Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Gourlay, Robert Fleming

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GOURLAY, Robert Fleming, Canadian statistician, b. in Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1778; d. in Edinburgh, 1 Aug., 1863. In 1801 he was employed by the imperial government in making inquiries into the condition of the British poor, and on his report a bill was introduced into the house of commons and adopted, but was rejected by the house of lords. In 1817 he arrived in New York, and soon afterward proceeded to Canada. Here he secured the ill-will of the authorities by calling a convention of deputies from the Upper Canadian constituencies to deliberate on the propriety of sending commissioners to Great Britain to call attention to the affairs of the province. The convention petitioned the prince-regent relative to the alleged mismanagement of the crown lands and the hostile attitude taken by the provincial government with relation to immigration. Gourlay was then ordered by the authorities to leave the province within six months, and, having failed to do this, he was arrested in 1819 and confined in Niagara jail. He was soon afterward banished from the province, and resided for a time in the United States. In 1836 the sentence of banishment was annulled, and Gourlay's imprisonment was admitted to have been illegal. In 1842 he petitioned the house for compensation, and was granted a pension of £50 a year, which he declined, as he claimed to be a creditor of the government. He is the author of “A General Introduction to a Statistical Account of Upper Canada” (1822), and of numerous pamphlets.