« PreviousContinue »
MR. BROWN'S EARLY HISTORY.-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE
Mr. Brown was a native of Edinburgh, in which city he was born on the 29th of November, 1818. He was the son of the late Peter Brown, who lived many years in Toronto; his mother was a daughter of Mr. George Mackenzie, of Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis. Lord Brougham, in his autobiography, tells us that he believes he was indebted to the Celtic blood inherited from his mother (who was a Robertson) for the energy and power of his character. He says: If
Mary Whelpdale had been my mother, she would, no doubt, have "enriched the Saxon blood I derived from my father; but I should "have remained in the state of respectable mediocrity which seems I at least owe
to have been that of my many ancestors.
"much to the Celtic blood which my mother brought from the clans "of Struan and Kinloch Moidart." Similarly we may assume that Mr. Brown derived much of his energy, power and religious zeal from his half Celtic origin; these qualities he possessed in an eminent degree, united with the proverbial caution and prudence of the Lowlander. Young Brown received his education at the High School and Southern Academy, in Edinburgh, where we know he made such progress as justified his family and teachers in anticipating for the young student a successful career in the race of life. Dr. Gunn, of the latter institution, when introducing him to the audience at a closing examination, to declaim an exercise, said: "This young gentleman is not only endowed with high enthusiasm, but possesses the faculty of "creating enthusiasm in others."
It does not appear that he ever desired to engage in any of what are called the professions, though his father desired that he should enter the University with that view. Shortly after his leaving the Academy, Mr. Brown, senior, became involved in pecuniary difficulties, through the misconduct of an agent. This circumstance, after a time, induced Mr. Brown to emigrate to America, to retrieve his fortunes on a wider field. In 1838, the final determination was reached, when
Mr. George Brown accompanied his father to New York, leaving the other members of the family in Edinburgh for a time.
Mr. Brown, senior, was a highly cultivated man, an accomplished writer, and a keen politician on the side of liberalism. Probably no man in his day had a better knowledge of history, civil and religious, or a more correct opinion respecting popular government. An intense hater of slavery, and a keen defender of the British constitutional system, no man was better adapted to shine as a newspaper editor or contributor. As a writer in the Albion, he soon became known, and acquired such a knowledge of the country and the feelings of British residents, as justified him in commencing the publication of a newspaper of his own, under the name of the British Chronicle, and Mr. George Brown first became known to the public as its publisher.
The new journal first appeared in the month of December, 1842. It professed to have the same general character as the Albion, but it was doubtful if there was room for two papers of the same class. The Chronicle was probably looked upon more as an organ of the Scottish population than the Albion, but both journals had necessarily to take, in a general way, the same line in regard to British and United States' affairs, and appeal for support to the same constituency. The necessity for advertising and obtaining support for the Chronicle, led Mr. Brown to visit Canada in 1843, as well as most of the northern States. At this time the agitation in the Presbyterian church, in Scotland, which led to that grand politico-religious movement termed "The Disruption," had extended itself to Canada. The Messrs. Brown, father and son, were ardent adherents of the "Non-intrusion" party, but were also much in advance of the bulk of the Free Church party in the matter of church establishments. The greater part of the Presbyterians in Canada deeply sympathized with the popular party in Scotland, and were considering the necessity of formulating their views, even if it should split the church here. The arrangement made some years previously with the Tory oligarchy ruling Canada, by which certain Presbyterian ministers received a share of the clergy reserves, and thereupon ceased the agitation against the pensioning of English Church ministers from the national lands, was never approved by the mass of their people. The articles in the Chronicle suited the majority, and paved the way for Mr. Brown's favourable reception when he came to Canada in the interests of his journal. It was therefore natural that some anxiety should be felt to procure the establishment of the paper in the province where such important movements were on foot, and where there was no adequate representative of right opinion in the press. Conferences with leading men in the church resulted in Mr. Brown's accepting proposals to circulate the Chronicle extensively in Canada, as the organ of the new move
ment. During his visit he was also brought into contact with leading public men of the liberal party of Upper Canada, then destitute of any leading newspaper capable of directing or controlling public opinion. The liberal party was in power, but liberal principles could hardly be said to be in the ascendancy, while the obstinate resistance to the principles of responsible government of the Governor-General, Sir Charles Metcalfe (soon to cause an open rupture with his ministers), made progress with measures of reform difficult, if not utterly impossible. There can be no doubt that at the time of Mr. Brown's visit to Canada, ministers must have had a taste of Sir Charles Metcalfe's hostility to popular government, and even then were anticipating open war from the Governor-General.
Some of the ministers were noble, devoted men ; some others were able men, who would carry out reform measures, if they conveniently could; others were mere time-servers, ready to serve on either side, as some did. At the time of Mr. Brown's visit there was an undercurrent of belief that an open rupture with Sir Charles Metcalfe could not be long avoided, unless responsible government was, with the consent of ministers, to be trampled underfoot. Although there was no formal agreement or understanding arrived at between Mr. Brown and Mr. Baldwin and others about publishing a paper in Canada in the interests of the liberal party, there is no doubt but what Mr. Brown left for New York impressed with the belief that he should move permanently to the British Provinces, and that the liberal leaders would like to have his services as a journalist to aid them. The biographical sketch published in the Globe says: Young Mr. Brown “made a decided impression on the members of the administration,
potent ally of any
and had given them the idea that he would be a "political cause to which he might attach himself.
And when he left Kingston, he must have felt that, in the event of his "taking up his abode in this country, he could count on a pretty strong support from the government."
As the result of deliberations on the subject, and of further overtures from Canada, the publication of the British Chronicle in New York was given up, and Mr. Brown, with his father and family, moved to Toronto, where the Banner made its appearance on the 18th of August, 1843, as a weekly paper, as an organ of the Free Church party, and partly as a paper strongly supporting the liberal party and the existing administration. The anticipated rupture with Sir Charles Metcalfe occurred a few weeks after the Banner appeared. His ministers resigned on his refusal to accept their advice respecting appointments. It was clear that the battle for responsible government had to be fought over again, before much attention could be devoted to internal and detailed reforms, however important.
Mr. Brown, through the columns of the Banner, threw himself into the conflict with all his immense energy, but it soon became apparent, to himself and others, that this journal could not carry on the war with the Erastian party in the church, and fight Lord Metcalfe and his clerical and lay supporters at the same time. The necessity for a purely political paper was urgent, and the leading men of the party pressed Mr. Brown on the subject. The result was that the publication of the Globe was undertaken, and the first number was issued on the 5th of March, 1844. The Globe prospectus had the following paragraph: "The wide circulation of the Banner has brought its political views generally before the public, but in a paper in which so large a part is devoted to religious and ecclesiastical information, "it was impossible to do justice to these views. The same political
opinions will be maintained in the Globe, and a wider field afforded "for the expression of them, as it will be entirely devoted to secular
subjects." The Banner was published by Mr. Brown, senior, for several years after the first publication of the Globe, and rendered great service in its own peculiar field of newspaper life, but also having much influence as a newspaper, independent of its ecclesiastical character.
While there is no doubt that existing circumstances were favourable to the enterprise, there is equally little doubt that the immediate success of the new journal was owing chiefly to the great ability and immense energy of the editor-in-chief. At this time, Sir Chas. Metcalfe was conducting the government in defiance of parliament and parliamentary government, having a skeleton administration, consisting of Hon. Mr. Draper, Hon. D. Viger, and Hon. Dominic Daly, the latter gentleman having retained his office when his colleagues resigned a few months before, although he agreed with his colleagues' policy, up to the resigning portion of it. An early dissolution was inevitable. The articles in the Globe were directed towards preparing for the coming struggle, and to the exposure of the autocratic and unconstitutional conduct of the Governor-General, with his aiders and abettors. Trucklers on the liberal side, and the resurrected Tory oligarchy, were alike assailed with a vehemence and power which left nothing to be desired on the part of those who demanded a vigorous, able management in the new paper. The articles produced a great effect on the country, but the Governor-General had many advantages on his side, which rendered the issue somewhat doubtful for a time. The state of the franchise and of the election law gave the Governor a great advantage in a parliamentary election. Writers were also found who were willing to uphold Sir Charles Metcalfe in his struggle against parliamentary government. One reverend gentleman, Dr. Ryerson, who had in earlier days rendered good service on behalf of religious
equality and popular rights, was induced to undertake the defence of the new assailant of the rights and privileges he had formerly so well defended. The means taken by the government resulted in a partial, but not honourable, success on their side; but the general impression was so strong against the Governor-General and his apologists, that they must have felt that such a course could never be attempted again, and that a return to sound constitutional principle was inevitable.
The services rendered by Mr. Brown in the columns of the Globe were so well appreciated, that he was pressed to become a candidate at the general election of November, 1844. This he wisely declined, for personal and political reasons. He felt then, as he did on a later occasion, to which reference will be made, that he could more effectually aid the liberal party by influencing public opinion through the The Globe was not wholly a political journal; its reputation as a newspaper, though high, had yet to be fully established; it would therefore necessarily be much injured at that time by its chief editor devoting himself to the legislative work of the province. The Draper administration managed to obtain a bare majority, and maintained a precarious existence until the general election in 1847. The country was, in the meantime, being much agitated by the tactics and policy of the government. Mr. Brown was a chief instrument in working up a public opinion, which was gradually becoming extremely hostile to the ministry. From 1844 to 1847 he travelled over a great portion of the country, and soon established intimate relations with leading men in all quarters, and also a correspondence, which gave him more accurate information than could be obtained by any one else of the drift of public opinion. The circulation of the Globe was greatly extended; a semi-weekly issue was commenced in 1846, soon to be succeeded by a tri-weekly in 1849; and a branch paper, under the name of the Western Globe, was established in London. In 1849, Mr. Brown was prosecuted at London for libel, by the late Judge Prince, at that time member for Essex. Mr. Prince, though only partially successful in the suit, admired Mr. Brown's ability, and became his fast friend, as the following sympathetic letter will abundantly show:
THE PARK FARM, 6th March, 1858.
MY DEAR SIR,-I cannot refrain from writing a few lines to congratulate you upon the course you have taken to protect yourself against the infamous conduct of that Attorney-General Macdonald towards you, and to bring him to condign censure and disgrace. As a Briton, I am proud to witness your manly conduct, and that you so stoutly resisted the tenders of some puny legislators to give way. Every one of the charges brought against you are, in point of law, gross slanders, and I have no doubt but a jury would mulet him in heavy damages, because his language (though uttered where it was and upon the occasion it was) cannot be called privileged. It was gross, wilful, false, malicious slander, and I trust the committee will do you justice. I think they will, and I am glad my