Gourlay, Robert Fleming


Gourlay, Robert Fleming
(1778-1863)
   Born in the parish of Ceres, Fifeshire, Scotland. Attended St. Andrews University. Took part in an inquiry into the condition of the poor in Great Britain, and carried on an aggressive agitation for a reform of the poor laws. Came to Canada, 1817, and settled at Kingston. Becoming convinced of the need of radical changes in the land system of Upper Canada, attacked the administration with so much energy that he was finally, after a grossly unfair trial, expelled from the province. Returning to Scotland, devoted himself to the preparation of his work on Upper Canada; lost most of his property as the result of lawsuits; and imprisoned for a personal attack on Lord Brougham in the lobby of the House of Commons. On his release, visited the United States about 1836, and instrumental in dissuading Ohio sympathizers from joining the movement under William Lyon Mackenzie. In 1842 his case brought before the Legislature of Upper Canada, and the House decided that his arrest had been "illegal, unconstitutional and without possibility of excuse and palliation, and the sentence declared null and void." Did not, however, return to Canada until 1856, when he was granted a pension of fifty pounds; this he refused because he considered that his vindication had not been complete. Contested Oxford County in 1860, but defeated; returned to Edinburgh, where he died.
   Index: Mc Comes to Canada, 1817, 89; arouses public feeling, 89; tried for libel at Kingston and again at Brockville, and acquitted at both places, 89; tried under Alien Act, and ordered to leave province, 90; refuses and is committed to jail, 90; habeas corpus proceedings fail, 90; treatment in prison, 91; Chief-Justice Powell orders him to leave province, 92; banished, 93. BL Exaggerated language of his petition, 12. E Collects information on best means of developing resources of Upper Canada, 147. R His statistics of education in Upper Canada, 55; his imprisonment and banishment, 63, 67.
   Bib.: Statistical Account of Upper Canada. For biog., see Dent, Can. Por. and Last Forty Years; Rattray, The Scot in British North America; Cyc. Am. Biog.

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