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Biography of the Day

GOWER, Sir ERASMUS – Volume V (1801-1820)

b. 3 Dec. 1742 near Cilgerran, Wales


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Provincial Justice: Upper Canadian Legal Portraits


In 1991 General Editor Ramsay Cook considered proposals from staff members and the University of Toronto Press for DCB/DBC theme volumes. One proposition concerned a collection of biographies focusing on those important to the legal history of Upper Canada, a project that would be undertaken in conjunction with The Osgoode Society, whose purpose is to promote Ontario’s legal history. This suggestion was accepted and Robert L. Fraser, a DCB editor and specialist in Upper Canadian history, chose the biographies, edited the collection, and wrote the introduction reproduced here. Published in 1992 by the University of Toronto Press, Provincial justice: Upper Canadian legal portraits from the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography” was the DCB/DBC’s first theme volume. A French edition was not published. The presentation of both the text and the footnotes in the printed volume has been largely retained here, although asterisks have been placed after names so that hyperlinks to biographies can be provided.

Two other theme volumes, also released by UTP, followed: Canada’s prime ministers, Macdonald to Trudeau: portraits from the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography,” edited by Ramsay Cook and Réal Bélanger and published in 2007, and Canada’s entrepreneurs from the fur trade to the 1929 stock market crash: portraits from the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography,” edited by J. Andrew Ross and Andrew D. Smith under the direction of John English and Réal Bélanger and published in 2011. French versions of both books were published by Les Presses de l'Université Laval.

This excerpt from Robert L. Fraser's essay highlights the legal myths of Upper Canada's origins in the wake of the American Revolution and the War of 1812:

“A more compelling myth with much deeper roots both in Upper Canadian society and in the Anglo-American political inheritance was British constitutionalism and the rule of law. This myth had great appeal to officialdom, the judiciary, and their supporters. It proffered a constitution that was itself the legacy of, and sanctioned by, the ages; it boasted of individual rights, it enshrined the language of liberty, it assured the equality of all subjects before the law, and it trumpeted the Solomon-like role of the judiciary as the impartial guardian of the constitution and its benefits.”



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