as much of an impression there in such a short time as Nils von Schoultz. The son of a middle-rank official, Nils was taken to Sweden with the rest of the family when the Russians overran the province of Finland in 1808. After his father’s death in 1816, his mother took all but one child back to Finland, where her brother ran a school. Schoultz was educated there and, when the family returned to Sweden in 1821, at the military academy in Karlberg. The same year...

    • JOSEPH SEELY (Seeley, Seelye)
      (pp. 340-343)

      Details concerning the Seely family are scarce. Seelys from Connecticut were common in New Brunswick and in the Johnstown District of Upper Canada, and it is likely that the various families were related. According to Joseph Seely, his father had served under Jeffery Amherst during the Seven Years’ War and in a corps commanded by Captain James Campbell during the American revolution. The elder Seelye was on the United Empire Loyalist list for Lancaster Township, Upper Canada, but the family probably never resided there. By 1801 they were in Elizabethtown (Brockville), where Joseph took the oath of allegiance the same...

      (pp. 344-345)

      In 1813 Shawanakiskie fled from Amherstburg, Upper Canada, with Major-General Henry Procter’s army when it retreated to the head of Lake Ontario. In the fall of 1821 he killed an Indian woman in the streets of Amherstburg. No details of the case survive, except for a reference to an ‘atrocious’ and ‘heinous’ crime. On 27 October he was lodged in jail at Sandwich (Windsor), pending his trial, which took place in August 1822 before Mr Justice William Campbell. The case was prosecuted by Christopher Alexander Hagerman, acting counsel for the crown on the Western circuit. The proceedings, according to Shawanakiskie...

    • HENRY SOVEREENE (Souvereene, Sovereign)
      (pp. 346-347)

      Young Henry Sovereene was among a large party of Sovereen and Culver relatives who immigrated to Upper Canada in 1799. Travelling in some 20 wagons, together with 40 yoke of oxen, 300 sheep, and a large number of horses and cows, the group arrived about July at Long Point, where Jabez Collver had settled a few years earlier. By 1802 David Sovereen’s family was living at Round Plains in Townsend Township. Henry was a farmer in Windham Township and probably married, when in 1812 he purchased a 200-acre lot in that township from his uncle. Four years later he sold...

    • DANIEL SULLIVAN (also known as Daniel Tim-Daniel O’Sullivan)
      (pp. 348-350)

      Daniel Sullivan achieved notoriety in the mid 18305 as a storm-centre of Toronto ‘street politics.’ Between 1832 and 1837 he was prosecuted for at least 13 offences involving individual or collective violence (assault and battery, riot, and affray), and appeared as prosecutor in at least four cases of a similar nature. In nearly every instance, Sullivan’s adversaries were Tory partisans or Orangemen and the violence was connected with parliamentary elections or Orange demonstrations.

      Although the frequency of Sullivan’s court appearances attest to his pre-eminence as a practitioner of partisan rowdyism, his brothers, Jeremiah and Patrick, and a brother-in-law, Patrick Cassady,...

      (pp. 351-354)

      The veil of obscurity that cloaked Mary Thompson’s life was lifted on 15 Aug. 1823 when she was charged with murdering her newborn infant. An illiterate young woman, Thompson was a member of a poor, landless family resident in the York (Toronto) area. At the time of her arrest she was single and had been a domestic servant for but a few months. The evidence for Thompson’s trial is scanty, and so a detailed reconstruction of the crime or much insight into her personal life is precluded. Although her case has therefore less inherent interest than that of Angelique Pilotte...

      (pp. 355-358)

      The life of Jack York is known only through a single criminal act. In 1800 he was one of several black slaves living on the farm of James Girty of Gosfield Township in the Western District of Upper Canada. Girty had served during the American revolution as a ‘partizan’ in the Indian department with his brother Simon and his fellow Pennsylvania loyalists and friends Matthew Elliott and Alexander McKee. In this period all of these men became slave-holders by treating captured slaves as personal booty rather than prisoners of war. It is possible that Jack York was acquired in this...

  11. The Critics and the Causes Célèbres

      (pp. 361-369)

      Descended from Puritan divines on both sides of his family, Barnabas Bidwell attended Yale College, from which he was graduated in 1785. As an undergraduate he was a prize essayist and the author of two plays: ‘The modern mistake’ andThe mercenary match: a tragedy.The latter is distinguished, according to one biographer, ‘by the general smoothness of the blank verse and the occasional felicity of the phrasing - qualities seldom found in eighteenth-century American plays.’ Indeed, the play is considered by that biographer to be Bidwell’s chief claim to fame. In any event, this serio-comic burlesque is of interest...

      (pp. 370-374)
      H.P. GUNDY

      After receiving what he said was a ‘tolerable’ classical education in Newry, Francis Collins served an apprenticeship in Dublin as a printer and also learned to write shorthand. For a brief period he ran a whig opposition newspaper known as theUlster Recorder,which, he claimed, was forced to shut down because of pressure exerted by Lord Castlereagh. He emigrated to Upper Canada in 1818 and obtained a grant of 100 acres near York (Toronto). Soon after his arrival he found employment with Robert Charles Home, the king’s printer, as compositor on theUpper Canada Gazette.As well, in early...

      (pp. 375-377)

      Reuben Crandall was converted to the Baptist faith at the age of 16 and shortly thereafter was licensed to preach by the Baptist church in his native township or by some other congregation located nearby. In June 1794 he immigrated to Hallowell Township, Prince Edward County, Upper Canada, and immediately began to conduct religious services around West Lake. Unable to support himself entirely through preaching, he obtained a grant in 1796 of lot 28, concession 2, Cramahe Township, Northumberland County, where he farmed. Upon his arrival there he began travelling extensively throughout the district as a missionary preacher while working...

    • BARTEMAS (Bartimus) FERGUSON
      (pp. 378-381)

      Bartemas Ferguson first appeared on the Upper Canadian scene in 1817 working as a job printer in St Catharines. From this modest position he quickly became involved in politics. In February of that year he printed for James Durand an election bill attacking Durand’s opponent John Willson; the bill also appeared in theNiagara Spectator,published by Amos McKenney and edited by Richard Cockrell. Years later Ferguson noted acidly that Durand had refused to pay him for his three days and nights of ‘indefatigable labour.’

      In 1818 Ferguson moved to Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), where by 6 August he was printer and...

      (pp. 382-391)

      In the late 18th and early 19th centuries few natural scenes then known could equal the spectacle of the great falls at Niagara. Renowned for its power and magnificence, the falls lured visitors of every sort: tourists, eccentrics, would-be poets and artists, and others less taken with the falls’ majesty than with reaping a profit from nature’s sublimity. These hucksters-cum-entrepreneurs have been an enduring presence at the falls and a carnival-like atmosphere and an often slatternly appearance have been their legacy. William Forsyth was such an entrepreneur, the first on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

      Forsyth’s father was...

      (pp. 392-395)

      The son of a former corporal in an Irish fencible regiment, Charles French spent about four years learning the printing trade in York, first with Robert Charles Home and then with Charles Fothergill. After working as a journeyman in William Lyon Mackenzie’s office, he went to the United States before returning to York and serving as a surgeon’s helper and later with Mackenzie again. In 1828 he was dismissed because of what Mackenzie regarded as his dissolute habits; afterwards he worked on the House of Assembly journals. A young man of respectable, if humble, parents, his only brush with notoriety...

      (pp. 396-403)

      Benajah Mallory may have been the son of Ogden Mallory, an early settler of Wells, Vt, where Benajah was living at the outbreak of the American revolution. He later enlisted in the local militia as a private and saw action in several battles. According to American historian Orasmus Turner, Mallory was the ‘first merchant’ in the Genesee country of western New York State. He settled in the community founded there in the late 1780s by the followers of Jemima Wilkinson. He was drawn, no doubt, by an ‘anticipated’ connection to the daughter of one of the sect’s prominent members, though...

      (pp. 404-409)

      John Matthews’s accounts of his youth hint at a genteel background. He claimed attendance at an English college in Paris and attended, some time after 1779, the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (London). He served in the Royal Artillery for 27 years until his battalion’s reduction in March 1819, when he retired on a pension with the rank of captain. His period of active service was not continuous, though: at some point during the Napoleonic Wars he took up farming ‘to retrieve the reduced condition of my family‚’ only to be ruined by the agricultural crisis that followed the peace. He...

      (pp. 410-419)
      H.E. TURNER

      The Perry family’s North American history was begun by Anthony Perry, who immigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1640. Peter Perry’s father, a loyalist who had moved to Vermont in 1772, served during the American revolution in the Queen’s Loyal Rangers and in Jessup’s Rangers, and subsequently came to Township No.2 (Ernestown). Raised on his father’s farm there, Peter married a daughter of another loyalist, John Ham, and settled near by in Fredericksburgh Township.

      Public involvement was not new to the Perry family; Peter’s uncle Ebenezer Washburn had been an outspoken member of the House of Assembly. Peter Perry first...

    • ROBERT RANDAL (before about 1809 he signed Randall)
      (pp. 420-431)

      Some secondary sources make Robert Randal a Virginian, but the earliest and best evidence traces him to Harford County in northeastern Maryland. Little is known of him before 1795, when he achieved notoriety as the first person cited for contempt for trying to bribe members of the United States Congress. In September 1795, Randal and two Vermonters had joined seven Detroit merchants, including John Askin and William Robertson, in a partnership to buy the lower Michigan peninsula, now to be open for American settlers, from the United States government. The associates planned to sell their scheme not only by bribing...

      (pp. 432-442)

      A man of some education and modest contacts, Joseph Willcocks left Ireland on 1 Dec. 1799 and arrived at York (Toronto), Upper Canada, on 20 March 1800. He stayed first with his kinsman William Willcocks. On 1 May he became private clerk to a distant cousin, Receiver General Peter Russell. Later, as a result of Russell’s influence, he became receiver and payer of fees in the Surveyor General’s Office. Willcocks petitioned successfully for a town lot in York on 15 July; on 12 August another petition for 1,200 acres was also granted, and he later located this land in Hope...

      (pp. 443-448)

      In a land petition dated 16 June 1806, John Willson claimed to have been ‘upwards of thirteen years’ in Upper Canada; other sources claim that he arrived in 1790. He settled first at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) before moving to Saltfleet Township in 1797. Willson quickly established himself as a prosperous farmer and a leader in local Methodist circles. His chief claim to fame was a political career that began in 1809 when a local deputation encouraged him to contest a by-election for the West Riding of York. As Willson later explained, the ‘parties in politics known at that time, were the...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 449-452)
  13. Index
    (pp. 453-470)