BIOGRAPHIES

 


Richard Boyer Atkins (1745-1820)

Atkins led a thoroughly dissolute life in his early days as a military adjutant with the Isle of Man Corps. To evade his creditors, he went to Sydney in 1791. Atkins used the fame of his brothers and other connections to obtain a position from Governor Phillip as Parramatta magistrate. He soon stirred up the contempt of fellow colonists, thanks to his unreformed ways and continuing habit of not honouring debts. However, Governor Hunter had received instructions to appoint Atkins to the position of acting deputy judge-advocate. Atkins took on this position and an increasing amount of official duties, serving as the registrar of exports and imports, assistant inspector of public works at Parramatta, and even temporary superintendent of police. In 1800, Atkins was appointed permanently, despite his inebriate habits and debauched life style, primarily because the salary was insufficient inducement to anyone who had knowledge of the law and a better character. Thus the colony's principal legal officer was a man who was decried for his outstandingly low character, unreliable judgement, and ignorance of the law.

Atkin's reputation as a judge probably has borrowed too much from the attacks of his enemies. Kercher is of the view that particularly in relation to the law of debt that required some tempering in the frontier and fragile conditions in New South Wales Atkins showed inventiveness and a willingness to shape the law to account of local conditions. He was also considerate of the plight of the small farmers at the economic margins who stood to lose most by the harsh law of England in this area. The most notable of Atkin's judicial adventures was the trial of old foe John Macarthur in 1808, which incident led to the deposing of Governor Bligh, and ultimately to the Judge-Advocate's recall by Castlereagh, secretary of state for the colonies. Atkins was fired by the rebels although he was reinstated when they found that could not do without him in the difficult political and legal situation they had created. For this he was in turn fired by Macquarie as a rebel appointee. Atkins remained insolvent until his death in London in 1820. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 38-40.)

 

Robert Baldwin (1804-1858)

Baldwin was a Canadian-born statesman who was called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1825 and elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada in 1829. He was defeated in the general elections of 1830. Highly regarded, he was appointed in 1836 to the Executive Council of Upper Canada. However, a disagreement with Sir Francis Bond Head, the lieutenant-governor who had appointed him, resulted in the mass resignation of the Council after Baldwin had been in office less than a month. In England that year, Baldwin submitted a memorandum to the Colonial Office which elaborated the project of responsible government in Canada. Baldwin was not aligned, however, with Mackenzie wing of the Reform party, and indeed was given the job of negotiating with the rebels during the uprising of 1837. With his father, William Warren he met with and clearly influenced Lord Durham while the latter was doing the investigations for his report on the Canadas.

In 1840, Baldwin accepted the post of solicitor-general of Upper Canada, and after the Union of 1841 became the solicitor-general of Canada West, with a seat in the Executive Council. At the same time Baldwin was elected as a Reformer to the Assembly, but when the Reformers' views on the reconstruction of the administration met with an unsympathetic response from the governor-general, Baldwin resigned from the Council and went into opposition. He introduced a series of resolutions in favour of responsible government. After the defeat of the government in 1842, Baldwin was invited to form an administration. He and Louis Lafontaine formed the first Baldwin-Lafontaine administration, which lasted until November 26, 1843. After five years in opposition, Baldwin and Lafontaine formed a second administration, sometimes called "The Great Ministry". It was during this time that the principle of responsible government was finally established in Canada. Baldwin resigned from office in 1851 following a growing rift between himself and the more radical among his supporters. He was soundly defeated in the election of 1851 and retired to private life. In 1854 he gave his approval to a new union between Conservatives and the "Baldwin Liberals", which became known as the Liberal Conservative Party. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 36, 37.)

 

William Warren Baldwin (1775-1844)

Baldwin's varied career included the roles of doctor, militia officer, JP, lawyer, office holder, judge, business-man, and politician. In 1799, Baldwin arrived in Upper Canada from Ireland and settled in York (Toronto). He was appointed a lieutenant-colonel of the Durham militia, a group he viewed with disfavour. He also became a justice of the peace in 1800. Previously educated at the University of Edinburgh as a physician, in 1803 Baldwin obtained a license to practice as an advocate and attorney. Baldwin practised both professions successfully for many years, becoming wealthy after inheriting the estate of Peter Russell, president and administrator of Upper Canada from 1796-99. In 1806, he became master in chancery; in 1808 registrar of the Court of Probate; and in 1809 a district court judge. He also held the coveted treasurership of the Law Society of Upper Canada for four separate terms.

Baldwin's eminence in Canadian history is to be found in his contribution to the principle of responsible government: that is, the political responsibility of individual ministers or the cabinet to the elected house. He entered politics in 1820, being elected to represent the riding of York and Simcoe, but his initiatives in this early period were usually confined to topics that reflected his own concerns for the state of the economy and his speeches reflected his aristocratic beliefs. He emphasised -- as did many in the whig tradition -- limited government, retrenchment of expenditures, the independence of the constitution's respective parts, and the civil rights and liberties of subjects. Baldwin served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada until 1824, when he was defeated at the polls. Abandoning for a time the pursuit of public office, Baldwin turned his attention to the partiality he saw in the provincial administration of justice. In 1828, Baldwin was again elected to office, this time for Norfolk, but lost his seat in the election of October, 1830. In 1836 Baldwin became president of the Constitutional Reform Society, a grouping of more moderate Reformers. He acknowledged "great reform" was still required, but held that it must be "lawful and constitutional". Responsible government was seen by Baldwin as an answer to the corrupt oligarchy of the day, an answer which was attractive to him by reason of the fact that it was the least threatening to the constitution, the social order, and the British connection. It alos tied in with the Irish Whig constitutional views he inherited from his father, and Irish reformers in Upper Canada.

After the Union of 1841, Baldwin was elected to represent Norfolk in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1843. Shortly after this appointment, Baldwin died. (See further the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: Univesity of Toronto Press, 1988) v. VII, pp. 35-44; and W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 37.)

 

Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (1819-1894)

Begbie studied in England and practised law there for 14 years, and in 1858 he accepted an appointment as the first judge in the new colony of British Columbia. His first task was to swear in James Douglas as governor. Due to the lack of legally trained officials in the colony, he was appointed a member of the Executive Council and in that capacity began the task of drafting legislation for the colony. In B.C.'s early years, he brought law and order to its settlements personally -- he trekked from New Westminster to visit miners at the Fraser River and Kamloops to introduce new legislation to them, and he travelled to virtually every settled region by horseback on his circuit court route.

When the colony of Vancouver Island united with mainland British Columbia in 1866, the enabling legislation failed to make Begbie the chief justice of the united colony. The controversy between Begbie and Joseph Needham, chief justice of Vancouver Island, was resolved when Needham resigned in 1870. In 1871, the colony became a province and Begbie its chief justice. In the 1870s and 1880s, he developed the court system and continued to travel on his circuit court. While he had been frequently consulted by Douglas until the governor's retirement in 1864, he was not always popular with the new provincial administration, since some of his views differed sharply from theirs, especially if they were reformers. Begbie distrusted the democratic impulses of his age. He fought legislation that discriminated against Chinese immigrants, and maintained strong opinions that only the federal government had jurisdiction over the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In his view, the province lacked the authority to administer and regulate the higher courts; ultimately, however, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of provincial jurisdiction.

Begbie became known in some circles as a "hanging judge", sentencing three white men and 22 aboriginals to death before 1871. He was a stern judge, though his defenders claim the criminal law left little room for compassion and that he treated Indian people with respect and leniency. Others, however, charge that he displayed prejudice against and insentivity towards Aboriginals and was an egotistical man and culd be stubbornly partial.. If arrogant, however, his bench books reveal he was generally a skilled observer and jurist, and his recorded judgements show that he was capable of treating defendants with compassion and moulding the law to fit local conditions. He was also extremely erudite in both the classical and scientific literature of his day. His public image was that of a principled, unbending man of justice, devoted to the rule of law and Britain. In Victoria, where he moved in 1871, he was an active member of his community, performed opera at concerts, and while he never married, led a busy social life. He remained on the bench until a few weeks before his death in 1894. (See further Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), v. XII, pp. 77-81).

 

Jonathan Belcher (1710-1776)

The first chief justice of Nova Scotia was born into a well-established family in New England. Belcher gained his legal training and experience in England and Ireland, and brought his respect for English law and precedent to his post in Nova Scotia. He was appointed chief justice in 1754, as the first, and for many years, the only formally trained law officer in Nova Scotia. His first task was to establish the courts; he then drafted the laws passed by Nova Scotia's first and subsequent legislatures. In presiding over the new Supreme Court, he opposed the use of Massachusetts' precedents that had previously dominated in Nova Scotia, and was responsible for the wider application of English law in the colony. Belcher served as Lieutenant Governor from 1761 to 1763, but his poor performance prompted the imperial government to vow that in the future, no chief justice should govern Nova Scotia. Belcher remained chief justice until his death, and throughout his term he resisted reforms to his court, such as the formation of a circuit court and a court of exchequer, and was reluctant to relinquish any of his authority to two assistant judges who were appointed in 1764. Belcher also revised and annotated the first volume of laws of Nova Scotia, published in 1767, and supervised an index of English laws with colonial application the following year. (For more information on Belcher, consult Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. IV, pp. 50-54.)

 

Ellis Bent (1783-1815) and Jeffrey Bent (1781-1852)

Ellis, who had gained a reputation as a barrister of some eminence in England, was appointed deputy-judge-advocate in New South Wales in 1809. Sailing from England on the same ship as new governor Lachlan Macquarie, the two men became friends. Ellis enjoyed the wealth and comforts that flowed being from Macquarie's favour.

Ellis competently and faithfully discharged a variety of official duties. He presided over the Civil and Criminal Courts. For the Civil Court, he wrote the causes of action, issued all processes, and in many cases, prepared the evidence. For the Criminal Court, Ellis discharged the functions that would now be performed by the committing magistrate, the attorney-general and the crown prosecutor. He also presided over the Vice-Admiralty Court, and drew up proclamations for the governor.

Ellis was a strong advocate of reform of the colony's judicial system. He proposed the establishment of a supreme court of judicature, the introduction of a jury system and the abolition of the existing right of appeal to the governor. He suggested the appointment of an attorney general and appropriate ministerial officers. Bent also sought to remove from the judge's commission words contrary to the principle of judicial independence. Macquarie generally approved these proposals, and appointed Ellis chief justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature he had advocated.

Bent's proposed reforms were perhaps regarded less favourably in Downing Street, though some modest concessions were made in 1814 and later, in 1823, a number of them were included in the New South Wales Act, 4 Geo. IV, c. 96. The Colonial Office's lesser changes, set out in the Letters Patent of 1814, met with Bent's acute criticism. Bent and Macquarie also became estranged over the role of the judiciary vis-a-vis the executive in New South Wales. Bent resisted the Governor's assertion of a right to demand his full compliance with Macquarie's orders which were made in the absence of a local legislature, arguably usurped Westminster's jurisdiction and sometimes seemed unconstitutional. Their relation further deteriorated because Ellis Bent's physical disorders made him no longer fit to attend to some of the duties he had previously discharged, which neglect Macquarie interpreted somewhat uncharitably.

Jeffery Bent, Ellis' older brother, arrived in New South Wales in 1814. He had been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of the Civil Judicature, and as such, was independent of the governor's authority. Jeffery was a vain and self-aggrandising man, unwilling to begin or conduct his duties in less than perfect conditions. He delayed the opening of the court, and refused to allow attorneys who had formerly been convicts to practise before him, even in the absence of any others. When the court finally opened, and Macquarie appointed (as he was required by the Letters Patent to do) two magistrates to sit with Bent, the latter refused to sit with them because they were disposed to the view that fairness to litigants required that they be represented by the 'convict attorneys'. Jeffery's action closed the Court. He also persuaded Ellis to adopt a similar rule for the Governor's Court. Jeffery's influence seems also to have caused Ellis to refuse to carry out Macquarie's instructions to revise the port regulations which governed the flow of persons and goods. He claimed that most of the rules were unnecessary and most were illegal.

Macquarie protested to Bathurst, and in January, 1816, the latter decided to uphold the executive arm and remove the Bents as judges. Ellis Bent died in 1815, before he received notice of his dismissal. Jeffery Bent continued to create mischief, judicial and political, pending the arrival of his successor, and finally provoked Macquarie to positively and absolutely revoke all of his judicial and magisterial authority. Bent returned to England, venting his contempt for Macquarie. In 1820 he went to Granada as chief justice, and pursued a controversial judicial career in the West Indies for the remainder of his life. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 87-92.)

 

Marshall Spring Bidwell (1799-1872)

The son of an American who fled to Canada in 1810 to escape prosecution on a charge of misappropriation of public funds, Bidwell was called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1821. Although elected in 1821 to represent Lennox and Addington Bidwell was declared ineligible to sit. A change in the election laws allowed him to take a seat in the Assembly of Upper Canada in 1825. He continued as a member of the Assembly until 1836, on two occasions being elected its speaker. During these years he was considered the leader of the moderate wing of the Reform Party in Upper Canada that also contained the Baldwins. His career in Canadian politics was brought to an end by an accusation he had been complicit in the Rebellion of 1837, an uprising in which he had played no part. For his own reasons, Sir Francis Bond Head, the recently dismissed lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, advised Bidwell to flee the country. Bidwell accepted Head's self-serving advice, and went to live in Albany, New York, where he rose to a high place at the bar. It is thought that Sir John Macdonald later unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Bidwell to re-enter Canadian politics. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), pp. 64,65.)

 

John Thomas Bigge (1780-1843)

Bigge was a judge and royal commissioner, who in 1819 had accepted appointment as commissioner of inquiry into the colony of New South Wales. He had previously been Chief Justice of Trinidad, a role he carried out with ability. His royal commission authorized an investigation of "all the laws regulations and usages of the settlements", notably those affecting civil administration, management of convicts, development of the courts, the Church, trade, revenue and natural resources. Bigge was to carry out the dual roles of public commisioner for the Crown and private inquisitor for the government. Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary who instructed Bigge, proposed to make transportation "an object of real terror" and so Bigge arrived with little sympathy for the humanitarian policies of Governor Macquarie.

Bigge found Macquarie's broad-minded attitudes incompatible with Tory concepts of the purpose of criminal law, and assailed the Governor's methods vehemently. The two men had markedly different backgrounds. Bigge was disposed to judge everything by English standards, and was ignorant of the special problems of the colony. His inquiry was inquisitorial in nature, unrestrained by any rules of evidence. Witnesses may even have been invited to make complaints against the governor. However, Bigge displayed great perspicacity in sifting through the evidence, although his conclusions, based on untested testimony, were sometimes false.

Bigge prepared three reports: The State of the Colony of New South Wales, (1822); The Judicial establishments of New South Wales and of Van Diemen's Land, (1823); and The State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of New South Wales (1823). These reports prompted various reforms to the structure of government, the legal system and the reception of convicts from England. Although Bigge's methods were far from laudatory, his work was important to the colony's development. His assessments suffered, however, from bias against Macquarie, and a failure to appreciate the great strides that the Governor had made in producing an orderly society. Bigge's second report, especially, was unrealistic in its criticism, given that the rule of law had come close to expiry just a few years before. The recommendations contained in the report for reforms to the criminal legal system were largely the ideas of the colonial lawyers and suggestions made earlier by Judge-Advocate Ellis Bent. The third report was the most impartial, and included useful accounts of the state of the colony's agricultural and economic position.

Bigge returned to England in 1821, later to be given a similar appointment to investigate Cape Colony. With colleague Major William Colebrooke, Bigge applied himself to a close scrutiny of the administration of that colony; also examining how far British law could be introduced and the disposition and possible emancipation of government slaves and apprenticed Africans. Returning to England in 1829, Bigge experienced poor health until his death by accident in 1843. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 99-101.)

 

Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780)

Blackstone's most remarkable contribution to English was his publication of his lectures given at Oxford University in the 1750s to "Gentlemen of Rank and Fortune." His Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) in four volumes is in the words of Brian Simpson "a great, readable book about English law as a whole." This was the first serious attempt to reduce the morass of the laws of England to rational statement, and was immensely influential as a statement of that law, not only in England but also in the colonies and in the United States. His contribution to scholarship was recognized at Oxford by his appointment to the Vinerian Chair of Law.

Blackstone was not a success at the Bar, nor as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas to which he was appointed in 1770. He was elected to Parliament in 1861 as a Tory supporting the Earl of Bute. His record in the Commons was undistinguished, as befitted a placeman who supported the aristocratic Whig establishment. He spoke out against the American colonists and was active in securing the expulsion from the Commons of the populist, John Wilkes. The Commentaries were criticized, not least by Jeremy Bentham, for their complacency about the genius of the common law and in their adulation of the British Constitution as the epitome of perfection in balancing the interests of King, Lords and Commons. While Blackstone's philosophy was borrowed and shallow, his sense of history as reflected in his statement of the law was generally strong. Politically, suggests Brian Simpson, he was "an old Whig for whom the Glorious Revolution was a living reality, a Revolution which had produced a constitution with perfect checks and balances." (See A.W.B. Simpson, Dictionary of Legal Biography, pp. 57-61).

 

Richard Blanshard (1817?-1894)

Blanshard served briefly as governor of Vancouver Island. Born in England, he was educated at Queen's College, Cambridge and called to the bar in 1845. Appointed the first governor of Vancouver Island in 1849, he arrived in the colony in 1850, but resigned in 1851. He had been faced with a difficult situation in which power in the white community was effectively in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Co. and its Chief Factor in Victoria, James Douglas who was not cooperative. Blanshard's attempts to deal with Aboriginal resistance in the Fort Rupert region were considered to be heavy handed, and his initative to settle disputes between miners and their employers ineffective. Blanshard returned to England, and died in London on June 5, 1894. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 73.)

 

William Bligh (1754-1817)

Bligh's early career was as a naval officer, sailing with Cook's third voyage (1776) and seeing action in the French war (1783). Between 1783-1787, Bligh served in the West Indian trade, being appointed commander and purser of H.M.S. Bounty. In 1787, his crew mutinied, and cast off their commander with 18 "loyalists" in an open boat only 23 feet long. Bligh skillfully navigated the boat 3618 miles to Timor, charting the north-east coast of New Holland as he went. He was later acquitted in London by the court martial that tried him for the loss of his ship, though many alleged that it was his tyranny that caused the mutiny. Bligh continued his naval career in the South Pacific for a time, later fighting in several naval actions, and earning the commendation of Nelson.

In 1806, following the recommendation of his friend, Sir Joseph Banks, Bligh was appointed governor of New South Wales, succeeding Governor King. The situation in the colony was distressed. The Hawkesbury River had flooded disastrously, fewer ships carrying supplies and convict labour were arriving after the renewal of the Napoleonic wars, and the local trading sharks were wielding an increasing influence as King's health had worsened. Unfortunately, Bligh's proper and urgently needed reforms were hindered by intemperate quarrels with John Macarthur, and the perception that he showed himself considerable favours while denying others similar rights. Reforms in relation to the control of cargo, and the importation of spirits, to illicit stills, and to the nature of promissory notes, also aroused the antagonism of various parties with vested interests. Bligh also managed to arouse the antagonism of the officers of the New South Wales Corps. He alienated several leading citizens of Sydney by questioning their lease holdings that were in conflict with the plan of the town. Bligh was hindered in dealing with the opposition by his unsavoury judge-advocate, Atkins. This was particularly crucial when charges were laid against John Macarthur, for although the charges against Macarthur were justified, it was undesirable that Atkins, Macarthur's debtor, should sit in judgment upon him.

Macarthur stirred up further anti-Bligh sentiment, moving Major Johnston of the New South Wales Corp to arrest and depose the Governor in January, 1808. This was the infamous "Rum Rebellion". For more than a year, Bligh remained in confinement in Sydney, refusing to sail to England if liberated. Bligh then sailed to Van Diemen's Land to attract support, which did not materialise as he had hoped. After Governor Macquarie arrived in Sydney, Bligh returned to Port Jackson, staying long enough to be "a great plague" to his successor. After Bligh reached England in October, 1810, he was involved in the court martial of Major Johnston. Johnston's conviction was Bligh's acquittal, but Johnston's actions were not completely condemned by the court. It was felt that Bligh's hot temper and violent language marred his record. Bligh was ultimately promoted to vice-admiral in June, 1814. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 118-122.)

 

Sir William Westbrooke Burton (1794-1888)

Burton's early career was in the British navy. Called to the English Bar in 1824, three years later Burton accepted a seat on the bench of the newly constituted Supreme Court at the Cape of Good Hope as second puisne judge. The chief justice of the Court was Sir John Wylde, who had been deputy-judge-advocate in New South Wales. While at the Cape, Burton drafted rules regulating the forms of procedure of the Supreme Court in civil cases and helped to make rules for criminal cases. He also drafted the Insolvency Ordinance and published a text book on insolvency law.

In 1832, Burton was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. An early important case in which he sat was MacDonald v. Levy (1833, Legge 39), which considered whether an English Act limiting interest rates was to apply in New South Wales. Burton dissented from fellow justices Forbes and Dowling, and contended that the Act applied. In 1834, Burton presided over the trial of leaders of an insurrection on Norfolk Island. The sentencing of thirteen men to death was troubling to him. A year later he expressed controversial views on the cause of the high numbers of capital convictions and as to the way wealth was being accumulated by certain colonists. While Burton's fellow jurists and Governor Burke disagreed with his opinions, others supported him. His comments was relied upon in an 1837 petition to the British government for reforms and in the report of the select committee on transportation, the Molesworth Committee (1837), as a result of which New South Wales utlimately ceased receiving convicts.

Burton took leave in 1839, and while on leave published The State of Religion and Education in New South Wales (London, 1840). Later, Burton drafted an insolvency bill and published The Insolvent Law of New South Wales. Burton took a keen interest in the cause of the Aboriginals, ruling in the trial of an Aboriginal named Murrell that the Aboriginals were amenable to English law; in another case, he applied the protection of English law to Aboriginals who had suffered at the hands of (white) British subjects. From 1844 to 1857, Burton lived in India, serving as a puisne judge in Madras. During this time he was knighted. On his return to Sydney, Burton was sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council, and took a lively interest in the early proposals for Australian federation. In December 1857 Burton introduced a select committee report on the constitution of the Supreme Court, closely following the pattern of English legal practice. This emphasis on following English example was characteristic of Burton. Burton was elected president of the Legislative Council in 1858. However, his opposition to an unorthodox proposal to pass new land legislation by adding members to the chamber moved him to resign and ultimately to leave Sydney for England, where he died in 1888. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 184-186.)

 

Charles Pratt, first Earl of Camden (1714-94)

Lord Camden was notable for his stance against the use of general warrants, which he viewed as contrary to the fundamental principles of the British Constitution. Because of this belief, he became a popular idol, and the Mayor of London presented him with the freedom of the city and commissioned Reynolds to paint his portrait. While in the House of Lords, Camden and Mansfield were always in opposition. Camden succeeded Lord Northington on the woolsack in 1766, a position he resigned in 1770. As an active Member of Parliament, he strongly supported the American cause, and, as his last hurrah, supported Charles Fox's Libel Act of 1792 that extended the power of juries in criminal libel cases.

 

David Cameron (1804-1872)

The first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the colony of Vancouver Island was born in Perth, Scotland. Cameron's first career was as a cloth merchant, but difficulties with his creditors caused him to emigrate to Demerara, British Guiana, where he became the overseer of a sugar plantation. While in Demerara, he married the sister of James Douglas. After a business failure in 1851, Cameron was offered by the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, (apparently at Douglas' instigation), a position as superintendent of the coal mines at Nanaimo, a position he took up upon his arrival on Vancouver Island in 1853.

The same year, Cameron became first a judge of the newly created Court of Common Pleas, and when a Supreme Court of Civil Justice was established in December of that year, he was appointed to that Court. This caused some controversy, since Cameron was both an HBC employee and brother-in-law to Governor Douglas. Two years of petitions and counter-petitions followed, with Douglas finally being authorized to appoint Cameron Chief Justice of Vancouver Island, albeit without jurisdiction in criminal cases. The reform party of the colony made several attempts to embarrass and dislodge Cameron by reason of his obscure background and lack of legal training. However, with the support of Douglas, Cameron maintained both his dignity and his position. In 1865, when the need for a professionally trained judge had become very apparent, Cameron retired from the bench.

In the years that followed, Cameron served in a variety of roles, including justice of the peace, member of the Board of Education, road commissioner for the districts of Esquimalt and Sooke, and one of three commissioners appointed to carry out the provisions of "The Tax Sale Repeal Ordinance, 1867, Amendment Act." In 1871, he filed in bankruptcy, and later narrowly lost a bid to represent the district of Esquimalt in the legislature. He died on Vancouver Island in 1872. (See further the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), v. X, pp. 115-117; and W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 120.)

 

Richard Cartwright (1759-1815)

Born in Albany, New York, Cartwright fought on the Loyalist side during the American Revolutionary War before settling in Niagara, and then afterwards at Kingston. Entering into business partnership with Robert Hamilton, he achieved prominence as one of Upper Canada's leading merchants. In 1788 Cartwright was appointed judge of the court of Common Pleas for the district of Mecklenburgh; and became a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada in 1792. During the War of 1812 he was commandant of the Midland District. Cartwright died at Montreal in 1815. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p.136.)

 

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)

Recognized early in his career as a talented lawyer at the Queen's Bench Bar, he became Solicitor General, Speaker of the House of Commons and Attorney General in quick succession during the last decade of Elizabeth's reign. Elevated to the position of Chief Justice of Common Pleas early in the reign of James I, he soon came into conflict with the King and his advisers, especially Lord Chancellor Ellesmere. He led judicial opposition to the abuse of executive power and the use of special conciliar courts, by the use of prerogative writs. In Dr. Bonham's Case (1610) he mused that judges had the power to overturn legislation where contrary to "common right and reason." Moving him to be Chief Justice of King's Bench did nothing to control his ardour. After rejecting attempts to reopen common law decisions in Chancery and refusing to concur in James's attempts to stay proceedings in various suits, he was removed from office in 1616.

Subsequently Coke took up the battle in Parliament against what he saw as royal abuse of power. He served as an M.P. in the 1620s, spending several months in the Tower in 1622 charged with treason. Charles I had him removed from the Commons in 1626 but he was reelected in 1628. Legal historian Brian Simpson has remarked of Coke that he has been viewed either as "a constitutional myth-maker who helped break down belief in the divine rights of Kings, or as leader of the opposition who showed how grievances could be blamed on courtiers responsible."

Coke is also recognized for his Reports of Cases and Institutes of the Laws of England in which he set out the law as he understood it or, in some instances, felt it should be. (See further A.W.B. Simpson, Biographical Dictionary of the Common Law (London: Butterworths, 1984), pp. 117-121).

 

David Collins (1756-1810)

Collins joined his father's division in the marines at age 14, and rose through its ranks to become captain in 1780. In 1786, he left England to accept an appointment at Botany Bay as the deputy judge-advocate of the new colony and its marine detachment. Although he had little knowledge of the law, he was responsible for the colony's entire legal establishment. Few cases came before the civil court, however, and in the criminal court he sat with six naval or military officers. In presiding over these courts, Collins upheld the governor's authority and had little sympathy for officers' rights. In one celebrated civil case, Kable v. Sinclair, Collins ruled that convicts were entitled to sue on contracts made with them, in this case to bring their luggage safely to Australia. When racial clashes came before the courts, he displayed compassion for Aboriginals, tending to blame the convicts for disobedience of the governor's orders.

Collins lost his position when the marines left Botany Bay in 1791. However, he remained in the colony to assist Governor Phillip and subsequent governors. He finally returned to England to live with his wife in 1796, but could not find a post there that met his satisfaction. He wrote An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales in 1798, which sold well, and in 1802 accepted the position of Lieutenant-Governor of a new settlement called Hobart Town in Van Diemen's Land. A chronic lack of supplies and food, as well as numerous other problems, plagued Collins in Van Diemen's land, and the governments in Sydney and London neglected his pleas for assistance. He died there suddenly in 1810. (Further information may be found in Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1, pp. 236-240).

 

Sir Charles Cooper (1795-1887)

Cooper entered the Inner Temple in 1822 and became a pupil of Richard Preston, celebrated conveyancing barrister and author. He was called to the Bar in 1827, applying unsuccessfully for the post of attorney-general in New South Wales in 1830. Cooper was, however, appointed a judge in South Australia in July, 1838, arriving in Adelaide in March, 1839. Known for his gentleness and rectitude, it was some time before he was accepted by Adelaide's radical press, who thought him too timid in coming to conclusions.

At Cooper's instigation, a voluntary land registry was established in 1842 as an attempt to deal with the prevailing confusion as to titles to land. Strongly attached to English law, Cooper did little else to mould South Australian law, although he helped to draft bills. In his most important judgment, (The Queen v. Paxton et al.), Cooper disregarded the unpopular colonial ordinance imposing royalties. A severe illness which began in 1849 necessitated the early appointment of a second judge. In 1856, Cooper was given the title chief justice and granted leave to visit England, where he was knighted. In 1858 he returned to Adelaide to find the city in turmoil over second judge Benjamin Boothby's legal interpretations. In 1860, Cooper was sworn in as a member of the Executive Council -- an unusual appointment for a judge, and earning Governor MacDonnell a rebuke from Downing Street. Because of his own failing health and Boothby's eccentricities, Cooper retired from the bench in 1861 and from the Executive Council in 1862. He then returned to England where he lived in retirement until his death. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp.244.)

 

Sir Henry Pering Pellew Crease (1825-1905)

Born and educated in England, Crease arrived in British Columbia in 1858. He had been previously the manager of a tin mine in Cornwall and sympathetic to the cause of the miners. He became the first practising barrister in Vancouver Island, accompanying judge Matthew Baillie Begbie on his inaugural circuit in March, 1859. Crease involved himself in the island's political life, labelling himself a "liberal and independent Reformer", and ostensibly opposing the Hudson's Bay Company's strong political monopoly. However, Crease may have been more a political opportunist than a true reformer. In 1860, when he was elected as Victoria's representative in the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island, Amor De Cosmos (then editor of the opposition newspaper the British Colonist) alleged his victory had been engineered by the Company. In 1861 Governor Douglas seemed to confirm Crease's politics when he appointed him as the first Attorney General of British Columbia. Upon this appointment he resigned his seat in the island assembly. In 1866, British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united, and Crease became the Attorney General for the new administration, a position he occupied until 1870. During his attorney-generalship, Crease helped draft and promote a mass of legislation dealing land settlement, gold-mining, and regulation of the economic transactions that accompanied the exploitation of resources. During the period of debate over Confederation, Crease was not an early supporter of union, although he eventually endorsed the idea.

Afterwards, Crease became a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He was noted during this period for his vigorous and sometimes intemperate rejection of provincial authority over the Court. While Crease's jurisprudence was strongly influenced by laissez-faire individualism, his political attitudes were driven by his self-conscious English middle-class background. This manifested itself in a deep distrust of universal suffrage, and by an unwavering faith in the better judgement of those whose habit it was to rule. Along with Begbie C.J. and Gray J. he was opposed to the more egregious discrimination to which Chinese immigrants were subjected. When he retired from the bench in 1896, Crease was made a knight bachelor. (See further the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), v. XIII, pp. 228-231).

 

Sir Ralph Darling (1775-1858)

Darling had a successful early career as a military officer, serving in the West Indies, England and Spain. He rose from the rank of ensign to become a deputy-adjutant general by 1814. In 1819 Darling became the military governor of Mauritius, incurring the enmity of the planters by his vigorous determination to end the slave traffic. In 1824, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales and of Van Diemen's Land, arriving in Sydney in December of 1825. Darling's experience in Mauritius, where he wielded dictatorial power over an alien population, ill-prepared him for his heavier and more complex responsibilities in New South Wales. His concept of government was one of military simplicity and efficiency. In his zeal for efficiency, Darling introduced many overdue improvements in the machinery of the colonial government, notably an expertly integrated and supervised civil service. Another of his outstanding achievements was banking reform. Darling brought the public accounts to order, and during his administration the colonial revenue doubled without additional taxes and became adequate for the entire costs of the civil government.

A period of estrangement between Darling and Chief Justice Francis Forbes, arising over the governor's encroachment into what Forbes deemed the sphere of the judiciary and so pronounced as to threaten their respective positions and abuse of executive power more generally, seems to have been healed by 1831. The Australian Courts Act of 1828, while introducing some modifications to the Legislative Council, failed to satisfy the reformers in Sydney because it left the Executive Council under oligarchic control, and did little to modify Darling's executive powers, especially in the vexed issues of land and convict labour. Darling's grants and withholding of land appeared arbitrary to his critics, and won him many enemies. Nevertheless, Darling's administration brought the beginnings of a uniform land system. He was also largely responsible for many important explorations.

Darling's military attitudes came to be resented by the champions of civil-liberty in the colony. A flash point was arrived at when he varied the sentence of two privates who had sought to obtain their discharge by committing transportable offences. When one of the privates, Joseph Sudds, died of what was probably dropsy, the newspapers seized on the incident, using it to stir public opinion against Darling's administration. This led to Darling attempting, first in the Legislative Council, and then in the courts, to curb the licentiousness of the press. These efforts which were resisted in part by Forbes and his colleagues in the Supreme Court were largely unsuccessful. In 1831 Darling was relieved of his position, and with his wife and children sailed from Sydney . A parliamentary inquiry into his administration was held, but the inquiry was poorly attended and focused mostly on the cause of Sudds' death. Darling was cleared and immediately thereafter knighted by the King. He died at Brighton in 1858. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 282-286.)

 

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877)

Douglas was Vancouver Island's second governor, taking office after the brief term of Richard Blanshard. Born in British Guiana, the son of a Scottish father and Creole mother, Douglas was educated in Scotland. He came to Canada when he was about 16 years of age as an apprentice with the North West Company. After that company was amalgamated with the Hudson's Bay Company, Douglas was employed with the latter as a clerk and trader. He had a highly adventurous and accomplished career with the Hudson's Bay Company until 1858, when he retired as chief factor. During this period, he was known for his strong stance against slavery, a talent for negotiation, and personal frugality. In 1843 Douglas founded the first Hudson's Bay post on the Island, on the site of present-day Victoria.

In 1851, Douglas was made governor and vice-admiral of Vancouver Island, in which positions he enjoyed a very distinguished career. Douglas was greatly concerned with Indian policy, and adopted an attitude of benevolent paternalism towards them. Indian Land reserves were laid out in the sourthern and southeastern parts of the Island, with title remaining vested in the Crown, but the Indians confirmed in their traditional rights and practices. His administration was firm and vigorous (for example, he believed in making Aboriginals who offended responsible for their crimes and liable to rigorous punishment under English and colonial law), but Douglas generally utilised his substantial powers wisely and conscientiously. In 1856 the Colonial Office ordered Douglas to establish an legislative assembly. He complied, despite his confession that he possessed "a very slender knowledge of legislation." Douglas dealt effectively with the administrative and settlement issues engendered by the goldrush of 1858, but not without receiving sharp criticism from Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the newly appointed colonial secretary for seeking to regulate gold mining on the mainland without jurisdiction over that territory. That year, Douglas was offered the governorship of the newly proclaimed colony of British Columbia on condition that he relinquish his association with the Hudson's Bay Company, for which he was still chief factor. Douglas held a dual governorship until 1863, bringing the authority of British governance and English law to the mainland (together with Justice Begbie). During this period Douglas is thought to have changed his views on Aboriginal land holding, now favouring their assimilation into the fee simple system. In 1863 his commission as governor of Vancouver Island expired, and in 1864 he retired from public life.

On leaving political life, Douglas had the satisfaction of knowing that he had protected the British foothold on the Pacific seaboard; had built the Great North Road which helped to establish the Fraser River as the commercial and arterial highway of British Columbia; and that development of the interior was proceeding in an orderly fashion. For his services, Douglas was made a K.C.B. in 1863. When "The Father of British Columbia" died in 1877, in Victoria, the city he founded, he was widely mourned. (See further the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), v. X, pp. 238-249; and W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 220.)

 

Sir James Dowling (1787-1844)

Born in London, Dowling received his call to the Bar in 1815. After applying to the Colonial Office in 1827, he obtained a puisne judgeship in New South Wales, and arrived in Sydney in February, 1828. Dowling competently discharged his judicial duties, displaying tact, geniality and innate kindness. After much jockeying for position by Justice Burton, and then later on Dowling's behalf by his brother Vincent, Dowling became the second Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales upon the resignation of Chief Justice Forbes. In the first part of his career in the colony he had the "painful lot" of hearing many of the libel cases brought against the press by Governor Darling. By all accounts, he was a conscientious and industrious jurist. Although Dowling also became a Legislative Councillor when he succeeded Forbes, Dowling sought to stay aloof from political debate, believing that the legislative and judicial functions were incompatible. Nonetheless, he did think himself a desirable candidate for the position of Speaker, but his overtures in that respect were thwarted by Governor Gipps and by secretary of state Stanley. In June 1844, after a prolonged and serious illness, Dowling collapsed on the bench. He died in September of that year.

 

William Henry Draper (1801-1877)

Born in England, Draper came to Canada in 1820, where he received a legal education and, in 1828, the call to the bar. From 1836 to 1840 he represented Toronto in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, and was appointed a member of the Executive Council of the Province in 1836. Draper served as aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Bond Head, the lieutenant-governor, during the rebellion of 1837. The same year he was appointed Solicitor General for the province, and in 1840, Attorney General.

Draper, though not commonly regarded as a member of the "Family Compact", was an old-fashioned Conservative. After the Union of 1841, he became Attorney General for Upper-Canada, an office he retained until the Baldwin-Lafontaine administration of 1842. In 1843, he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council, shortly thereafter becoming again part of the Executive Council. From 1844-1847, Draper was the virtual head of the government, although without the recognized title of prime minister. He was a persuasive speaker, earning the sobriquet of "Sweet William". The stresses of governing with a small majority led to his resignation from politics in 1847. From 1847 until his death in 1877, Draper held a succession of judicial posts: puisne judge of the Court of Queen's Bench in Upper Canada (1847-56), Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (1856-63), Chief Justice of Upper Canada (1863-69), and President of the Court of Error and Appeal (1869-77). (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 222.)

 

Thomas Erskine (1750-1823)

Like George Murray, Lord Mansfield, Erskine was the son of an impoverished Scottish peer. He went to Cambridge as a fast track to the Bar. After early penury he developed into a very successful and talented advocate, first in commercial cases before Mansfield, and later as defense counsel in the political show trials of the 1790s. In the latter radicals had been charged with seditious libel for their often trenchant criticism of the Pitt government, and favourable comments about the French Revolution and its consequences.

Erskine received public acclamation for his advocacy, and still in some circles has the reputation of being the greatest advocate ever to practice in England. He was elected to Parliament where he was less than successful as a member of the opposition benches. His powers and influence waned as a consequence. His appointment by Charles James Fox as Lord Chancellor (1806-7) reflects his loyalty, rather than Fox's enthusiasm (two other candidates had turned down the job). Erskine was not highly regarded in the cabinet.

His opposition to the draconian Six Acts of 1817 and his support of Queen Caroline in the divorce proceedings restored his popularity. However, he never held office again and died in debt. (See further A.W.B. Simpson, Dictionary of Legal Biography, p. 167).

 

Sir James Hurtle Fisher (1790-1875)

In 1811, Fisher was admitted to practice as a lawyer in London. He was attracted by the colonizing movement in 1835, becoming a member of the South Australian Building Committee, and shortly thereafter was selected as resident commissioner. The Colonization Commission delegated to him powers to dispose of land in the province, and apply the proceeds for the financing of emigration. In his official capacity he was second only to the Governor, although his functions were supposed to be distinct from those of government officers. He arrived in South Australia in December, 1836. Fisher and Colonel Light had several serious disputes, both in and outside of the new Council of Government, and the Resident Magistrate's Court imposed a peace bond on both of them. Fisher was embroiled in further dissension over the site for the capital and over the slow progress of the land survey. He and Governor Hindmarsh were bitterly and openly critical of each other, leading to an almost total breakdown in cooperation between the two principal officers of the colonial government. After the recall of Hindmarsh, the two offices were combined in Governor Gawler. Fisher returned to his profession, becoming a leader of the South Australian Bar. His most popular victory came 1848 in the mineral royalty case before the Supreme Court. Fisher served two separate terms as mayor of Adelaide. He was elected a member of the Legislative Council in 1853, serving as speaker in 1855-56 and as president from 1857-1865, when he retired from politics. In 1860 he became the first resident South Australian to be knighted. One of the most important pioneers of South Australia, Fisher died in Adelaide on January 28, 1875. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 379-380.)

 

Sir Francis Forbes (1784-1841)

The first Chief Justice of New South Wales was born and raised in Bermuda. He studied law in England, although his political opinions were reportedly influenced by his studies and travels in America. He returned to Bermuda in 1811 to serve as Attorney General, and in 1816 moved to Newfoundland, where he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the climate did not agree with him and he accepted an appointment in New South Wales in 1822. In Newfoundland Forbes developed a reputation as a liberal, in particular because he tried to mould the law in Newfoundland to suit local conditions, a step which did not endear him to Governor Hamilton. In New South Wales new legislation which Forbes had helped draft in London combined the criminal and civil courts, and as the head of this new court Forbes possessed wide powers. Besides becoming chief justice, he became a member of the Legislative and Executive Councils. As well, before submitting any new law to the Legislative Council, the governor had to obtain the chief justice's confirmation that the bill was not repugnant to the laws of England.

In these legislative roles, Forbes often came into conflict with the governor. While he and Governor Brisbane enjoyed a close friendship, Forbes and Brisbane's successor, Darling, were bitter enemies. Forbes regularly overturned Darling's legislation and executive actions in court especially where he felt that it offended the rule of law, and he found some of the governor's attempts at legislation repugnant (the most celebrated cases involved the Governnor's attempts to muzzle the press. Darling restrained Forbes' legislative powers and refused to consult him when filling senior legal offices. Their disputes led the Colonial Office in 1828 to threaten to remove both of them if they did not improve their relations. However, Forbes' decisions were consistently upheld by Crown law officers, and he was known for his integrity, knowledge, and calm demeanour. He survived Darling's administration and won the respect of the new governor, Bourke, who recommended Forbes for his knighthood in 1837.

Forbes strengthened the jurisdiction of the inferior courts, by his own courtroom rules and by piloting laws that he drafted through the legislature. He supported jury trials and a circuit court system, although the latter was not implemented. Also significant was his role in shaping the colony's first three basic constitutional instruments. In 1834, a nervous condition began to paralyze Forbes and he moved to England on a leave of absence. He continued to turn out legal recommendations and reports until his illness rendered him incapable of work in 1837, at which point he officially retired. (For more on Forbes, consult the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1, pp. 392-399).

 

George Gawler (1795-1869)

In early life, Gawler saw action as a soldier in many minor engagements and several major battles, including Waterloo. In 1818 he was given sick leave, returning to duty in 1819, and having decided in the interim to become "a true Christian." He became noted for his piety and works of active evangelism. He left his regiment in 1834, but retained an active interest in military affairs, writing articles and pamphlets on military subjects. In 1838, the colonization commissioners were seeking "a godly man" as governor of South Australia. Gawler was recommended and appointed. The dispute between Governor Hindmarsh and resident commissioner Fisher over their respective jurisdictions had retarded the colony's development, so the two offices were combined in Gawler. He thus represented both the Colonial Office and the non-governmental Colonization Commission, which was responsible for land sales, applying the proceeds to the emigration of labourers, and raising loans until such time as the colony was self-sufficient.

Gawler arrived in Adelaide in October, 1838, finding the colony's affairs in severe disarray. Authorized expenditure for 1838 had already been greatly exceeded. The number of public officials was larger than that allowed, but still inadequate. Salaries were unpaid. The accounts were in complete disorder. The surveys were badly in arrears, and the Survey Department at a standstill by reason of the resignation of Colonel Light. The result was that more than 4000 people were living in makeshift conditions around Adelaide, unable to take up their country lands. Gawler acted with energy and decisiveness, believing he must ignore his prior instructions and treat the situation as an emergency. He increased the number of officials, raised salaries, gradually rid himself of factious officials, and organized a police force. He persuaded Charles Sturt to become surveyor-general, and until Sturt could assume office, reorganized and directed the Department himself. However, in 1839, the commissioners appointed Lieutenant Frome as surveyor-general, so Gawler made Sturt assistant commissioner in charge of the land office and immigrant labourers. Gawler's efforts produced rapid results and speeded settlement.

A steady stream of immigrants created pressures to feed, house and employ them, and in August 1839, Gawler wrote to the commissioners that the expenses of the Emigration Department were out of control. However, when Wakefield's attention turned to New Zealand, and explorations in the colony created the impression of little more fertile land, the number of immigrants and the volume of land sales dropped suddenly, hastening a financial depression. Influenced by his reading of Adam Smith, Gawler increased government expenditure on public works.

In his administration, Gawler was intelligent but somewhat na´ve and authoritarian. He aimed "to establish a paternal rather than judicial system of government." He was personally popular, even if too religious for all tastes. His most persistent colonial critics complained that his paternal benevolence towards the Aboriginals prevented their discipline as an encouragement to habits of prudence and hard work. Gawler, advised by Judge Cooper that members of the Milmendjeri tribe who had murdered survivors of the wrecked Maria could not be dealt with by the normal processes of law, sent a police detachment to administer summary justice. Four Aboriginals were executed and Gawler was accused of being an accessory to murder. The matter was eventually allowed to rest. Gawler was blamed for the colony's blossoming expenditures after the dissolution of the South Australian Colonization Commission in 1840. The imperial parliament appointed a select committee in 1841 to inquire into the colony's affairs. Although the committee was not overly critical of him, the Colonial Office recalled Gawler in May. Upon his return to England, he was overwhelmed by a spate of public and often self-interested criticism. Captain George Grey, his successor as governor, greatly damaged Gawler's reputation by creating the myth that Gawler's policies were responsible for the land speculation and that his expenditures had prevented rural settlement. Gawler, unable to obtain public vindication, retired to private life where he devoted his remaining years to religious and charitable works. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 431-435.)

 

Robert Fleming Gourlay (1778-1863)

Gourlay was a Scottish author and agitator who was concerned for the reform of the poor laws. Arriving in Canada in 1817, Gourlay set up in Kingston as a land agent. Strongly critical of the conditions in Upper Canada, he fell into disfavour with the "Family Compact", the ruling clique in the province, in particular because he advocated the holding of a people's convention to discuss the constitution of the colony. He was arrested as a seditious alien, tried, acquitted by two juries but nevertheless banished from the province. Gourlay returned to Scotland, where he compiled his Statistical Account of Upper Canada (3 vols., London, 1822). In 1842, the parliament of Upper Canada nullified the sentence passed on him, and in 1856 Gourlay returned to Canada from the United States where he had been living since 1836. He ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly in 1860. After his defeat, he returned to Scotland, where he died in 1863. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p.307.)

 

Robert Isaac Dey Gray (Grey) (1772-1804)

At the outbreak of the American revolution, Del Gray fled to Quebec with his family. He was called to the bar in 1794, and as a result of his father's political connections was offered the position of Solicitor General by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. Gray was elected to the House of Assembly in 1796, and throughout his term served as the assembly's liaison with the Legislative Council. De Gray was instrumental in the formation of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1797. He consistently resisted the assembly's attempts to curtail the discretion of the Lieutenant Governor, but he introduced several bills concerning reform of the judicial system. As Solicitor General, he prosecuted criminal cases and died in a shipwreck on his way to the murder trial of an Aboriginal accused. His views on slavery are of interest -- while he owned slaves, he had voted against extending slavery in the province. In his will he freed slave Dorinda Baker, and bequeathed a trust fund, money, and land to Baker and her family. (Further information can be found in Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. V, pp. 388-389).

 

Sir George Grey (1812-1898)

Born at Lisbon, Portugal, Grey was the son of an officer who was killed a week before he was born. Grey entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1826, later joining the 83rd Regiment in Ireland. He became interested in colonization as a cure for the distress of the Irish peasants. In 1836 he wrote to the colonial office offering to lead an expedition to seek a site for settlement in north-western Australia. His plan was approved. His expedition set out inland from Hanover Bay, beset by inexperience, floods and hostile Aboriginals. At one point Grey was speared and became critically ill, but continued two weeks later with the expedition. The Gelnelg River, Stephen Range and Mount Lyell were discovered and named. After recuperating in Mauritius, Grey embarked on a voyage to Perth which was marked by misadventure and misfortune. He finally reached Perth after a 300-mile forced march following a shipwreck.

In August 1839, Grey was appointed resident magistrate at King George Sound. In a published report, he argued that the only way to save tribal peoples from extinction was by compulsory assimilation into the white culture. In 1840, Grey was ordered to return to England. He travelled via Adelaide where he was entertained at Government House by Governor Gawler, who expounded his policies and the showed off the flourishing colony.

In October 1840 Grey was offered and accepted the governorship of South Australia. When he heard that the Colonization Commission was bankrupt, he sent an artful memorandum to the secretary of state, condemning all that he had learnt in Adelaide from Gawler, and promising to maintain strict economy and to work harmoniously with the Colonial Office.

After his arrival in Adelaide in 1841, Grey sent dispatches to the Colonial Office that created the myth of Gawler's sole responsibility for the colony's bankruptcy. His subtle insinuations were used to justify his own irregular actions and to convince posterity of his own unique ability. The economies which Gawler had initiated Grey continued, reducing departmental expenditures, halving the police force, and suspending work on Adelaide's public buildings. He incurred angry protestations by the public and the press, but steered clear of disaster. By 1844, the worst of the colony's economic crisis was over and Grey nearly balanced the colony's budget. By 1845, with the expansion of the pastoral industry, it had ceased to be dependent on British grants.

Grey had little opportunity to implement the proposals he had made in respect to Aboriginals in his earlier report. He ordered that they were to be brought to trial before punishment, but attempts to encourage assimilation through schools for aboriginal children, and by inducing adults to work for white settlers, were rarely successful. He also did little to promote representative government for the colonists. The imposition of increased departmental charges and customs tariff resulted in a strongly supported public petition against taxation without representation, but Grey casually dismissed it.

In 1845 Grey was appointed governor in New Zealand, suppressing Maori rebellions, but gaining the goodwill of the principal chiefs. He bought land to meet the immediate needs of the colonists, and sorted out old land claims. He ruled as an autocrat, and was largely responsible for deferring representative government. His increasing wilfulness over land policies and the payment of government debts led to his recall in 1853, whereupon he returned to England.

From 1854 until 1859 Grey was governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner of South Africa. He arrived in Cape Town full of idealistic and visionary ideas to end the Kaffir wars, subjugate and control the tribes, and unite all South Africa in a self-sufficing, self-governing federation. However, his impatient and high-handed attempts to achieve these ends resulted only in alienating the colonists and his superiors in London alike. Although censured by the British government for acting contrary to instructions, his recall was later cancelled.

In 1861, hoping that Grey's influence with the Maoris might restore peace, Grey was appointed governor of New Zealand for a second time. However, when war broke out in 1863 Grey abandoned benevolence for military coercion, later quarrelling with his advisors, and nearly wrecking responsible government. His defiance of the British government in respect to the retention of British troops led to his curt dismissal in 1868.

In 1874, now living in New Zealand once again, Grey embarked on a twenty-year stint in the House of Representatives, even serving one disastrous term as premier (1877-79). Nevertheless Grey contributed much to liberal and socialist thought in New Zealand. He supported breaking up large estates in the interests of the smallholders; considered the state should guarantee employment, fair wages and working conditions; championed trade unions and voluntary industrial arbitration. He fought against plural voting, and sought to eliminate the "imperial factor" in colonial government. He opposed New Zealand's inclusion in any Australian federation. In 1894 he returned to London, and was laid to rest in 1898 in St Paul's Cathedral. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 476-480.)

 

John Sebastian Helmcken (1824-1920)

Helmcken, born in London but of German extraction, emigrated to Vancouver Island as a surgeon for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1850. He was appointed the first JP on the island colony by the first Governor, Richard Blanshard to hear cases arising from disputes between the Company and its workers in Fort Rupert. In 1852, Helmcken married the daughter of Sir James Douglas, the second Governor of the colony. From 1855 to 1871 he served as a member of the Assemblies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and as speaker of the Assemblies. Although initially opposed to Confederation, Helmcken was part of the delegation that went to Ottawa to arrange the terms of union. He helped ensure that the building of transcontinental railway was made a condition of union. In 1871 he declined appointment to Canada's Senate, choosing to retire to private life. Helmcken died in Victoria, aged 96 years. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 349.)

 

Sir John Hindmarsh (1785-1860)

Hindmarsh began his career in the British navy, and over a ten year period was engaged in several actions, including Trafalgar. Hindmarsh lost the sight of one eye during one of these naval battles. In 1835, Hindmarsh successfully applied to the colonial office for appointment as governor of the new South Australian colony. Before sailing for the colony, he had recommended Light as surveyor-general, which recommendation was accepted. However, upon their arrival in late 1836, Hindmarsh disputed with Light over the site and surveying of Adelaide. When the matter was put to a popular vote, the Governor's demands was defeated, a defeat which damaged his prestige. Hindmarsh contented himself by obtaining choice land and waterfront sites that returned him considerable personal profit.

The impulsively natured governor had additional troubles caused by drawing bills on the British Treasury without authority, though the money was needed for stores, equipment and livestock. There was also a bitter and ongoing conflict with the resident commissioner, J.H. Fisher, and his supporters. These employed disreputable methods to humiliate Hindmarsh and actively slandered and opposed him. Hindmarsh responded by progressively removing the dissidents from the Council, replacing them with suitors of his daughters. But by December, 1837, two men critical of Hindmarsh, namely, Gouger and Kingston, had separately arrived in London, sharing an avowed intent to unseat Hindmarsh. The Colonial Office, which had received many reports of Hindmarsh's "misdeeds", bowed to the pressure and recalled him. His recall was not considered a disgrace either in Adelaide or at the Colonial Office, and was later admitted to have been "too hastily determined". In 1840, he was appointed governor of Heligoland; in 1850, he was knighted; and in 1856, Hindmarsh retired. He died in London in 1860. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 1 pp. 538-541.)

 

Sir John Holt (1642-1709)

Holt was an accomplished barrister who was appointed Recorder of London and King's Sergeant by James II. This did not tarnish his reputation, and he sat in the Parliament which invited William and Mary to become joint monarchs, actually managing the parliamentary conference on the Bill of Rights (1689). William III appointed him Chief Justice of Kings Bench. Holt although tending towards the Whig cause favoured a covenant theory of monarchy and the exercise of moderate royal power. He upheld executive power directed against criticism of the government in sedition cases, and that of Privy Councillors to commit to prison.

In the law he could be progressive as his decisions as evidenced in his acceptance of negotiability of bearer bills and his elucidation of the law of bailment and vicarious liability. Holt ended the practice of prisoners appearing in court with manacles, and was known for his help to defendants in conducting their cases, although he did nothing to mitigate harshness of the criminal law. At the same time he could react to innovation by trying to block it, as with attempts to expand indebitatus assumpsit and ensure the negotiability of promissory notes. Simpson describes him as "a reforming conservative." (See A.W.B. Simpson, Dictionary of Legal Bibiography, pp. 264-7).

 

Joseph Howe (1804-1803)

Howe was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia of Loyalist parents. After working in his father's printing shop and learning the trade, he became proprietor/editor of the Nova Scotian in 1828. In 1835 he was prosecuted for criminal libel against the magistrates of Halifax. He was acquitted by the jury after a six hour speech in his own defence. A convinced reformer, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly from 1836, and took up the cause of constitutional change. In the 1846 he argued brilliantly in his Letters to Lord Russell the case for responsible government.

With the granting of responsible government in 1848 Howe was a cabinet member in the government of James Boyle Uniacke, serving in government until 1857. He returned to cabinet in 1860 after a brief period in opposition. From 1863 he moved more into the federal sphere, serving as imperial fisheries commissioner. Although he had earlier argued for union of the British North American colonies he was opposed to the terms of Confederation and led a Nova Scotian campaign against it. After the offer of better terms by Ottawa in 1869, Howe was induced by Sir John A. Macdonald to change his mind and to join his government. He served an undistinguished term in two cabinet portfolios, embarassing the government on one occasion by his trenchant criticism of British political leaders. On his retirement in 1873 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, but died the same year.

Howe was a speaker of great natural power, and enjoyed the great affection of Nova Scotians where he had a reputation as "tribune of the people." (See further, J. Murray Beck, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 10, 1871-1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), pp. 362-370.

 

Sir George Strickland Kingston (1807-1880)

Trained in Ireland as a civil engineer, Kingston later migrated to England, where he took an active part in promoting the South Australian Act in 1834. Appointed deputy-surveyor-general to the new colony, he reached the colony a month after Colonel Light. Kingston discovered the River Torrens, and largely supervised the surveys of the city site. Sent to England to ask for reinforcements for the Survey Department, he returned with orders unpalatable to Light, who resigned. Kingston proceeded with the surveys almost single-handedly, but resigned in late 1838.

He was prominent in forming the South Australian Mining Association, which aimed at keeping the colony's mineral wealth from overseas speculators. He held various offices, and was chairman from 1857 until his death. Kingston was elected for Burra to the Legislative Council in 1851, and played a prominent part in winning a democratic constitution and two elective chambers for the colony. In 1857, he was elected Speaker in South Australia's first parliament. He held this office competently and continuously until 1880, apart from the period 1860-1865. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1967), v. 2 pp. 64-65.)

 

John George Lambton, Earl of Durham (1792-1840)

Lambton, often described in his adult years as "Radical Jack" was of aristocratic parentage. After the premature death of his father he was fostered out to a radical doctor, Beddoes, who had a considerable influence on his thinking. After Eton and although frail of health he joined the Army. However, he left military service after marriage and the early death of his wife. Entering Parliament in 1813 as a Whig, he soon developed a reputation as a reformer. He was well disposed to the middle classes and their struggles for greater political rights, and also rubbed shoulders with some member of the working class. Lambton was committed to the removal of civic disabilities from dissenters, Catholic emancipation, universal education and mechanics institutes.

He played an important part in framing the Great Reform Bill of 1832 that extended the franchise to the middle class and holders of new wealth. While feared for his radicalism, he proved useful to Whig aristocrats aware that some changes to the political system were necessary. After several personal tragedies in his family, a falling out with Henry Brougham and disagreement with the Prime Minister, Lord Grey, Durham was dropped from the cabinet. He was chosen by Lord Melbourne to go to Canada as Governor General and High Commissioner in the wake of the 1837 rebellions to investigate and report back with recommendations on the future of these colonies. He prepared well for his mission by consulting widely in London those with knowledge of Canadian affairs before he left. He chose as his secretaries several bright ideas men, such as Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Charles Buller.

On his arrival in Canada early in 1838 Durham moved quickly to temper special measures taken in response to the uprisings in Lower and Upper Canada. His arguably wise and relatively benign treatment of Lower Canadian rebels who were transported got him into trouble with Westminster and he resigned in the face of criticism from the British government. However, his work on setting up a process for investigation of the problems of the colonies and his own ardour stood him in good stead for writing a report which he completed and handed to the government in January, 1839. In this report, in which he was highly critical of the activities of the conservative elite, especially the Family Compact in Upper Canada, he advocated strongly a move to responsible government for the colonies, reserving just a few items of justifiable imperial concern to parliament in London. The grant of responsible government, Durham felt, would avoid the sort of sterile struggles and violence so recently witnessed, and ensure that these colonies remained associated with the Empire. It is probable that he was assisted in his call for responsible government by having talked to the leading reformers in Upper Canada, William Warren Baldwin and his son Robert. Durham's enthusiasm for political and economic change made him very suspicious of the French-Canadians who he found to be backward and frozen in their political, social and economic thinking. It was inevitable in his mind that they would need to be assimilated if Canada was to progress. He thus suggested a plan for union of the two colonies that, if operated according to democratic principles, would ensure the dominance of the Anglo-Canadian population of the province.

Neither recommendation was accepted by London. Union of the two colonies was instituted in 1840 but according to a formula reflecting equality of the two parts. Responsible government came more slowly, because of doubts in London about the constitutionality of treating colonies as equals, although there is no doubt that it received an important boost from Durham's report. Durham's bad health intervened soon after his return to Britain, and he died in 1840. (See further Fernand Ouellet, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 7, 1836-1850 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), pp. 476-481).

 

George Duncan Ludlow (1734-1808)

The first chief justice of New Brunswick was born into a wealthy family in Long Island, New York. He left his successful private law practice at age 35, when he was appointed a judge of the colonial supreme court. He was a staunch British supporter, but felt that his loyalty was not recognized. When passed over in favour of William Smith for the chief justiceship of New York's Supreme Court in 1780, Ludlow displayed his disappointment by resigning from the bench. However, in 1784 he was awarded the post of Chief Justice in the new province of New Brunswick, an appointment that also made him a member of the province's administrative council. Ludlow's brother, Gabriel, was also appointed to the Council and occupied its most senior position. Gabriel also became the mayor of Saint John and the brothers became two of the most influential men in the province for the next 25 years.

George Duncan became known for his use of North American practices in the courtroom; for example, he affirmed the legality of slavery in an 1800 case, allowing a slave owner to keep his property, despite British practice at the time. His flexible style attracted criticism from various quarters -- from lawyers, when he reduced the scale for legal fees by one-half, from wealthy landholders, after he held that fishing rights in water adjoining a property were common property, and from Governor Carleton, who disliked both Ludlow brothers. Nonetheless, Ludlow retained his post as Chief Justice and his position on the Council until 1808, when he suffered a paralytic stroke shortly after his brother's death. (More information on the Ludlow brothers can be found in Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), v. V, pp. 504-507.)

 

Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton

In 1858, when Governor Douglas was dealing the Thompson River goldrush, Bulwer-Lytton was the newly appointed Colonial Secretary. He was a severe critic of the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly, and read into Douglas' preliminary measures to regulate settlement during the period an intention to reserve the trade of the country for Hudson's Bay Company operatives. Bulwer-Lytton reprimanded Douglas, and took steps to terminate the company's rights and to open the Pacific slope to settlement. On Lytton's advice, the British Parliament converted the territory of New Caledonia into the crown colony of British Columbia (August 2, 1858).

 

John MacArthur (1767-1834)

MacArthur was a soldier, entrepreneur and pastoralist. Accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, he first arrived at Port Jackson in 1790 as a lieutenant with the New South Wales Corps. In 1792, he became regimental paymaster, and was situated at Parramatta. This position, and an unpaid appointment as Inspector of Public Works, gave Macarthur extensive and crucial control of the colony's rudimentary resources. In 1793, thanks to grants of land and gifts of stock from acting governor Grose, he was able to establish Elizabeth Farm at Parramatta. He soon became one of the foremost landholders in the colony, selling produce to the government. Tension arose between Macarthur and the new naval governor, John Hunter, and in February 1796 Hunter accepted MacArthur's resignation as Inspector of Public Works "without reluctance". Hunter was convinced of Macarthur's "restless, ambitious and litigious disposition" from the latter's capacity to create administrative disturbances and propensity for feuding, notably with Richard Atkins and William Balmain. Macarthur, for his part, sent serious criticisms of Hunter's administration directly to the Secretary of State and military commander-in-chief. After Hunter's recall, Macarthur committed himself to a subtle campaign intended to discredit King, the next governor. After attempting unsuccessfully to alienate the allegiance of his superior officer from King, Macarthur was arrested, and in an unusual process, dispatched to England for court martial. In England, Macarthur received official censure, but the matter was considered incapable of investigation there, and it was recommended that he be remanded to New South Wales to join his regiment. However, while still in England Macarthur received permission from Lord Camden to resign from the army and to develop the wool industry of New South Wales.

With grants of thousands of acres, supplied with rare Spanish sheep from the Royal flocks, and with the assistance of convict labour, Macarthur was soon re-established in the colony. It wasn't long before he locked horns with the Governor Bligh, and it was events connected with Macarthur's trial for resisting obligations incurred through his part ownership of the schooner Parramatta that eventually led to Bligh's deposition. Following Bligh's removal, Macarthur virtually administered the colony as colonial secretary until Lieut-Colonel Foveaux arrived in July, 1808.

In 1809, Macarthur went to England to support Major Johnston, who had moved in rebellion against Bligh, in presenting his defence. Lord Castlereagh later sent instructions to Governor Macquarie that if Macarthur returned to the colony he was to be brought to trial as "the leading Promoter and Instigator of the mutinous measures." After protracted negotiations he received permission early in 1817 to return to New South Wales on condition that he in no way become involved in public affairs. However, in 1819 Macarthur was manoeuvring to influence the outlook of the newly arrived Commissioner Bigge, and was successful in promoting his own mercantile interests. A later proposal by Governor Brisbane to appoint Macarthur to the magistracy was so strenuously opposed in the colony that Brisbane was forced to withdraw the offer. In July 1825, he was appointed as one of three unofficial nominated members of the newly-created Legislative Council. At this point, his credibility was increasingly eroded by his erratic temperament, which was evidenced in automatic hostility toward the Governor. He continued to be involved in public disturbances. Nevertheless, he was appointed to the reformed legislative council in 1829, remaining in office until 1832, when he was removed at the request of the governor because "pronounced as a lunatic". Macarthur died on April 11, 1834, his legacy lying chiefly in the excitement of English interest in the commercial potential of new South Wales. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1967), v. 2 pp. 153-159.)

 

William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1865)

Mackenzie was born in Dundee, Scotland. After education at the parish school and working in trade, he migrated to Upper Canada in 1820. After working as a shopkeeper in a number of communities he started up the Colonial Advocate, a political journal in York (Toronto). This was a vehicle for attacks on the Family Compact, the Tory elite in the colony. In reaction to Mackenzie's broadsides his printing presses were trashed in the so-called "types riots" of June 8,1826, carried out by young supporters of the Compact including students at law in the offices of the Attorney General, John Beverley Robinson. The editor of the Advocate was awarded substantial damages. He became a popular hero and the leader of the radical wing of the reform movement in Upper Canada. His rhetoric was powerful reflecting the influence of American institutions, and of a social compact theory close to that of John Locke.

In 1826 Mackenzie was elected to the Legislative Assembly for York and took an active role in its work. He was expelled in 1831 for libel in breach of the privileges of the house, only to be reelected five times by constituents, and five times expelled. In 1834 he caused a stir by publishing a letter of English radical, Joseph Hume advocating independence for the colony. In 1835 the reformer was elected Mayor of Toronto and returned to the legislature, sitting for York County. As a result of that election reformers had a majority and Mackenzie dominated the house, producing among other things the Seventh Report of the Committee on Grievances (1835) which set out the constitutional demands of the more radical reformers. After the dissolution of the house by Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head, the 1836 electoral loss by the reformers and British rejection of his demands he became embittered. He engaged in armed rebellion in 1837, leading an ill-fated march on Toronto which ended in fiasco. Thereupon he escaped to the United States, setting up a provisional government on Navy Island. After being imprisoned by the Americans for breach of their neutrality laws, he became a journalist.

Permitted to return to Canada in 1849 under amnesty legislation, he was again elected to the Assembly, but after an undistinguished second political career he retired to private life in 1858. Mackenzie was not an advocate of responsible government. Rather he had wanted the Legislative Council elected. (See further Frederick Armstrong and Ronald J. Stagg, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9, 1861-70 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), pp. 496-510).

 

James Farquharson Macleod (1836-1894)

Macleod emigrated from Scotland to Upper Canada as a boy, and at his father's bidding, studied law at Osgoode Hall. He practiced law for 10 years, again to fulfil his father's wishes -- his real ambitions lay with the military. He was a member of a volunteer militia and did active service in a number of conflicts, including the Red River uprising in Manitoba, 1870. In 1873, he accepted a position with the recently established North-West Mounted Police, and quickly rose through its ranks to become commissioner in 1876. He also served as a territorial magistrate, in the process taking on the role of detective, prosecutor and judge (a phenomenon not unknown in other sparsely settled British colonies).

Macleod led the arduous trek from Manitoba to Fort Edmonton in 1874, and established Fort Macleod near the American border, where his duties included suppressing the whiskey trade and establishing relations with the Blackfoot Indian tribes in the region. Later he was required to deal with treaty negotiations, the arrival of the Sioux tribe who were seeking refuge from the United States army, and the crisis of the disappearance of buffalo on the prairies, which meant starvation for Aboriginal people. In his role as commissioner, Macleod established the N.W.M.P.'s and government's approach to dealing with the plains Indians. He resigned from this post in 1880 but continued as magistrate, responsible for the Bow River Judicial District. Apart from its frontier context, Macleod's career as a jurist was unremarkable. However, he was competent and honest and lenient with Aboriginal offenders, when he could be. He was appointed to the first Supreme Court of the North-West Territories in 1887. He continued to serve as a judge until shortly before his death. (For more information, see the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: Univesity of Toronto Press, 1976) v. XII, pp. 672-675).

 

Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824)

Macquarie was born in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland, the son of the last chieftain of the clan Macquarie. In 1777, he obtained an ensigncy in the Royal Highland Emigrants, and had postings to Nova Scotia, New York, and Charleston. Commissioned a lieutenant in the 71st Regiment, Macquarie was posted to Jamaica. At age 26, having sailed to Bombay India with part of the 77th Regiment, Macquarie was appointed a captain-lieutenant, then three years later, major of brigade. He continued to rise in the military establishment, seeing action at the battle of Seringapatam, until in 1800 Governor Duncan of Bombay appointed Macquarie as his confidential military secretary.

From India, Macquarie was requested to serve British interests against the French in Egypt, and became deputy-adjutant-general of the remaining forces after the bulk of the British army left Egypt. Returning briefly to Bombay in 1802, Macquarie went home to England and Scotland to take possession of a recently acquired estate. In 1805, he was ordered back to India. This tour of duty was relatively brief, and by late 1807 he was back in England, whereupon he married Elizabeth Campbell.

In early 1809, Macquarie, who was originally to go with the 73rd regiment to New South Wales as a lieutenant-colonel, had boldly asked, and received, the Governorship. Castlereagh, Secretary of State for the Colonies, instructed him that his objectives were to "improve the Morals of the Colonists, to encourage Marriage, to provide for Education, to prohibit the use of Spiritous Liquors, to increase the Agriculture and the Stock, so as to ensure the Certainty of a full supply to the Inhabitants under all Circumstances." This admonition was reflected in Macquarie's policies in the colony.

Sworn in as the new governor on New Year's Day, 1810, Macquarie's first task was to annul the actions of the 'revolutionary' government that had replaced his deposed predecessor, Bligh. Macquarie then turned to other matters, including the modelling of new public departments, opening a new market place, establishing a coinage system for the colony, and encouraging the creation of the colony's first bank. He was less able to manage the colony's agricultural supply, with both glut and famine posing as threats during his administration. He promoted further exploration to the west and north of Sydney. Public works, such as the construction of a new army barracks, a convict barracks, a road to Parramatta, and a new general hospital, were also undertaken. The help of convict labour was essential to the many building projects undertaken by Macquarie.

Macquarie attempted to restrain the excessive use of corporal punishment by the magistrates. He was also concerned for public morality, discouraging the prevailing habit of unmarried cohabitation, and encouraging church attendance. Schools were energetically established, public houses regulated, and clandestine stills seized. Macquarie adopted a benevolent, but naive, policy towards the Aboriginal people, organizing a school for Aboriginal children and an Aboriginal farm, among other initiatives.

As an inducement to convict reform, Macquarie allowed those that had shown themselves worthy to be readmitted to the social rank they had forfeited. This latter policy created some antipathy among the immigrant settlers and military officers, however. Macquarie had ongoing controversies with the Rev. Samuel Marsden and Justice Jeffery Bent, with the latter's agitation in England helping to lead to the appointment of J.T. Bigge as commissioner to enquire into the affairs of the colony. Macquarie and Bigge were at odds over the former's 'absurd' public works policy and the favour shown to emancipists.

In 1822, Macquarie left Australian shores for England. There he found he had to contend with great damage done to his reputation by the publication of Bigge's unflattering reports. He struggled to receive the pension due him, dying before he had a chance to enjoy it. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1967), v. 2 pp. 187-195.)

 

William Murray, Lord Mansfield (1705-1793)

Son of an impoverished Jacobite peer, Murray rose to be both a highly talented lawyer and one of the greatest English judges. Although educated in England he strove to acquire a liberal education in law and legal culture, including Roman and Scots Law and elements of French law, as well as the Common Law.

His practice incorporated Common Law, Chancery and Scottish appeal cases. Murray also entered Parliament and was appointed Solicitor General (1742) and Attorney General (1754). On his elevation to the position of Chief Justice of King's Bench as Lord Mansfield he remained in the Cabinet. As a supporter of the Earl of Bute he was a controversial figure. His decisions in several highly charged political cases added to this reputation, which led some to describe him as the most hated man in Britain. He refused bail to the populist M.P. John Wilkes (1768) and insisted in criminal libel trials involving the highly critical Letters of Junius that it was for the judge to determine whether the material was libelous as a matter of law. He was attacked by Wilkes and others who disliked Scots and the influence they had, for both his illiberality and alleged Jacobite connections. He was also abused for his religious tolerance towards Catholics, dissenters and non-Christians. The Chief Justice's house was destroyed in the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots (1780), with Mansfield and his wife barely escaping the mob.

Mansfield's political career was disappointing. He supported government policy in the American colonies, and clearly failed to sense the anger of popular feeling and prejudice as his lack of precautions during the Gordon Riots shows. In political rights cases he tended to decide the issues on technicalities, rather than on principles and was probably not entirely comfortable in ordering a slave brought to England by his master set free in Somersett's Case (1772).

Mansfield's forte was as a judge of the Common Law which he sought to interpret and rework so that it was relevant to those who relied upon it and sought its protection. This was particularly true of commercial and maritime law in which he stressed its international character, and need for it to be untechnical, comprehensible and certain. Mansfield established the foundations of modern insurance law, advanced that of copyright and patents, sought to bring greater flexibility to contractual consideration, stressed the need to interpret documents according to the intent of the parties rather than form and rejected a rigid division between law and Equity. He also made important contributions to both international and constitutional law, as his judgement in Campbell v. Hall demonstrates. Finally he was one who believed that law should be studied at university, and in that regard encouraged Blackstone in his endeavours. (For more on Mansfield, see A.W.B. Simpson, Dictionary of Legal Biography (London: Butterworths, 1984), pp. 378-84).

 

Samuel Marsden (1764-1838)

He apprenticed with his father, a blacksmith, but was known locally as a lay preacher and at age 24 an evangelical group offered to sponsor his education in the ministry. In 1793, he gave up his studies at Cambridge to accept a position as an assistant to the chaplain at New South Wales. He was stationed at Parramatta and was appointed Chief Chaplain in 1802. Meanwhile, he became a successful farmer and land-owner, convinced that his physical efforts and material wealth proved his religious devotion. In 1795, Marsden was appointed the Superintendent of Government Affairs at Parramatta and magistrate. In his judicial role, he developed a reputation for extreme severity, which estranged him from the convict population he was seeking to convert in his clerical capacity. Since the convicts were reluctant to be converted in the first place, Marsden soon came to view them as irredeemably depraved. He also failed to convert the Aboriginals, although he had better success with the Maori of New Zealand. Marsden was on good terms with the governors of New South Wales until 1810, but he suffered through acrimonious and tempestuous relations with Governor Macquarie, whose emancipist sympathies Marsden opposed. His relations with the next governor, Brisbane, were no better. The remainder of his career was marked with public disputes and criticism by the press and officials. Nonetheless, he remained active in his missionary work, the formation of schools, his own parish, and his duties as magistrate. (Further information can be found in Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 2, pp. 207-212).

 

Sir Joseph Needham (1812-1895)

A barrister trained in England, he was appointed chief justice of Vancouver Island to replace David Cameron in 1865, when it became clear that a professionally qualified judge was needed to handle the increasing complexity of the colony's court. In this role, he encroached on Begbie's domain on the mainland. In 1867, Governor Seymour had sent him into the Cariboo, which was in Begbie's jurisdiction, as the head of a commission investigating the "Grouse Creek War," and to hear the case resolving that conflict. Moreover, when the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia united into one colony in 1866, conflict arose between Needham and Begbie, because the colony's enabling legislation failed to provide a structure or hierarchy for the judiciary. The confusing situation was not resolved until Needham resigned in 1870 to take on the position of Chief Justice in Trinidad. (From G.P.V. Akrigg & H.B. Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, 1847-1871 (Discovery Press, 1977), p. 350-351, 390; Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), vol. IX, p. 82; vol. X, p. 117; vol. XI, p. 79).

 

Peter O'Reilly (1825-1905)

Born and educated in Ireland, he emigrated to British Columbia in 1858, shortly after having converted form Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism. He was first appointed as the colony's Assistant Gold Commissioner and stipendiary magistrate in 1859, then later in the same year was appointed High Sheriff. As magistrate, he presided over the entire Columbia and Kootenay district. He sat in the Legislative Council from 1863 to 1871, and voted against joining confederation in 1868. In 1864, he was appointed Chief Gold Commissioner, and was despatched by Governor James Douglas to Rock Creek to issue mining licenses. The miners, however, refused to either take out licenses or file their claims with O'Reilly, and drove him out of the region. In 1881, he became the province's Indian Reserve Commissioner. In this capacity, his habit was to pay little attention to natives' demands or needs in his flying visits to survey villages. He is known for establishing the pattern of "postage-stamp" size Indian reserves in British Columbia. (From G.V.P. Akrigg & H.B. Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, 1847-1871 (Discovery Press, 1977), pp. 195, 359; Kerr & Hegg, Biographical Dictionary of Well-Known British Columbians (1890) p. 267; Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. IX, p. 296; v. XII, p. 466).

 

Sir William Osgoode (1754-1824)

Osgoode was born into a Methodist family, who after receiving his higher education at Oxford read for the Bar. He was called to Lincoln's Inn during 1779. His practice seems to have been limited to that of a draftsman in the courts of equity. He was appointed Chief Justice of the new colony of Upper Canada in 1791, with an understanding that he would ultimately replace William Smith in the same position in Lower Canada. He moved to the latter as Chief Justice in 1794.

He seems to have been well-respected in Upper Canada, although he could be condescending to colonials. Osgoode got on particularly well with John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of the new colony. They agreed on most issues although Osgoode, unlike Simcoe, was hostile towards Americans. The Chief Justice was a member of both the Executive and Legislative Councils. In the latter he was speaker and the manager of government business. Despite his Methodist roots he favoured the establishment of the Church of England in the Canadas.

Osgoode was active in drafting legislation. His most notable contribution was the Judicature Act of 1794 which replaced the existing lay courts of commons pleas with the Court of King's Bench, as the single superior court, and new district courts to deal with actions of lower value. The legislation did not have an easy passage, because of opposition against an elaborate, centralized and expensive process, which allowed the Chief Justice to hear appeals from his own decisions. His Marriage Bill of 1793 was varied in the face of pressure in the Assembly so that the Anglican service became the effective form of civil marriage.

Osgoode's move to Lower Canada was not a happy one. Although he carried out the same functions as he had in the sister colony, he fell out with Lieutenant Governor Robert Prescott over changes to the system of land grants that the latter proposed in order to regularize them and reduce speculation. Osgoode himself had extensive land holdings in the colony. After Prescott was recalled, his replacement, Robert Milnes found Osgoode difficult to deal with. The Lieutenant Governor refused to bow to pressure from the Chief Justice to remove one of his associates who he had labelled as immoral and incompetent. Osgoode also was an embarassment when he argued that the Legislative Assembly was not entitled to remit arrears on Crown lands. His offer to resign on a pension was confirmed and he stood down from office in 1802. His reputation in criminal cases cases in Lower Canada was as a harsh, unbending judge.

On his return to England his only other contribution of note to the law was his involvement as a member of a royal commission on reform of court procedures. (See for further information, Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

 

Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871)

Educated in a seminary, Papineau was called to the Bar in 1811. He served as an officer in the Canadian militia in the War of 1812. Elected as the member for the Legislative Assembly for Montreal West in 1814, he became Speaker the next year a position he held until the Rebellion of 1837-8. Papineau was the recognized leader of the reformers (Patriotes). Although asked to serve on the Executive Council in 1820, he resigned two years later as his advice was being ignored. A visit to London in 1822 to argue against a plan for union with Upper Canada, the brainchild of English-speaking merchants, left him embittered against the imperial government. Thereafter, he was hostile to the British in Canada, and as time went on his speeches became more violent, on one occasion causing the Governor, Lord Dalhousie, to prorogue the session. Papineau drew up the extreme Ninety-Two Resolutions of 1834 for constitutional change, which drove a wedge between radical and moderate reformers in Lower Canada.

He called for rebellion in 1837, although he took no active part, escaping to the United States after the outbreak of hostilities. Papineau after failing to secure American intervention lived in both the United States and France, returning to Canada in 1844 under amnesty. He served a lacklustre term as an MLA from 1848-54, retiring then to his seignory at Montebello on the Ottawa River.

As a Patriot Papineau was one who is said to have followed rather than led. Like Mackenzie he was not an advocate of responsible government, but of an elected upper house. His performance during the Rebellion led to criticism on his return to Canada. He did become identified with the Institut Canadien and the founding of the rouge party in Lower Canada/Quebec. (See further Fernand Ouellet, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 10, 1871-80 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), pp. 564-78).

 

Arthur Phillip (1738-1814)

Of relatively lowly origins, Phillip began in his career as a seaman in the mercantile service, with a transfer to the Royal navy during the Seven Years' War. By the time that war ended he had achieved the rank of lieutenant. At this point he was retired from the British Navy on half-pay, and began to pursue the life of gentleman farmer. After a brief, unsuccessful marriage, Phillip served with distinction as a captain in the Portuguese fleet, returning to the British navy in 1778. In 1781, he was promoted to post captain, commanding two vessels of war in succession, but seeing action in neither. In October, 1786, when appointed the first Governor of New South Wales, Phillip was engaged in survey work for the admiralty.

While the British government viewed the new settlement as simply an answer to the convict problem, Phillip had a larger vision, and sought to encourage free settlers to migrate, urging the extension of British law for their protection and resolving to protect them from the contamination of the convicts. Before the expedition sailed, Phillip made noteworthy contributions to the organisation of the venture. He also enunciated some guiding principles regarding the kind treatment of the Aboriginal people and a resolve to try to reform as well as discipline the convicts. His views were in harmony with the most advanced of his age. He an humanitarian in the late 18th sense of the word.

The First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay on January 18th, 1788 after a seven month voyage from England. The original site proving unsuitable, landing operations commenced on the January 26th at Port Jackson.

Phillip had great power as Governor of the fledgling colony. The Crown vested him with complete authority over the inhabitants, and gave him power to promulgate regulations concerning practically all aspects of their lives. Executive and legislative functions both reposed with Phillip, and he had the right to remit sentences imposed by the Civil and Criminal Courts established under a warrant issued on April 2nd, 1787. The scope of the Governor's initiative and responsibility was increased by the distance from England and the relative indifference of the Home Office towards this colony.

Phillip had to contend with the strong discontent of the marine officers in the colony, and a general defeatism that arose out of the difficult conditions in its early days. Phillip's enthusiasm was maintained despite the fact that new arrivals to the colony were almost exclusively convicts rather than the free settlers he desired. Few of these convicts possessed useful mechanical or agricultural skills that could be gainfully utilised. The Governor showed a broad humanitarianism during these times, insisting on an equal sharing of the meagre food rations, regardless of standing. Under Phillip's hand, a permanent settlement gradually took shape. Phillip encouraged exploration of the hinterland around Port Jackson and promoted the settlement of the Parramatta region, which was more suited to agricultural purposes than was Sydney.

Phillip ran the colony with firmness, influencing the course of justice by determining the composition of the Civil and Criminal Courts, and by varying their sentences. Phillip also granted pardon to those of exemplary character. He refused to tolerate ill treatment of the Aboriginal people. Phillip was careful in granting land, seeking to ensure the success of those who might improve the food situation, but not encouraging those whose duties or abilities lay elsewhere.

In December, 1792, Phillip sailed for England to seek medical attention, and was compelled to formally resign as Governor in July, 1793. He retained an effective interest in the affairs of the Colony for some time afterwards, however. In 1796, Phillip had sufficiently recovered his health to resume naval duties, and he continued to steadily advance in the naval hierarchy. He died in August, 1814, three months after receiving his last promotion to Admiral of the Blue. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1967), v. 2 pp. 326-333.)

 

John Hubert Plunkett (1802-1869)

Plunkett, a Roman Catholic, was called to the Irish bar in 1826. In 1830, he was appointed the Solicitor General of New South Wales. On top of this post, he also performed many duties of the Attorney General, who was deaf, and thus conducted numerous criminal trials. In 1835, he published The Australian Magistrate, which helped to bring about uniformity of procedure in the inferior courts. His dual responsibilities were officially recognized in 1836, when he was appointed Attorney General. He had a profound impact on the establishment of justice in New South Wales. He drafted the Magistrate's Act, which abolished summary punishment, restricted the use of the lash, and prevented the administration of justice from private houses. He supported emancipist juries, and extended the protection of the law to convicts, assigned servants, and Aboriginals. He used the Mudie case to abolish convict assignment, and he successfully prosecuted seven white men for the murder of an Aboriginal.

The first Catholic appointed to high civil office in N.S.W., he considered the Church Act of 1836 his most important achievement. This statute established legal equality between Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Catholics. From 1843 to 1856 he was a member of the Executive Council, and when he retired from his legal offices in 1856 he began a political career in the Legislative Assembly. In 1865 he was again appointed Attorney General, but soon resigned. (For more information on Plunkett, consult Australia Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 2, pp. 337-340).

 

William Dummer Powell (1755-1834)

An American loyalist from Boston, he fell into the study of law with plans to pursue a political career, after his hopes to go into business were frustrated. However, he was unable to secure a political appointment, and to support his financially troubled family, he moved to Montreal to begin a private law practice in 1779. In 1789, Governor Carleton secured an appointment for Powell as first judge of common pleas in Detroit, and when Upper Canada became a province in 1791, his authority was extended to the whole province. Passed over for numerous appointments, he became status-conscious and jealous of his English peers, who were awarded positions to which he felt entitled. Suspicions that he possessed American sympathies were finally laid to rest as he showed his commitment to Upper Canada, and he was finally appointed Chief Justice in 1816.

On the bench, he demonstrated a respect for and loyalty to English common law. While known for his joviality and concern for defendants, he seemed to hold a low opinion of jurors' ability to understand the law and facts of cases, and in later years he began to show his crankiness on the bench. He resented the statutory rules that restricted his authority in the courtroom, and responded by raising technicalities in the law and applying them in ways which some felt were partisan and questionable. Throughout his career, Powell's jealous ambition won him few friends and many rivals in Upper Canada, such as John Beverley Robinson (his former protege) and Bishop John Strachan. He was forced to resign as Chief Justice and from the Executive Council in 1825. Nonetheless, he remained on the Legislative Council until his death and was one of the most influential men of his time in the provincial administration. (See further Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. VI, pp. 605-613).

 

Sir John Beverley Robinson (1791-1863)

The Robinsons were Loyalists fromVirginia who came to Canada in the wake of the American Revolution. After his father's death, Robinson was sent at a young age to the Reverend. John Strachan's school in Kingston. He lived with Strachan until age 16, and the two developed a lifelong friendship, as they prospered in the law and religion respectively. Robinson articled with Upper Canada's Solicitor General and while he was away fighting in the War of 1812, he was appointed acting Attorney General of Upper Canada, his predecessor having been killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights. Robinson was only 21 years old at the time, but he was personable and hard-working, and had made many useful connections. After the war he went to London where he was called to the Bar.

Robinson was anti-American and distrusted democracy, having a deep respect for British institutions and believed in the balance of the British political process and constitution. He served as a member of the assembly in Upper Canada from 1820 to 1829, and was at the center of the Family Compact. He led the Compact in the assembly, and he and now Bishop Strachan were Lieutenant Governor Maitland's most influential advisors. After short spell as Solicitor General, Robinson was appointed Attorney General in 1818 and served in that post until 1829 when he was became Chief Justice. He retained that position until 1862, making him the longest-serving chief justice in Canada's history. Robinson was at the centre of the various attempts by the Compact from 1817 to the late 1820s to enforce loyalty and to suppress criticism of arbitrary government.

Robinson claimed to dislike politics, and as Chief Justice he resigned his seat in the Assembly. However, the appointment conferred on him the speakership of the Legislative Council, and in this position he continued to exercise his influence with subsequent governors. Robinson also continued to express his strong opinions on the union of Canada. He opposed Lord Durham's recommendations, and conferred with leading British Whigs and Tories to promote his vision of the union of British North American colonies, and his belief that French Canadians should be assimilated into English Canada. A supporter of British immigration and economic development, Robinson felt that French Canadians were agrarian and conservative, and would hold back Canada's economic development. Although some details of Robinson's recommendations were accepted in the union bill of 1840, it did not reflect the central elements of his vision of Canada. (More information on Robinson can be found in G.W. Brown, et. al., Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1976), v. IX, pp. 668-679.)

 

John Rolph (1793-1870)

Rolph studied both law and medicine in England. Returning to Canada, he concurrently practised both professions from Charlottville, Norfolk County, Upper Canada. He was an active member of the reformers loosely led by William Warren Baldwin in the House of Assembly. Dissatisfaction with a decision of Mr. Justice Sherwood led Rolph to abandon the law in 1828. In 1831 he settled in York (now Toronto), and began to play a prominent role in the history of medicine in Upper Canada. Rolph founded the medical school which later became the medical school of Victoria University. Rolph was also a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, representing first Middlesex (1824-30), and later Norfolk (1836-7). In 1836 he was briefly a member of the Executive Council of Upper Canada until the members of the Council resigned en masse. After being implicated in the Mackenzie rebellion of 1837, Rolph fled to Rochester, New York, until the amnesty granted by the Canadian legislature permitted him to return to Toronto. Rolph resumed his political career, helping to found the "Clear Grit" party and was elected in 1851 to represent Norfolk in the Legislative Assembly of Canada. He held office as Commissioner of Crown lands in the Hincks-Morin administration; became president of the council in 1853; but in 1854 precipitated the fall of the government by voting against his colleagues in the House. Rolph retired from political life in 1857. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), pp. 720,721.)

 

John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)

After graduating from Oxford and being called to Lincoln's Inn, Simcoe joined the army. He served in the American War of Independence, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and proving himself to be one of the more successful regimental commanders.

Following a spell in England, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada in 1791. He entered enthusiastically into the role, with plans for the rapid expansion of the colony. His first speech was to the newly formed legislature in September, 1792 in Newark. He was a Tory by instinct but with some sense of North American realities and experience, especially where economic progress was involved. He was interested in attracting American colonists and committed to a good land-granting system and an efficient administration. In fact the administration of the land grant system was less than effective in practice, because too much land went to powerful colonials and the military officer class, and rules against speculation did not work in practice. The policy on the ground was one of settlement as it came.

Simcoe found that the imperial authorities were not prepared to treat Upper Canada as a special foundation needing focussed support. Neither London nor the provincial legislature were particularly enthusiastic about his plans for education in the colony, and the Lieutenant Governor resented the slowness in acceptance of the full endowment of the Church of England. Overall he worked well with the legislative assembly in establishing the justice system, although he experienced more resistance in the Legislative Council where the merchant interest was strong and favourable to local courts and simplified procedures. He also drew the affection of the first Chief Justice, Sir William Osgoode, who was normally not attracted to the military mind.

His policies towards the Indians who he encouraged to set up a buffer state between the USA and British North America were dictated largely by military considerations. After the Americans defeated Indian tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794) Simcoe was involved in negotiations for the removal of British troops from border posts on American soil. Ill-health forced him to travel to England in 1796, from which he did not return.

Mealing has suggested that Simcoe "gave expression and impetus to the blend of conservatism and economic progress which was to dominate the province after the War of 1812." (See further S.R. Mealing, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. V, 1801-1820 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), pp. 754-9).

 

William Smith (1728-1793)

A respected American lawyer and historian, Smith declared his allegiance to Britain in 1778 and was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York in 1780. In 1782, he befriended Sir Guy Carleton, commander-in-chief of the British forces. Carleton and Smith evacuated New York together in 1783, and when Carleton became governor of Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia in 1786, he appointed Smith Chief Justice of Quebec. Smith attempted to anglicize the colony's legal system, but the French party in the colony's council resisted his efforts. Even the English party ceased to support him, when legislation he proposed caused conflict and impasse in the council. The subject of this legislation was Smith's interpretation of the Quebec Act -- in one of his decisions as Chief Justice, he had reversed the customary interpretation of the Act, by finding that French civil law did not apply to British-born subjects. His subsequent proposals for reform, including a federation of British North American colonies met with opposition and controversy. However, he played an important role as the speaker of the Legislative Council under the new constitution of 1791, ensuring that the assembly's procedures strictly adhered to English rules of parliamentary practice. When proposed reforms to the judicial system threatened his power as Chief Justice, he drafted his own bill that suggested a duplicate of the English judicial system in Lower Canada. However, his ideas were rejected. (For more on William Smith, see Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. IX, pp. 714-718.)

 

Robert Thorpe (1765-1836)

Robert Thorpe was born in Dublin and admitted to the Irish Bar in 1890. Entering the colonial service n 1801 he went to Prince Edward Island as Chief Justice. The posting proved miserable for him and his family. He found himself in disagreement with Governor Fanning over how the colony should be governed and the corrupt state of its administration. On a voyage to England in 1805 Thorpe's ship was captured by the Franch and he was taken to Spain from which he escaped.

Later that same year he appointed puisne judge of the Court of King's Bench in Upper Canada. He fell in with a group of Irish reformers, including William Weekes (a lawyer), and Joseph Wilcocks (politician and journalist) who opposed what they saw as the arbitrary actions and corrupt practices of the colonial government. Thorpe's political and legal views reflected those of his friends, embodying Irish Whig notions of government as a compact between the Crown and people, and English reformist notions of freedom from arbitrary executive action and the executive being held responsible to the elected assembly. Here were the seeds of arguments for responsible government.

When his friend Weekes was killed in a duel, Thorpe sought to take over the leadership of the reform movement, and successfully stood for Weekes' seat in the Legislative Assembly in a by-election under the slogan: "The, King, the People, the Law, Thorpe and the Constitution." His success was short-lived, however, as his views were incompatible with current imperial doctrine and he was amoved by Lieutenant-Governor Francis Gore in 1807. Subsequently Thorpe was appointed Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, but got involved in a dispute with the Colonial Office over money he was supposed to have paid a surrogate. He was dismissed by the Earl of Bathhurst, the Colonial Secretary in 1815, when he sought to combine his position on the money with complaints against a former governor and others relating to the slave trade. From then to his death in 1836 he sought to vindicate himself in pamphlets and letters to friends. (See further, G.H. Patterson, Dictionary of Canadian Biography)

 

Sir Robert Richard Torrens (1814-1884)

Torrens was born and educated in Ireland. He emigrated to South Australia in 1840, in which his father played a major role in colonization and the colonial administration. The younger Torrens became involved in plans for the replacement of the cumbersome land conveyancing regime operating in England with a system of public registration of land titles. He became the leader in the movement for reform of land titles, seeing it largely as "a peoples' question." He was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly in 1857 and the Real Property Act embodying his ideas was passed later the year. This statute introduced the so-called "Torren's System," by which land title was secured by the registration, rather than by execution of deeds. Absent fraud it was indefeasible. Retiring from parliament he became the first Registrar-General under the Act. The system was thereafter adopted elsewhere in Australia, in New Zealand, western Canada and in parts of the USA.

Torrens later returned to England where he was an M.P. and knighted, before retiring from public life. (See A.W.B. Simpson, Biographical Dictionary of the Common Law (London: Butterworths Ltd, 1984), p. 510).

 

Sir Joseph William Trutch (1826-1904)

English-born Trutch practised his profession of civil engineering in the United States before moving to British Columbia in 1859. Trutch built the road from Yale to Cariboo, and the Alexandria suspension bridge over the Fraser River. In 1864, he was appointed Commissioner of Lands and Works. Afterwards, Trutch became surveyor-general for British Columbia, and a member of the Executive Council. In these various bureaucratic and political roles he took the positon that Aboriginal title did not exist in British Columbia, or, if it did, had been extinguished by legislative acts which he helped draft. He was part of the 1870 delegation to Ottawa that was entrusted with the task of arranging the terms of union between British Columbia and Canada. From 1871 until 1876, Trutch was lieutenant-governor of the province, before retiring to private life. In 1889 he was made a K.C.M.G. (See further W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), pp. 840, 841.)

 

Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862)

In 1826, Wakefield abducted a fifteen-year-old heiress and convinced her to marry him, and was sentenced to three years in prison for the kidnapping. While in jail, he developed his theory of systematic colonization. Wakefield argued that the problems in colonial development stemmed from the overabundance of inexpensive land and insufficient labour for its development. He claimed that the best way to transplant British society and civilization to the colonies was through concentrated settlement, achieved by selling land at a higher price. His writings, published anonymously while he was a prisoner, won many adherents, including John Stuart Mill, and prompted the formation of the South Australian Association and New Zealand Association. As well, his ideas influenced policies regarding waste lands in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.

Wakefield followed Lord Durham to Canada in 1838, but Wakefield's notoriety as a criminal made the political appointment he expected there impossible. However, he unofficially worked as Commissioner of Crown Lands and wrote a report on public lands and emigration. While initially he had argued that his colonization principles would not work in Canada because settlers would go the United States instead, in this report he described how his theory could be applied in British North America. It was attached as an appendix to Lord Durham's Report, but the imperial government did not follow his recommendations.

Wakefield left Canada when Durham resigned in 1838, and became the director of the New Zealand Colonization Company in London. In 1842, he returned to Canada as a champion of equal rights for French Canadians. He was elected to Parliament, but turned against the government when it did not support a colonization scheme and other legislation he promoted. He finally left Canada in 1844. Wakefield continued to advance his theories on colonization in New Zealand, and in 1853 moved there to retire. (For more details on Wakefield, see Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), v. IX, pp. 817-819; Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1966), v. 2, pp. 559-562).

 

George Anthony Walkem (1834-1908)

Walkem served as premier of British Columbia from 1874 to 1876, and again in 1878. Walkem was born at Newry, Ireland, the son of a surveyor who came to Canada in 1847. Educated at McGill University, Walkem was called to the bar of Lower Canada in 1858. He moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1862. Initially, his admission to the bar in the colony was opposed by judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, who preferred British-trained barristers. Under pressure from Governor Douglas, Begbie finally relented. Walkem conducted a successful legal practice among the Cariboo miners, and became a Q.C. in 1873. Walkem was a member of the Legislative Council of British Columbia from 1864 until 1870. He advocated union with the colony of Vancouver Island, and supported the adoption of decimal currency. After confederation in 1871, Walkem was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly of the province. Walkem also served as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works of the province, and in 1873, as Attorney-General.

Walkem was asked by Lieutenant Governor Trutch to replace Amor De Cosmos as the Premier of British Columbia in 1874. Despite the fact that he and other members of the De Cosmos government were tainted by the whiff of scandal, and his administration had been forced into agreeing to new unfavourable terms regarding the construction of the transcontinental railway, Walkem's government was returned in 1875. His administration passed the province's first explicitly racist statute, denying Chinese and native people the vote. He may also have stalled settlement of the Indian land question in order to retaliate against Alexander Mackenzie's Ottawa government for its position on the railway. After losing a no-confidence motion, Walkem resigned as premier. After a period as leader of the opposition, Walkem formed a second administration in 1878, notable for its anti-Dominion posturing. After a close result on a no-confidence motion, Walkem exchanged the premier's office for a seat on the bench.

In 1882, Prime Minister MacDonald appointed him a puisne judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, a post he occupied ably and amicably until his death in 1908. (See further the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), v. XIII, pp. 1063-1066; and W. Stewart Wallace, (ed.) Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th Ed. by W.A. McKay) (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1978), p. 865.)

 

William Charles Wentworth (1790-1872)

The Wentworths, father and son (D'Arcy and William), were among the most influential and romantic figures of Australia's colonial period. D'Arcy Wentworth arrived in Australia as assistant colonial surgeon, after being tried three times for highway robbery. His son, William Charles, was born to a convict, Catherine Crowley, on Norfolk Island. The junior Wentworth arrived in Sydney as an infant. In 1811, Macquarie appointed him acting provost marshall. His adventurous spirit led him in May 1813, together with William Lawson and Gregory Blaxland, to take part in the first great feat of inland exploration -- the crossing of the Blue Mountains. This discovery gave impetus to tremendous pastoral expansion in which Wentworth shared, being rewarded with a significant grant of land. Wentworth was also a clever satirist, although his earliest writings were cloaked in a necessary anonymity. In 1817, having travelled to England, he commenced the study of law, his intention being to better influence affairs in the colony. In 1819 he published "A Statistical, Historical and Political Description of the Colony of New South Wales, etc.", a book which did much to stimulate emigration. It was a wide-ranging work which included several ideas for legal and constitutional reform. Wentworth was called to the Bar in 1822, but remained in England for a further two years, during which he wrote a celebrated poem on Australasia which prophesied for it a glorious future as "a new Britannia in another world."

Wentworth returned to Sydney in 1824, championing the issues of the emancipists and smaller free settlers, as well as pressing for a free press, trial by jury, and self-government. Together with Robert Wardell, he audaciously published an independent newspaper, The Australian. In 1825 he began to openly call for trial by jury and representative government. He became particularly critical of Governor Darling, whose first attempts to curb Wentworth's attacks by legislation failed. Darling then prosecuted him for seditious libel, but Wentworth, acting as defending counsel, overwhelmed the Crown prosecutors with his invective and brilliant marshalling of the facts. In 1829, as a result of Wentworth's persistence, trial by jury was extended to the criminal courts of New South Wales. His fight against autocracy and his impassioned defence of the emancipists at the Bar awoke the political instincts of the less powerful members of Sydney society, and made Wentworth their champion.

Wentworth continued to press for self-government, at the same time resisting attempts to persuade him to accept nomination to the Legislative Council. He drafted two alternative bills for the consideration of the British government, the second of which was largely adopted in an 1842 Act that granted a degree of representative government -- albeit with a property qualification attached that excluded two-thirds of the adult male population. As Wentworth grew older he became more conservative in outlook -- and more apt to equate political capacity with property and poverty with ignorance. Wentworth now belonged to the pastoral or "bunyip" aristocracy. He even sought to buy one-third of New Zealand from seven Maori chieftains -- a scheme blocked in the Legislative Assembly by Governor Gipps.

In 1843, Wentworth entered the Legislative Council and immediately assumed practical leadership of the council. He led the squatters in their call for new land regulations and for the surrender of imperial control of Crown lands to the Legislative Council. His popularity waned, however, due to his insistence on a preponderance of squatter-controlled rural representation over that of Sydney and his opposition to a wider franchise. Wentworth was instrumental in establishing state-run primary education, and to lead the movement that led to the founding of the University of Sydney, the first full colonial university in the British empire. Wentworth was the chairman of a select committee that drafted the constitution in 1853, after the Colonial Office finally agreed that New South Wales should have responsible government. Wentworth sailed for England in 1854, where he spent the great majority of his remaining days. In 1855, he had the satisfaction of seeing the new Constitution made law. Chiefly remembered for his contributions to fundamental liberties and Australian nationhood, Wentworth's body was brought from England and laid to rest in a vault on his estate at Vaucluse. (See further the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1967), v. 2 pp. 582-589.)

 

William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806)

Britain's youngest Prime Minister guided the fortunes of the nation and Empire in the wake of the American War of Independence and during the French Revolutionary Wars and the early part of the Napoleonic Wars. While early in his political career he was a reformer favouring Catholic emancipation and the establishment of a metropolitan police force for London among other changes, the effect of the French Revolution and concern about growing disaffection at home caused him to favour retrenchment and state security.

In his policies towards the remaining colonies of British North America, especially Lower and Upper Canada, Pitt was assisted by his close confident, William Wyndham Grenville (1769-1834) who was Home Secretary (1789-91) and Foreign Secretary (1791-1801). After 1801 Grenville pressed for Catholic emancipation and lead the conservative wing of the Whig opposition (1807-15).