Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Armour, John Douglas

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ARMOUR, JOHN DOUGLAS (1830–1903), judge of the supreme court of Canada, born on 4 May 1830, near Peterborough, Ontario, was youngest son of Samuel Armour, rector of Cavan, Canada, by his wife Margaret Douglas. The father, of Irish origin, graduated M.A. from Glasgow University in 1806, and emigrating to Canada about 1821, taught in a school in York (now Toronto) before taking orders in the Church of England. The son John, after early education at the local schools and at Upper Canada College, where he was head boy, entered the University of Toronto as a King's College exhibitioner, and graduated B.A. in 1850, gaining the gold medal in classics. He began the study of law under his brother, Robert Armour, and in the office of Chancellor Vankoughnet. Called to the bar in 1853, he practised in Cobourg in partnership with Sidney Smith, afterwards postmaster-general of Canada. He was appointed county crown attorney for Northumberland and Durham on 26 Mar. 1858, and clerk of the peace on 2 May 1861, and a queen's counsel by Lord Monck in 1867. He was elected warden of the counties in 1859-60. In the same year he was chosen a senator of the University of Toronto, and in 1871 became a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. In 1874 he declined the liberal nomination for West Northumberland in the House of Commons. He was appointed a puisne judge of the court of queen's bench in 1877, and was promoted chief justice of the court in 1887. He was made commissioner to revise the Ontario statutes in 1896. In July 1900 he became chief justice of Ontario, and president of the court of appeal. He declined a knighthood more than once. In June 1902 he received an honorary LL.D. from his university. In November 1902 he was nominated a judge of the supreme court of Canada by Sir Wilfrid Laurier. In May 1902, as one of the 'distinguished jurists of repute,' he was chosen by the Canadian government to represent Canada on the international tribunal constituted to decide the Alaska boundary dispute. He died in London on 11 July 1903, whither he had gone to attend the sittings of the arbitration. A memorial service was held at the Temple Church. He was buried in St. Peter's cemetery, Cobourg, Ontario.

Armour was among the greatest jurists whom Canada has produced. Absolutely fearless and outspoken, he not infrequently aroused hostile prejudice. His alleged unfriendliness to corporations failed to affect his judgments, which were based on a thorough knowledge of the law and a profound insight into human nature.

He married on 28 April 1855 Eliza, daughter of Francis Schimerhorn Clench of Cobourg and Eliza Cory. Of eleven children of this marriage ten survive (1912). Several portraits exist. One by E. Wyly Grier is in the National Gallery, Ottawa, and three replicas of this are owned by the family. Another by G. T. Berthon is at Osgood Hall, Toronto. There is a bust by Lady Ross (Miss Peel) in the Normal School, Toronto.

[The Times, 13 July 1903; The Canada Law Journal, xxxix. 458 seq.; Canadian Law Times, xxiii. 319.]

P. E.