George Brown
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George Brown

George Brown founded Upper Canada's most influential newspaper, The Globe, and by 1860 seemed an unlikely Father of Confederation.
George Brown founded Upper Canada's most influential newspaper, The Globe, and overcame political differences with John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier to become a prominent Father of Confederation. (Courtesy of the Metro Toronto Reference Library
George Brown founded Upper Canada's most influential newspaper, The Globe, and overcame political differences with John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier to become a prominent Father of Confederation. (Courtesy of the Metro Toronto Reference Library)

The mountainous six-foot-four man embodied Upper Canadian Protestant virtue and he expressed his ideas and attitudes through his newspaper. The Globe's journalism was aggressive and uncompromising. It saluted progress and was suspicious of the French Catholics. Brown accused French Canadians of imposing their will on the rest of Canada.

"What has French Canadianism been denied? Nothing. It bars all it dislikes. It extorts all it demands... and grows insolent over its victories.

He described he political foes as "A body of men whose policy is despotism, whose faith is darkness, whom all freemen dread and all tyrants caress."

On another occasion, Brown wrote: "Let them pass more nunnery and Monkery Bills, squander the public money on every Popish scheme the Priest present - destroy the public school system."

Brown was enraged that Upper Canada with its larger population had the same number of seats in the legislature as Lower Canada. He argued for representation by population, an issue he had avoided when Lower Canada had larger numbers.

Brown was born in Scotland into a literate Liberal family. He absorbed talk of parliamentary reform around the dinner table. He came to Upper Canada at 25 and won office in 1851, running in the southwestern county of Kent as a Reform candidate, representing a movement with a rural, defiantly Protestant base.

By 1862, George Brown was a cheerless, upright, 43-year-old bachelor who had lost his seat in Parliament after 10 years as a member. He was facing severe financial problems, and his health had deteriorated. He had been bedridden with depression, and traveled to Britain to recuperate.

In Scotland, Brown met Anne Nelson, the daughter of a prominent publisher and was smitten by her sophistication. He proposed to her within weeks. They were married in November 1862.

While in London, Brown also changed his attitudes about Canada's future. He learned how weary some British politicians had grown of their colonial burdens: as one Member of Parliament declared, "I want the Canadians clearly to understand that England would not be sorry to see them depart from her tomorrow."

Brown came back to Toronto with his new bride and a new commitment. He declared he had returned "with a better knowledge of public affairs and with a more ardent desire to serve."

Brown was now prepared to consider the unthinkable, joining forces with Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier to work toward the union of British North America. The three formed the base of a new coalition government whose singular cause was to promote the union of the colonies.

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