As Charles Monck left his post as Canada’s first Governor General, a new man took over the post, John Young.
Young was born on Aug. 31, 1807 in Bombay, India to Sir William Young, who was the director of the East India Company.
He would be educated at Oxford, graduating in 1829 and being called to the bar in 1834. Despite being called to the bar, he never actually practiced law.
In 1831, Young became a Member of the British Parliament for the county of Cavan. He would hold this position for the next 24 years.
On April 8, 1835, he married Annabella Dalton.
In 1841, he was appointed as the Lord of the Treasury for Sir Robert Peel.
From 1852 to 1855, he would be the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
In 1855, he was made the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. Unfortunately, the theft and publication of a dispatch that detailed his recommendation of an unpopular policy about the government would lead to his recall from the position.
In 1860, Young became the Governor of New South Wales where he was involved in a controversy over radical land legislation that was being pushed through by the government. The majority of the Legislative Council opposed the legislation but Young agreed upon the request of Premier Charles Cowper to swamp the council with 21 new appointees to get the legislation through.
After Charles Monck left the Governor General of Canada post in December 1868, Young took over, with his swearing in being held on Feb. 2, 1869.
The Kingston Whig-Standard wrote quote:
“We have no doubt His Excellency will shortly be sworn in as Governor General. It was rumoured that the Queen was unwell for some days before it was necessary for Sir John to sail, that she did not sign any papers.”
At his swearing in on Feb. 2, 1869, the Ottawa Daily Citizen reported quote:
“The Commission of His Excellency, Sir John Young, as Governor General, having arrived, he was sworn in on Tuesday as Governor General of Canada. He afterwards received addresses from the City Corporation, the Legislature and other bodies, and then held a levee. Everything passed off well.”
A special display was held in Ottawa of arts and manufacturers, which Young visited and was greatly impressed by. The mayor of Ottawa also declared that a holiday be observed throughout the city.
The Ottawa Daily Citizen reported quote:
“During the early part of the day the residents along the line which it was announced the vice regal party would pass, were busily occupied in displaying banners, bunting and other festive signals from their roofs and windows of their dwellings, and the principal avenues leading to the City were thronged with sightseers from the country eager to witness the pageant of the day.”
A large arch had been constructed of evergreens with the imperial standard at the top, while the long bridges over the Rideau had all been lined on either side with Canadian pines. The Ottawa Daily Citizen reported quote:
Almost immediately, Young would begin to tour through Canada.
On Feb, 12, 1869 in Montreal, the newspaper reported quote:
“The Governor General this afternoon visited some of the public buildings and institutions, among the latter the geographical survey, in which he took great interest.”
He would also visit McGill University and visit various city officials and meet with the Lt. Governor.
On Feb. 13, he would visit the Victoria Skating Rink where the 76th Regiment band would play for him.
Young was greatly impressed by Montreal, much more so than Ottawa and would state that he felt the seat of government should be in Montreal and that he would use his influence to have the government seat brought there.
Young was a supporter of Canadian independence, which happened in 1867 and he would comment on her freedom to quote:
“continue the present connection or in due time to exchange it for some other form of alliance.”
As Governor General, he would deal with several issues in the new country of Canada.
The first was diffusing Canadian-American tensions that were created by the Fenian Raids, but also the Red River Resistance and the fleeing of various leaders into the United States. During the resistance, the United States government prevented the Canadian ship Chicora from the Sault Ste Marie Canal, which was heading west. Young would make a formal protest, stating it had no military supplies on it, while adding that armed American ships regularly used the Welland Canal. His protest worked and the ban on passage was lifted by the American government.
When Fenians were captured during their raids, Young would prevent the hanging of the prisoners, likely to maintain good relations with the Americans.
Young, who had supported the Confederation of Canada, also had to mediate the conflict over the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada.
He would also oversee the entry of Manitoba into Confederation, and encouraged British Columbia to join Confederation.
He would say in a speech in March 1871, quote:
“I hope that you will think that the terms are so fair as to justify you in passing a similar address, so that the boundaries of Canada may at an early date, be extended from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, on the one side, to the shores of the Pacific on the other. Should such an address be adopted, it will be necessary for you to take steps to secure the early exploration and survey of a route for an Intercolonial Railway, with a view to its construction in accordance with terms of the Union.”
The topic of his salary would come up occasionally in the House of Commons, which was an issue expressed with embarrassment by the newspapers. The Ottawa Daily Citizen reported quote:
“It is certainly painful and unseemly to have this subject so often brought up as it has been. We cannot admire either the wisdom or patriotism of those who forced it on the House and who are willing to snub the Imperial Government for having dared to express an opinion on the only Dominion expenditure with which they are directly concerned.”
In 1871, the Treaty of Washington was drawn up between Canada and the United States. Sir John A. Macdonald represented Canada at the commission in order to fight for Canadian interests, which annoyed British commissioners. Young did not help matters by communicating to them indiscreet remarks that were made by Macdonald in his correspondence with his cabinet. Young would also complain to the Colonial Secretary about the independence being shown by Macdonald in the treaty negotiations.
Publicly, Young would have a different opinion. The Montreal Star reported quote:
“He congratulated them on the success of their enterprise, which is to unite two countries…There ought to be a union of hearts and when he saw the Union Jack floating side by side with the Starry flag, he felt that bitterness was not wholly unreconcilable. He alluded to the Treaty of Washington amid loud cheering, hoping old animosities were forever buried out of sight.”
A short time later, the Star reported a different view, the impatience of Young to get the treaty signed. It would state quote:
Macdonald would agree to secure Canada’s approval of the treaty, which was unpopular at the time, in exchange for a large cash payment of £4 million to Canada as it was one-sided towards the Americans over items such as illegal fishing by Americans in Canadian waters during the Civil War.
Young would advise the British cabinet to give a much smaller sum to Canada.
As Governor General, he would organize the Governor General’s Foot Guard.
Due to poor health, he returned to the United Kingdom in January 1872. With no Governor General in place, there was talk of Sir John A. Macdonald, currently serving as the Prime Minister of Canada, would take over as Governor General. The Montreal Star reported quote:
“Lord Lisgar will immediately leave Canada and that Sir John A. Macdonald will be made a Privy Councilor and a Baronet and receive the appointment of Governor General of Canada.”
His retirement in England would sadly be very short.
On Oct. 6, 1876, he would pass away as Baron Lisgar at Lisgar House in Ireland. His death passed mostly unnoticed in Canada. One of the few obituaries was published in the Montreal Star, which stated quote:
“He was a man of great experience and clear intellect. In his manner, he was exceedingly cool, logical and methodical.”
Lisgar Collegiate Institute on Lisgar Street in Ottawa is named for him and his likeness is on display in the school library. Lisgar Street in Toronto and Lisgar Avenue in Saskatoon is also named for him.
Lisgar Middle School was named for him in Mississauga, Ontario.
Lake Lisgar near Tillsonburg, Ontario is also named for him.
Sir John A. Macdonald would speak of Young, calling him the ablest governor general he had ever known.
Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Biographi, Macleans, Wikipedia, Ottawa Daily Citizen, Kingston Whig-Standard, Montreal Star, Victoria Daily Standard,