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The Thousandth Man

The Thousandth Man: A Biography of James McGregor Stewart

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 306
  • Book Info
    The Thousandth Man
    Book Description:

    James McGregor Stewart (1889?1955) was perhaps the foremost Canadian corporate lawyer of his day.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2082-7
    Subjects: Law, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    R. Roy McMurtry and Peter N. Oliver

    The purpose of The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History 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, a former attorney general for Ontario, now chief justice of Ontario, and of officials of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

    Its efforts to stimulate the study of legal history in Canada include a research support program, a program assisting research by graduate students, and work in the fields of oral history and legal...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    My mother often spoke of the custom in her Cape Breton home of reciting the names of one’s forefathers, which one learned at an elder’s knee even before attending school, and commonly known as ‘following the generations.’ In their book,The Hebridean Connection(1984), D.A. Fergusson and A.J. MacDonald describe the transmission of this Scottish oral tradition through appointed ‘sennachies,’ or memory-keepers. The Oath of the Sennachies, first taken in 1620, and quoted in this book, was as follows:

    Instruction through Vows

    To preserve inviolate the history of the fathers.

    To pass it along without bias by instruction

    From mouth...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxi)
  7. 1 ‘Lad O’ Pairts’
    (pp. 3-15)

    DominieMurdoch Stewart’s decision in 1843 to leave Calcots Academy, near Elgin, Moray, in order to become a colonial missionary of the Auld Kirk, was not an easy one. Aged thirty-four, the youngest, unmarried child of elderly parents, he had been licensed by the presbytery of Elgin in 1839 but continued teaching at Calcots. Although he had no formal pastorate and was making no especial effort to obtain ordination, Stewart had been brought to the attention of Isabella Gordon MacKay,² the driving force behind the Edinburgh Ladies Association. Learning of the spiritual destitution of Cape Breton Island, MacKay mobilized the...

  8. 2 ‘Undesirable Elect Dalhousie Cripple’
    (pp. 16-28)

    In 1906, when Jim Stewart enrolled there as a student in arts, ‘Lord Dalhousie’s college’ was still very much a Presbyterian institution; the ‘old college’ had yet to be ‘transformed.’¹ All three of its presidents had been Presbyterian clergymen, and in 1910 the incumbent was to be elected moderator of the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC). Though officially non-sectarian and non-denominational, Dalhousie was no less Presbyterian (at least in culture and tradition) than the University of King’s College at Windsor was Anglican. The PCC was officially represented on the board of governors. All three of its...

  9. 3 Religion and Love
    (pp. 29-46)

    While Stewart’s Presbyterianism was patrimonial – Scottishness bred it in the bone and nurtured it from the cradle – he did not wear it on his sleeve. His relationship to The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) was disinterested and unsentimental; it was the solicitor’s commitment to a client, not the zealot’s to a cause. Stewart’s attitude distinguished him not only from other members of his law firm but also from most members of his own family, including both Uncle John and ‘Madame Mère.’ Indeed he was the only member of his family who was not active in the church, nor overmuch inclined...

  10. 4 Prime Serjeant
    (pp. 49-74)

    For a quarter-century James McGregor Stewart was a practising advocate, rapidly becoming one of the leading barristers in the country, appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Even after his interests shifted almost completely to corporate law (the focus of part III), he remained an active supporter of, and a leading figure in, the bar and its institutions.

    In February 1914, a day or two after sitting the bar examination, James McGregor Stewart transferred his articles from ‘McInnes, Mellish, Foolish and Hellish’ (as the wags styled it) to Harris, Henry, Rogers and...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. 5 Business Law Man
    (pp. 77-91)

    In November 1936 Stewart and James Layton Ralston, an influential former (and future) minister in William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet and former partner in the Liberal government’s premier Halifax law firm,¹ were elected directors of Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (Dosco). If the steel and coal towns of industrial Cape Breton were company towns, then Nova Scotia was a company province – Dosco in 1939 employed 20,000 people in Canada and Newfoundland.² By 1941, although both he and Ralston had ceased to be directors, Stewart was at the height of his power and responsibility. He had gone from being a director...

  13. 6 The Alter Ego
    (pp. 92-102)

    At the spring convocation of Dalhousie University on 14 May 1946, Izaak Walton Killam, Canada’s wealthiest and most reclusive corporate financier, received an honorary LLD.¹ Killam,² four years older than his close associate Stewart, had not had the education necessary to enter the professions, so he had chosen instead the other of the ‘two principal careers open to the more ambitious boys in the Maritimes’ – banking.³

    A school leaver, Killam had become first a ‘bank boy’ with the Union Bank of Halifax (the Stairs house bank), which was a client of Harris, Henry & Cahan.⁴ Thanks to the intervention of...

  14. 7 The ‘Royal Family’
    (pp. 103-114)

    J. McG. Stewart’s corporatist political philosophy rejected perhaps the most characteristic feature of Nova Scotia politics after the First World War – regionalism.¹ For him the post-war Maritime Rights movement was embarrassingly parochial, uninformed, and backward-looking; he feared, wrongly as it turned out, that the Conservative Party’s espousal of it would futher jeopardize its electoral prospects. But 1925 was a Conservative year, which saw the party triumph in Nova Scotia both provincially and federally. Among the casualties of the Conservative sweep was the Maritime Rights plank, to which the party paid mere lip service during the provincial election campaign. Movements of...

  15. 8 Royal Commissionaire
    (pp. 117-125)

    Ottawa was the centre of Canada’s political and bureaucratic life, not of its business or financial life, and Stewart accordingly saw less of it and cared less for it than he did Montreal. Yet legal and political affairs drew him regularly to the nation’s capital, especially during the early 1930s, when the Conservatives were in power, and again during the early 1940s, when he served as a ‘dollar-a-year’ man in the war effort (see chapter 9). As standing external counsel to the Department of Justice during the Bennett government of 1930–5, Stewart found his services in demand for royal...

  16. 9 Coal Bed of Procrustes
    (pp. 126-144)

    By the time the report of the Royal Commission on Dominion– Provincial Relations was delivered in February 1940, Stewart had gone from being a $150-a-day man¹ to a dollar-a-year man. Canada’s declaration of war on 10 September 1939 followed by one week the establishment under the minister of labour of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board (WPTB), set up to ensure an adequate supply and equitable distribution of the ‘necessaries of life.’ 2 None was more necessary than coal, the mainstay of Canada’s economy both industrial and domestic; its significance as a primary industry placed it in a class by...

  17. 10 Victim, Protégé, Master
    (pp. 147-164)

    Viscount Bennett – the former Conservative prime minister and longtime member of Dalhousie’s board of governors – was, during the war years, the greatest benefactor that his alma mater had known up to that time. Writing him in January 1945, Justice John Doull of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (a board member) explained the background of the successful conspiracy to overthrow the president of the university, an action that Bennett violently opposed: ‘J. McG. Stewart was Chairman for some years and no one knew of any open break between himself and the President, yet relations were such that this former Chairman...

  18. 11 Twilight of the God
    (pp. 165-174)

    In June 1949, when Halifax celebrated its bicentenary and Stewart his 60th birthday, he ‘retired’ to become senior associate counsel of his law firm. Preoccupied as he was with the extremely demanding arbitration over Montreal Light, Heat & Power Consolidated, Stewart intended to relinquish administrative responsibility and devote himself as far as possible to banking and finance. ‘Every Monday morning,’ recalled J. William E. Mingo, ‘Mr Stewart would take the train for Montreal, attend meetings there Tuesday and Wednesday, depart by train Wednesday evening and appear in the office on Friday morning. At that time the office was also open...

  19. Appendix A: The Law Firm’s Names, 1867–1955
    (pp. 175-175)
  20. Appendix B: Profile of Stewart’s Corporate Career, 1914–1955
    (pp. 176-177)
  21. Appendix C: The Law Firm’s Major Corporate Clients, 1909–1955
    (pp. 178-178)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 179-250)
  23. Picture Credits
    (pp. 251-252)
  24. Index
    (pp. 253-266)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-268)