Brown, George (1818-1880) (DNB01)

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BROWN, GEORGE (1818–1880), Canadian politician, was born at Edinburgh on 29 Nov. 1818.

His father, Peter Brown (1784–1863), Canadian journalist, born in Scotland on 29 June 1784, was an Edinburgh merchant. Encountering reverses he emigrated to New York in 1838, where in December 1842 he founded the 'British Chronicle,' a weekly newspaper especially intended for Scottish emigrants. Being unable to compete with the 'Albion,' which represented general British interests, it was removed to Toronto in 1843, and rechristened 'The Banner,' becoming the peculiar organ of the Free Church of Scotland in Canada. While in New York Brown published, under the pseudonym 'Libertas,' a reply to Charles Edward Lester's 'Glory and Shame of England' (1842), entitled 'The Fame and Glory of England Vindicated.' He died at Toronto on 30 June 1863. He married the only daughter of George Mackenzie of Stornoway in the Lewis.

His son was educated at the Edinburgh High School and at the Southern Academy, He accompanied his father to New York in 1838, and became publisher and business manager of the 'British Chronicle.' During a visit to Toronto in this capacity his ability attracted the attention of the leaders of the reform party in Canada, and negotiations were commenced which terminated in the removal of himself and his father to that town. Almost immediately after his arrival he founded the 'Globe' at the instance of the reform party. This political journal, originally published weekly, soon became one of the leading Canadian papers. In 1853 it became a daily paper. During Brown's lifetime it was distinguished by its vigorous invective and its personal attacks on political opponents. Brown strongly supported the reform party in their struggle with Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe (afterwards Baron Metcalfe) [q. v.] on the question of responsible government [see art. Baldwin, Robert, in Suppl.] In 1851, however, he severed himself from his party, which was then in power under the Baldwin-Lafontaine ministry, on the question of papal aggression in England and elsewhere. He identified himself with protestant opinions, and in December 1851 was returned to the Canadian legislative assembly for the county of Kent. He established himself as the leader of an extreme section of the radicals, whom he had formerly denounced, and whose sobriquet, the 'Clear Grits,' he had himself ironically given in the columns of the 'Globe.' At the election of 1854 he was returned for Lambton county, and in 1857 for Toronto. On 31 July 1858, on the defeat of Sir John Alexander Macdonald [q. v.], he undertook to form a ministry. He succeeded in patching up a heterogeneous cabinet, known as the Brown-Dorion administration, but it held office only for four days, resigning on the refusal of the governor-general, Sir Edmund Walker Head [q. v.], to dissolve parliament. His failure did his party a serious injury, and in 1861 he was unseated. In March 1863, however, he returned to the assembly as member for South Oxford, a seat which he retained until the confederation in 1867. On 30 June 1864 he entered the coalition ministry of Sir Etienne Pascal Tache [q. v.] as president of the council. He took part in the intercolonial conference on federation in September at Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, and in that at Quebec in October, and proceeded to England as a delegate in 1865. He was a member of the confederate council of the British North American colonies that sat in Quebec in September I860 to negotiate commercial treaties, but on 21 Dec. he resigned office owing to his disapproval of the terms on which government proposed to renew their commercial treaty with the United States. After the conclusion of the federation in 1867 he failed to obtain election to the House of Commons, but on 16 Dec. 1873 he was called to the senate. In February 1874 he was chosen to proceed to Washington to negotiate, in conjunction with Sir Edward Thornton, a commercial treaty which should include a settlement of the fishery question. A draft treaty was drawn up but failed to obtain the sanction of the United States senate. In 1875 Brown declined the lieutenant-governorship of Ontario, and on 24 May 1879 he was gazetted K.C.M.G., but refused the honour. On 25 March 1880 he was shot at the 'Globe' office by George Bennett, a discharged employé, and died from the effects of the injury on 9 May. He was buried in the Necropolis cemetery on 12 May. Bennett was executed for the murder on 23 July.

On 27 Nov. 1862 Brown married at Edinburgh Annie, eldest daughter of Thomas Nelson of Abden House, Edinburgh. She survived him with several children. A statue was erected to him in the University Park at Toronto. In 1864 he established the 'Canada Farmer,' a weekly agricultural journal.

[Mackenzie's Life and Speeches of Hon. George Brown (with portrait), 1882; Dominion Annual Register, 1880-1, pp. 239-40, 393-5; Morgan's Bibliotheca Canadensis, 1867; Morgan's Canadian Parliamentary Companion, 1875, pp. 67-9; Turcotte's Canada sous l'Union, Quebec, 1871-2; Morgan's Celebrated Canadians, 1862, pp. 769-73; Dent's Canadian Portrait Gallery (with portrait), 1880, ii. 3-24; Dent's Last Forty Years, 1881; Collins's Life and Career of Sir J. A. Macdonald, 1883.]

E. I. C.