George Brown (1818-1880), Canadian journalist and statesman, was born in Edinburgh on the 29th of November 1818, and was educated in his native city. With his father, Peter Brown (d. 1863), he emigrated to New York in 1838; and in 1843 they removed to Toronto, and began the publication of The Banner, a politico-religious paper in support of the newly formed Free Church of Scotland. In 1844 he began, independently of his father, the issue of the Toronto Globe. This paper, at first weekly, became in 1853 a daily, and through the ability and energy of Brown, came to possess an almost tyrannical influence over the political opinion of Ontario. In 1851 he entered the Canadian parliament as member for Kent county. Though giving at first a modified support to the Reform government, he soon broke with it and became leader of the Radical or "Clear Grit" party. His attacks upon the Roman Catholic church and on the supposed domination in parliament of the French Canadian section made him very unpopular in Lower Canada, but in Upper Canada his power was great. Largely owing to his attacks, the Clergy Reserves were secularized in 1854. He championed the complete laicization of the schools in Ontario, but unsuccessfully, the Roman Catholic church maintaining its right to separate schools.
He also fought for the representation by population of the two provinces in parliament, the Act of Union (1841) having granted an equal number of representatives to each. This principle of "Rep. by Pop." was conceded by the British North America Act (1867). In 1858 Brown became premier of "The Short Administration," which was defeated and compelled to resign after an existence of two days.
He was one of the earliest advocates of a federation of the British colonies in North America, and in 1864, to accomplish this end, entered into a coalition with his bitter personal and political opponent, Mr (afterwards Sir) John A. Macdonald. Largely owing to Brown's efforts, Federation was carried through the House, but on the 21st of December 1865 he resigned from the Coalition government, though continuing to support its Federation policy, and in 1867 he was defeated in South Ontario and never again sat in the House. In great measure owing to his energy, and in spite of much concealed opposition from the French-Canadians, the North-West Territories were purchased by the new Dominion. In December 1873 he was called to the Canadian senate, and in 1874 was appointed by the imperial government joint plenipotentiary with Sir Edward Thornton to negotiate a reciprocity treaty between Canada and the United States. The negotiations were successful, but the draft treaty failed to pass the United States Senate. Soon afterwards Brown refused the lieutenant-governorship of Ontario, and on two subsequent occasions the offer of knighthood, devoting himself to the Globe and to a model farm at Bow Park near Brantford. On the 25th of March 1880 he was shot by a discharged employé, and died on the 9th of May.
His candour, enthusiasm and open tolerance of the opinions of others made him many warm friends and many fierce enemies. He was at his best in his generous protests against all privileges, social, political and religious, and in the self-sacrificing patriotism which enabled him to fling aside his personal prejudices, and so to make Federation possible.
See J. C. Dent, Canadian Portrait Gallery (Toronto, 1800). The official Life, by the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, is decidedly partisan. A life by John Lewis is included in the Makers of Canada series (Toronto).
(W. L. G.)