Young, William (1799-1887) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Young, William (1799-1887)

by Edward Irving Carlyle
Contains subarticles John Young (1773–1837) & George Renny Young (fl. 1824–1847).

YOUNG, Sir WILLIAM (1799–1887), chief justice of Nova Scotia, was born at Falkirk in Scotland, on 8 Sept. 1799.

His father, John Young (1773–1837), agricultural writer, was born near Falkirk in September 1773, and educated at Glasgow University. He entered into trade, and about 1815 emigrated to Nova Scotia with his wife and family. In 1818 he drew attention to the backward state of agriculture in the province in a series of twenty-three letters signed ‘Agricola’ which appeared at Halifax in the ‘Recorder’ between 25 July and 26 Dec. By means of these letters he procured the establishment of a board of agriculture in Nova Scotia, of which he became secretary. They were published in book form in 1822 under the title ‘Letters of Agricola on the Principles of Vegetation and Tillage’ (Halifax, 8vo). In 1825 he was returned to the provincial parliament, and retained his seat until his death at Halifax on 26 Oct. 1837. He married Agnes, daughter of George Renny of Falkirk. By her he had three sons—William; George Renny, who is noticed below; and Charles, who became a judge (Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadiensis, 1867; Murdoch, Hist. of Nova Scotia, 1867, iii. 421, 422, 436, 443).

His eldest son William was educated at Glasgow University and, on returning to Nova Scotia, aided his father in business until 1820. He then studied law with Charles Rufus Fairbanks. He was called to the bar of Nova Scotia in 1826, and to that of Prince Edward's Island in 1835. In 1843 he was appointed queen's counsel. In 1832 he was returned as a liberal to the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia for Cape Breton, and when that island was divided into several electoral districts in 1837 he was elected for that of Inverness. Soon after entering parliament he protested against the coal-mining monopoly granted by the crown to the creditors of the Duke of York, and at a later date he and his brother George were largely instrumental in procuring its abolition. In 1838, towards the close of the rebellion of the French Canadians, Young was among those invited to meet Lord Durham at Quebec and discuss the complaints of the French population [see Lambton, John George, first Earl of Durham]. He set forth the grievances of his own province in a letter which Durham afterwards appended to his famous report. In 1839 Young and Herbert Huntington were sent to England to lay their case before the home government, and they succeeded in gaining some important concessions. A report of their proceedings was published on their return. Young took a prominent part in the quarrel in 1839 between the legislative assembly and the lieutenant-governor, Sir Colin Campbell (1776–1847) [q. v.], concerning the remodelling of the executive council in accordance with a despatch from Lord John Russell. In 1842 he became a member of the executive council, and in 1843 he was elected speaker of the legislative assembly, an office which he continued to hold until 1854, when he became leader of the government, and on 3 April attorney general. In 1857 the government were defeated, and he went into opposition. In 1859 he was returned to the legislative assembly for the county of Cumberland, after having represented Inverness for twenty-two years. In the same year he again became premier and was chosen president of the executive council. During his political life he was the recognised spokesman of the agriculturists of the province. In 1851 he was associated with Thomas Ritchie and McCully in revising the statutes of Nova Scotia.

In 1860 Young retired from politics, and was appointed chief justice of Nova Scotia in August. Subsequently he was also nominated judge of the court of vice-admiralty, a crown appointment. He was knighted in 1868, and resigned his office on 4 May 1881 on account of age. In that year he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Dalhousie College, Halifax. He died at Halifax on 8 May 1887. On 10 Aug. 1830 he married Anne, daughter of Michael Tobin, a member of the legislative council. She died at Halifax on 12 Jan. 1883.

Young's younger brother, George Renny Young (fl. 1824–1847), author and journalist, was born in Scotland. In 1824 he established the ‘Nova Scotian,’ a newspaper which he edited until 1828, when it was purchased by Joseph Howe [q. v.] He was for a considerable time member of the legislative assembly. Among his publications were: 1. ‘The British North American Colonies, Letters to E. G. S. Stanley, M.P. [afterwards Lord Derby], upon the existing Treaties with France and America as regards their Rights of Fishery upon the Coasts of Nova Scotia, Labrador, and Newfoundland,’ London, 1834, 8vo. 2. ‘The History, Principles, and Prospects of the Bank of British North America and of the Colonial Bank; with an Enquiry into Colonial Exchanges,’ London, 1838, 8vo. 3. ‘The Canadian Question,’ London, 1839, 8vo. 4. ‘On Colonial Literature, Science, and Education,’ London, 1842, 12mo: a work of some value. Of three volumes announced only the first appeared. 5. ‘Articles on the great Colonial Project of connecting Halifax and Quebec by a Railroad,’ London, 1847, 8vo (Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadiensis, 1867).

[Dent's Canadian Portrait Gallery, iv. 43–7; Rose's Cyclopædia of Canadian Biogr. 1888, pp. 398–400; Appleton's Cycl. of American Biogr. 1889; Morgan's Canadian Legal Directory, 1878, p. 273; Foster's Baronetage and Knightage, 1882; Rattray's Scot in British North America, 1880–4, i. 282, iii. 664–7.]

E. I. C.