George Brown (Canadian politician)

George Brown (Canadian politician)

George Brown (November 28, 1818ndash May 10, 1880) was a Scottish-born Canadian journalist, politician and one of the Fathers of Confederation. A noted Reform politician, he was also the founder and editor of the "Toronto Globe", which is today (having merged with other newspapers) known as the "Globe and Mail".

Brown was born in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, on November 28, 1818 JMS Careless (2000). " [ George Brown] " in "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Retrieved on 2007-09-24.] and immigrated to Canada in 1843, after managing a printing operation in New York with his father. He founded the "Banner" in 1843, and "The Globe" in 1844 which quickly became the leading Reform newspaper in the Province of Canada. In 1848, he was appointed to head a Royal Commission to examine accusations of official misconduct in Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada at Kingston. The Brown Report, which Brown drafted early in 1849, included sufficient evidence of abuse to set in motion the termination of warden Henry Smith.Brown's revelations of poor conditions at the Kingston penitentiary were heavily criticised by John A. Macdonald and contributed to the tense relationship between the two Canadian statesmen.

Brown used the Globe newspaper to publish articles and editorials that attacked the institution of slavery in the southern United States. In response to the Fugitive Slave Law passed in the U.S. in 1850, Brown helped found the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. This society was founded to end the practice of slavery in North America, and individual members aided former American slaves reach Canada via the Underground Railroad. As a result, the African Canadian community enthusiastically supported Brown's political ambitions.

Brown was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1851. He reorganized the Clear Grit (Liberal) Party in 1857, supporting, among other things, the separation of church and state, the annexation of the Northwest Territories, and a small government. But the most important issue for George Brown was what he termed Representation by Population, or commonly known as "Rep by Pop".

From the Act of Union (1840), the Canadian colonial legislature had been composed of an equal number of members from Canada East (Lower Canada, Quebec) and Canada West (Upper Canada, Ontario). In 1841, Francophone dominated Lower Canada had a larger population and it was hoped by the British colonial administration that the french in Lower Canada would be legislatively pacified by a coalition of English from Lower Canada with the Upper Canadian side. But during the 1840s and 1850s, as the population of Upper Canada grew larger than the french population of Lower Canada, the opposite became true. Rep by Pop would cure the democratic deficit by electing members of the legislature from equally populated ridings, rather than an equal number from Upper and Lower Canada.

For a period of four days in August 1858, political rival John A. Macdonald lost the support of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada on a non-confidence vote and his cabinet had to resign. After Alexander Galt declined the opportunity, George Brown attempted to form a ministry with Antoine-Aimé Dorion. At the time, newly appointed ministers had to resign their seats and run in a by-election. When members of Brown's ministry resigned their seats to get re-elected, John A. Macdonald re-emerged and through a loophole was re-appointed with his ministry to their old posts. Brown was the de facto premier of Canada West in 1858. The short lived administration was called the Brown-Dorion government, named after the co-premiers George Brown and Antoine-Aimé Dorion. This episode was termed the 'double shuffle'.

Brown and Confederation

George Brown was a key figure in Canada's path to Confederation during the 1860s. In 1864, he led the Great Coalition with John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier. Later that year, Brown played a major role at the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences. He resigned from the Coalition in 1865 over the government's position towards reciprocity with the United States. Brown thought Canada should pursue a policy of free trade, while the conservative government of John A Macdonald and Alexander Galt thought Canada should raise tariffs.

During the Quebec Conference, Brown argued strongly in favour of an appointed Senate. Like many reformers of the time, he saw Upper Houses as inherently conservative in function, serving to protect the interests of the rich, and wished to deny the Senate the legitimacy and power that naturally follows with an electoral mandate. [Christopher Moore, "1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal" (Toronto: MacClelland & Stuart), 1997; pp. 107-109]

In 1867, Brown ran for seats in both the Canadian House of Commons and, as leader of the provincial Liberals for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario hopefully as Premier but failed to win election to either chamber. He was widely seen as the leader of the federal Liberals in the 1867 federal election. The Liberals were officially leaderless until 1873, but Brown was considered the party's "elder statesman" even without a seat in the House of Commons, and was regularly consulted by leading Liberal parliamentarians.

Brown was made a Canadian Senator in 1873.

Brown's post-parliamentary career

Brown continued to be a leading opponent of Macdonald's Conservative Party and the leader of the emerging Liberal party following Canadian Confederation. He lost much popularity, however, by tyrannically trying to crush a printers' strike in Toronto. He had the strikers jailed. In response to these actions by his rival, Macdonald passed laws permitting trade unionism for the first time in Canada.

During the government of Alexander Mackenzie, Brown was sent to Washington to work with the British delegation working on a trade deal with the United States.

On March 25, 1880, a former Globe employee, George Bennett, dismissed by a foreman, shot Brown in the leg at the Globe office in Toronto. What seemed to be a minor injury turned gangrenous, and 7 weeks later on May 10, Brown died from the wound.

His residence, formerly called Lambton Lodge and now called George Brown House, at 186 Beverley Street in Toronto, was named a National Historic site in 1974. It is now operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust as a conference center and offices.

Toronto's George Brown College is named for him. A statue of George Brown can be found on the front west lawn of Queen's Park. A large portrait of Brown also hangs in the upper lobby of the Ontario legislature. His son, George Mackenzie Brown (1869-1946), became a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

External links

* [ Extensive site on George Brown offering biographies, Documents, Studies on Brown and Links]
* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ Synopsis of federal political experience from the Library of Parliament]
* [ An essay by Brown's biographer JMS Careless]
* [ A website for an upcoming documentary film on George Brown]


###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
before=Sir John Alexander Macdonald
title=Joint Premiers of the Province of Canada - Canada West
after=Sir John Alexander Macdonald
succession box
title=Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada West/Ontario Liberal Party|years=1857-1873
after=Archibald McKellar
succession box
before=Robert Baldwin"' as "Reformer Leader"
title=Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada|years="unofficial" 1857–1873
after=Alexander Mackenzie

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