Vankoughnet, Philip Michael Scott (DNB00)

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VANKOUGHNET, PHILIP MICHAEL SCOTT (1822–1869), chancellor of Upper Canada, born on 21 Jan. 1822 at Cornwall, Ontario, was the eldest son of Lieutenant-colonel Philip Vankoughnet by Harriet Sophia, daughter of Matthew Scott of Carrick-on-Suir, co. Tipperary. The family, which was originally named Von Gochnat, emigrated from Colmar in Alsace in 1750, and settled on the site of what is now the town of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Michael Vankoughnet (1751–1832), grandfather of Philip Michael, having been proscribed as a loyalist during the American revolution, took refuge in 1783 at Cornwall in Stormont County, Ontario. Here he died in October 1832, leaving three sons and a daughter, the issue of his marriage with Eve, daughter of John Bolton Empey. The eldest son, Philip Vankoughnet (1790–1873), born on 2 April 1790, served at the battle of Chrysler's Farm, 11 Nov. 1813, and commanded the fifth battalion of the Canadian incorporated militia at the battle of the Windmill, Prescott, 13 Nov. 1837, during Riel's rebellion. He was also for thirty years a member of the legislature of Upper Canada, and upon its union with the Lower Province in 1840 became a member of the Legislative Council. At his death he was chairman of the board of arbitrators for the dominion. He died at Cornwall in Canada on 17 May 1873, leaving eight sons and five daughters.

The eldest son, Philip Michael, served under his father in 1837. He was called to the Canadian bar in 1843, and took silk six years later. He soon acquired the largest practice in Upper Canada, and his entrance on political life was made at a large pecuniary sacrifice. In November 1856 he became the first member of the legislative council for Rideau. In the previous May he had been appointed president of the executive council and minister of agriculture in the Taché administration, on the resignation of Sir Allan Napier Macnab [q. v.] Vankoughnet reorganised his department, made it thoroughly efficient, and, in particular, took effective measures to check the ravages of the Hessian fly and weevil. In September 1858 he became chief commissioner of crown lands in the Cartier-Macdonald administration, and held office for four years. During this time he established the system of selling townships en bloc, and opened up some of the best colonial roads. He also acted as leader of the conservative government in the legislative council or upper house of Canada. In 1862 he was appointed chancellor of Ontario or Upper Canada, which office he held till his death, having declined the office of chief justice which Macdonald made him in 1868. Vankoughnet died at Toronto on 7 Nov. 1869. He was a close political and personal friend of Sir John Alexander Macdonald [q. v.], but made his way chiefly through his own abilities. He was a forcible and fluent speaker, and an able lawyer. Vankoughnet married, in November 1845, Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel Barker Turner, by whom he had two sons.

[Burke's Colonial Gentry, vol. ii.; Morgan's Sketches of Celebrated Canadians, 1862, pp. 615–17; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography; Times, 10 Nov. 1869; Pope's Memoirs of Sir J. A. Macdonald, i. 157, 201, 203–4, 233, ii. 74–5. See also an article on S. J. Vankoughnet, founded upon family documents, in Rose's Cyclopædia of Canadian Biography, 1888.]

G. Le G. N.