George Brown, journalist, politician (b at Alloa, Scot 29 Nov 1818; d at Toronto, Ont 9 May 1880). Raised in Edinburgh, he immigrated with his father to New York in 1837. They moved to Toronto in 1843 and began a paper, the Banner, for Upper Canadian Presbyterians.
George Brown, journalist, politician (b at Alloa, Scot 29 Nov 1818; d at Toronto, Ont 9 May 1880). Raised in Edinburgh, he immigrated with his father to New York in 1837. They moved to Toronto in 1843 and began a paper, the Banner, for Upper Canadian Presbyterians. The next year George launched the Toronto Globe to back Reform efforts for responsible government. He helped win the Reformers' victory of 1848, and made his Globe a vigorous force in Upper Canada. New issues rising there in church-state relations (notably Catholic demands for state-aided separate schools) led him into the Assembly as member for Kent in 1851.
In the then Province of Canada, Brown's pronouncements against church-state ties drew favour within its predominantly Anglo-Protestant Upper Canadian half, but animosity in largely French-Catholic Lower Canada. Moreover, in 1853 he took up the idea of representation by population, which would give the more populous Upper Canada a majority of seats in the legislature. Beset by sectional strains, the Reform regime collapsed in 1854. The Liberal-Conservatives took office, while Brown sought to rebuild the Reform Party.
He won over the Cleae Grit radicals, strong in rural Upper Canada, whom he had formerly opposed for their sweeping American-style democracy. In Jan 1857 a reorganized Upper Canadian Reform Party adopted his policies of "rep by pop" and annexation of the Northwest, the fur trade expanse beyond the Great Lakes. This potent combination of Toronto leadership, the Globe and agrarian Grit numbers swept the Upper Canada elections of late 1857. In Aug 1858 Brown even formed a government with A.A. Dorion, head of the Lower Canada Liberals; but sectional balances were too shaky, and it swiftly fell.
The Upper Canada leader then steered a Reform Convention of 1859 in Toronto to the concept of a federal
A restored, deeply happy Brown explored more conciliatory means to achieve reform of the Union. In 1864 he chaired an all-party parliamentary committee on that subject, which on June 14 reported in favour of the "federal principle" to overcome the sectionalism which by then had brought political deadlock. When on the same day a last, ineffectual Conservative ministry broke down, Brown offered to support a new government ready to pursue constitutional changes. In consequence, he joined with his chief Conservative rivals John A. Macdonald, A.T. Galt and G.É. Cartier, to form a coalition which would seek a federal union of all the British provinces or, failing that, of the Canadas.
Through this strong new coalition, stemming from Brown's crucial initiative, the movement to Confederation now surged ahead. He played a major role at the Charlottetown Conference and the Quebec Conference which formulated the plan; he was first to carry it to the British government in Dec 1864, and spoke compellingly for it in the 1865 Confederation debates in the Canadian Assembly. In Dec 1865, however, he resigned from the coalition Cabinet over internal dissensions.
He continued to support Confederation nonetheless and ran in the first federal elections in fall 1867. Defeated, he then left Parliament. He felt satisfied still that his chief aims had been realized and he retired to the Globe office, to his warm family life with wife and 3 children, and to the Bow Park estate near Brantford which he developed as a large-scale cattle-breeding enterprise.
Brown remained a power in Liberal circles as elder statesman and director of a formidable mass-circulation journal. He was active in Ontario party affairs, was a senator from 1874, and was close to Alexander Mackenzie, his former chief lieutenant, who was federal prime minister 1873-78. Brown's death came in 1880 by tragic accident. A dismissed Globe employee, George Bennett (whom he had never known), accosted him in his office and shot him in a sudden struggle. The seemingly minor leg wound grew infected and finally brought his death. (See also Fathers of Confederation.)